Ideas, rants and raves, with emphasis on Science, Politics, Personal Growth and Finance

Why do otherwise smart people accept “Intelligent Design”?

Posted by The Lukester on November 2, 2005

I was at a dinner party the other night. While we have many friends with strong science backgrounds, this particular group consisted mainly of History and Literature types, with careers in PR, Marketing, teaching, tech work and the like. All smart, good liberals and good people, some religious some not.

Toward the end of dinner, over our ice cream and port, our conversation turned to the various ID news items – Bush’s comment about “teaching the controversy”, the Dover case, Ohio. Everyone saw these as yet more attacks on true education, and as elements of a larger agenda (conscious or not) to dumb our society down. But I was surprised that most of our friends, at some level, held opinions about the origin of life that actually were not too far removed from ID. While nobody bought the creationist argument that “life is too complex” to have evolved the way it has, there were beliefs along the lines of “evolution might be directed at some level by a spiritual purpose,” or “perhaps there was a Force that put the elements in place for life to occur.” In other words, almost everybody had a personal impluse to include a transcendent element into their understanding of evolution and the origins of life.

This is why, I think, ID proponents can make inroads among otherwise smart and well-educated people like my friends: they start with something people accept readily (the idea of the Trancendent) and add unrelated material (Origins of Life) and somehow make them equal.

I do not believe that this attitude is a product of our particular backgrounds, of lazy thinking or bad education. Rather, I think that this is something that most people experience simply as a part of being human – an impulse to include the transcendant in their lives in some way. Some express it via religion, others by art, some just in their appreciation of the world around them – but just about everybody seems to share it. When using the word “trancendant” I do NOT claim that there IS an force of transcendence or that there actually IS “something greater than outselves” out there, only that it’s part of our human condition.

If the science/education community wants to make inroads against the anti-intellectualism of the Religious Right in general and the so-called ID “movement” in particular, they must respect and validate the urge toward trancendence that all people seem to share.


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