12 January 2006

Will the real 2005 please stand up?

At first blush, 2005 seemed a like great year for those who believe in good old fashioned science. Looking back just a few days after Judge John E. Jones III's devastating blow to intelligent design in his Kitzmiller ruling, it was hard not to adopt an optimistic outlook for the coming year.

There was the positive reception for Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science and growing acceptance of the reality of climate change. Those who would abuse the scientific method for their own nefarious ends seemed to be in retreat. Even Sen. Rick Santorum was climbing aboard the ship of reason.

Sadly, it didn't take long for reality to set in.

Yes, Jones did write a spectacularly cogent and comprehensive debunking of ID as nothing more than creationism warmed over. But as for the impact of the judgment? My initial guess was it's going to galvanize at least as many creationists as it discourages. Already this year the Ohio State Board of Education voted down an attempt to cleanse the state's high school science curriculum of a lesson plan that has been denounced as a disingenuous attempt to undermine students' confidence in evolutionary theory.

Over in Tennessee, the Blount County Board of Education is forging ahead with a plan to allow teachers to include ID in biology class, Considering the financial fallout from the Kitzmiller ruling -- the Dover school board is on the hook for between $1 million and $2 million in legal fees -- you might think other boards in the country would feel at least a little reluctant to take on Darwin. But you would be wrong.

Even California isn't immune. Frazer Mountain High School, near Los Angeles, is now facing a suit from parents of students over a philosophy class that allegedly teaches the old, discredited, irreducible complexity argument on which ID is largely based. Sigh.

And then we have Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher, who, in a state of the commonwealth speech, asked:

What is wrong with teaching “intelligent design” in our schools. ... This is not a question about faith or religion. It’s about self-evident truth.

But what's really got me depressed about the prospects for 2006 wasn't the refusal of ID to give up the ghost, but the persistence of ghosts themselves. While waiting for something meaningful on television the other night, I stumbled across Larry King on CNN. Ordinarily I have no time for the King, but the topic of that evening's program caught my attention: "Are Psychics for Real?"

It was the same old phony-debate shtick, with the skeptics barely getting in a word edgewise. Here's an excerpt from the tail end of the show, during which a "spiritual intuitive" who goes by Char Margolis was doing the cold-reading thing with a caller:
MARGOLIS: OK, but I work in a certain way. And this nice gentleman has to work with me, OK? Just say yes or no. Don't tell me anybody's name. But you need to tell me whether there's someone living or deceased, OK?

CALLER: OK.

MARGOLIS: First I need to know if there's someone with an "M" or a "J" initial around you.

CALLER: No.

MARGOLIS: Anyone deceased?

CALLER: Yes.

MARGOLIS: Is that a female?

CALLER: Yes.

MARGOLIS: Is it spelled M-A...

CALLER: ... yes.

MARGOLIS: R, like Mary or Margaret.

CALLER: Margaret.

MARGOLIS: Is this your mom or your grandma?

CALLER: It was my mom's sister.

MARGOLIS: Your mom's sister, OK. I have a feeling her spirit's with you. And what are you -- are you changing your home or thinking about changing your home?

CALLER: We were. We just did a bunch of remodeling.

MARGOLIS: You just redid your home? Because she's -- the feeling I get from this is that she liked what you did to your house, or what you changed with your house.

KING: All right, I'm sorry I've got to cut this, we've got to take a break. But that seemed pretty good. All we'll be right back, don't go away.
Sorry, Larry, but I went away. What part of "Just say yes or no" didn't the caller understand?

Looks like the battle is far from over, Judge Jones' efforts notwithstanding.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:58 AM  

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