Tuesday, July 11, 2006


The ID Arts Initiative: Attack of the Ad Man

RSR likes to think of himself as something of a quick wit, but we must admit that we're sometimes left speechless by the antics of the intelligent design movement and the denizens who populate its reality free zone.

A couple of days ago, we read a post by John Lynch, an evolutionary biologist and historian of biology at Arizona State University who publishes Stranger Fruit, one of our favorite blogs. We were really struck by the subject of the post, knew we wanted to write about it, but, after sitting down at the keyboard, found ourselves unable to commit anything to paper -- or pixels -- until a day or two had passed.

The post that hit us so strongly was a report on the announcement of an "ID Arts Initiative" by Dennis Wagner of the Access Research Network:
We would like to explore these concepts and offer a line of ID-inspired art, music, literature and film products. We do not mean to imply that ID art is produced in a particular way, or even has a particular look or feel to it. We are simply looking to create a "brand" of artists who are connected in some way to the concept that there is a design to life...

Offer a line of... products. Create a brand. This is the language not of art but Madison Avenue. The marketer with product to move. The PR type with something to sell. The hustler. The man on the make.

"There is art and there is advertising," observed Albert Sterner, a London-born painter and printmaker who had done both and knew the difference.

Dennis Wagner and the ID "theorists" who inhabit the hermetically sealed pages of ARN don't know that difference. They give the impression of arriving in the art world -- just as they earlier came blinking into world of science -- in much the same way a tribe of cargo cultists stumble upon a cache of 55 gallon drums.

And, unsurprisingly, the ID movement's ham-fisted approach to art mirrors the clumsy course it has taken in relation to science. Rather than practice science, ID's leading lights have chosen instead to grab hold of the tools of advertising and public relations.

They have the ad man's knack for jingles and slogans -- "Teach the Controversy" is a brilliant example of their skill in this area -- but have produced no science at all. Their arts initiative will be more of the same.

They may succeed in moving product, in creating a brand, but it will be a pale imitation of real art, which requires an appetite for hard work, vision, and a rebellious spirit.


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