Friday, April 07, 2006


The Pianka Contretemps -- Reading Between the Lines

Late last year, Margaret Talbot published a fascinating New Yorker piece "Darwin in the Dock," (Dec. 5, 2005) about the Dover trial. Among other things, Talbot's article tried to discover what factors lie beneath the great divide between intelligent design activists and members of the reality-based community.

The differences, Talbot found, weren't between old-timers and newcomers, between Democrats and Republicans, or even between religious and secular people. Each of these groups was well represented on both sides of the issue.

"In some ways," wrote Talbot, "the clearest line of demarcation was between those who avidly read the local newspapers (virtually all the plaintiffs) and those who scorned them (virtually all the pro-intelligent-design school-board members)."

This may help us understand the shocked reaction of intelligent design activists to a speech last week by University of Texas ecologist Eric Pianka, who believes that if the human population continues to grow unchecked we will eventually use up Earth's resources or become vulnerable to a viral pandemic that wipes out a large part of the population.

William Dembski, intelligent design's answer to Issac Newton, was so shocked by this line of thought that he reported Pianka as a dangerous eco-terrorist to the Department of Homeland Security.

Creationist and intelligent design blogs have been buzzing about Pianka's speech, equating it to other stunning events that have shaken their world of late: "Zebra Born with Horizontal Stripes" (Weekly World News, Feb. 2006), "Aliens travel to Earth for Chinese Takeout!" ( Weekly World News, April 2006), and "World's Fattest Bigfoot Shocks Scientists (Weekly World News, March 2006).

Talbot's observation that intelligent design activists scorn reading may help us to understand their shock and horror at the news that overpopulation may put pressure on natural resources and potentially make us vulnerable to a pandemic -- they are hearing of it for the very first time.


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