Monday, March 28, 2005


How Intelligent Design is Making Agnostics of Christian Fundamentalists

For eons Kansas was thought of, when it was thought of at all, as the place where the decision to get a DVD player for the family van was finally made. Kansas occupied that archetypal space in the collective unconscious where the childish mantra, “Are we there yet?” morphed into an ominous silence punctuated almost at once by the sharp report of a smack, a muffled shriek, and the childish hiss, “That didn’t hurt.”

Kansas was the place where dads whose patience had finally run out made family history by throwing the old station wagon into a sharp skid that burned a trail of rubber all the way to the shoulder of I-70 so that they could bellow into the rearview mirror, “If I hear one more peep out of the back seat you can just forget about Colorado. I’m turning around, and we’re going home.”

Then, in 1999, everything changed.

Those of us who could stay up late enough, watched in utter amazement as Kansas entered the zeitgeist for the first time. Conan O’Brien was talking about Kansas. David Letterman led off his monologues with Kansas. Even Jay Leno was making jokes about us. Suddenly, we weren’t just flat, and windy, and empty. We weren’t the place you had to drive though, or fly over to get somewhere else, we were the state where evolution was banned and monkeys ran the school board.

Today, the battle over science education has moved on. All the old players are still on the scene, but we find ourselves at a new stage. We're not fighting over teaching creationism anymore. We've evolved. The people who once hawked the wares of young earth creationism have a new product. They’ve been born again as disciples of intelligent design. The chief apostles of intelligent design in our section of the heartland, William Harris and John Calvert, tell us – oh so earnestly -- they don't want to teach the Bible in science class anymore. Heck, they don’t even want to teach intelligent design. All they want to do, they say, is to “teach the controversy” over evolution.

The more cynical among us have questioned this conversion experience. Many a doubting Thomas suspects that intelligent design is nothing more than a clever ruse. Where some see a grand theory, these skeptics see only a thinly veiled legal and political strategy designed to make an end run around church state separation and court rulings that bar the teaching of religion in public schools.

You may doubt all you want, but Red State Rabble is sanguine about this change. We prefer to look on the bright side. If you want to know the truth, we think it’s an amusing spectacle to watch.

Christian fundamentalists who once insisted at school board meetings that the Bible proves the earth is only six thousand years old, now say they don’t know how old it is. Preachers – it seems only yesterday – who thundered from the pulpit about the one true God, now say they don’t know who the creator, uh, designer is.

It’s the law of unintended consequences in action. Intelligent design makes agnostics of biblical literalists. Why, it’s evolution in action.


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