Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Intelligent Design's New Appreciation of Situational Ethics

"Situation ethics is a popular belief in a world bent on departure from God," wrote Wayne Jackson in a 1999 feature article in the Christian Courier. "But it does not have the sanction of the Holy Scriptures, and, if persistently pursued, will ultimately result in societal chaos."

Unfortunately, the edifice of moral certainty once expressed by Jackson now seems to be crumbling. Paradoxically, it's not a ragtag bunch of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, Neo-Darwinists and other social outcasts who are leading this reappraisal of moral and ethical absolutism once so popular on the right.

The leading proponents of situational ethics now seem to be those on the right who once were thought to have such a clear -- biblically based -- vision of what is right and what is wrong.

For example, there is something inherent, apparently, in the thinking of creationists and intelligent design activists that leads them, inevitably, to reject moral and ethical absolutes -- such as the biblical injunction against lying -- in favor of shading the truth when the situation seems to call for it.

Now lets be clear, Red State Rabble has always embraced situational ethics. When, for example, Mrs. Red State Rabble asks, "Honey, do these pants make me look fat?" we always respond promptly, "Absolutely not, darling. You look fabulous!"

The cultural right, until just recently, seemed to be sending entire forests to the pulp mill in order to chide the rest of us for our ethical failings and to warn that the country was headed into a moral sinkhole. Their new-found appreciation for situational ethics -- reflected in the actions if not in the words of creationists and intelligent design theorists -- does not reflect a growth of understanding about the real nature of human relations by those on the right. Rather, it should come as warning to us about the real nature of the brave new world the religious right envisions for us all.

The leading edge of the wedge is just now being inserted, but we can already see how breast beating about moral absolutes can seamlessly combine with institutionalized corruption in public life. Later, authoritarianism will fill in when the lies are not sufficient to conceal the truth and the people grow restless.

Readers will be able to think of many examples for themselves of this phenomena, however the transcripts from the Dover intelligent design trial now provide documentary evidence of the process as it unfolds before our eyes.

Christian fundamentalists on the Dover Area School Board insist that teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in the public schools will inevitably lead to moral decay. And yet, ignoring the dictates of their moral absolutist code they tell self-serving -- and not very convincing -- lies about their own actions.

Here's an excerpt from from the ACLU of Pennsylvania blog Speaking Freely that demonstrates clearly that intelligent design activists -- far from having a higher ethical and moral standard than the rest of us -- display a marked tendency to play fast and loose with the truth when it suits their purpose:

Testimony was barely concluded when Judge Jones announced that he was "going to exercise [his] prerogative." Instead of sending the courtroom off into the Halloween evening, as expected, the judge asked for a copy of the deposition transcript. The judge began questioning Bonsell.

"Why did you tell Mr. Rothschild" that you didn't know where the books came from? "You knew you had gotten a check" from Mr. Buckingham. "Why was your father involved? Why didn't Mr. Buckingham give you the money directly?"

Judge Jones answered his own question: "He was not donating the books; he was buying them with money from Mr. Buckingham's church."

Mr. Bonsell stammered some answers, which did not seem to satisfy the judge, who left looking stern and red in the face.


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