On wedges

Yes, the Discovery Institute wants to repeal the
Enlightenment and go back to reading sacred texts instead of doing science. But not everyone worried about teaching “evolution” in the schools is signed up for that larger agenda.

Reader David Wilford thinks the latest news on the tactics and connections of the Discovery Institute ought to make me rethink my earlier attempt to discover non-silly reasons parents might be concerned about having their children learn about “evolution” in school.

He writes:

You may now better understand the why so many of us who have dealt with creationists and their ilk for years now on the internets, where the so-called “Wedge” document came up years ago in forums such as Talk.Origins, have Had It with creationists and why we are as adamant as we are about the subject of teaching “intelligent design” in any sort of scientific context.

Frankly, they lie and there is nothing you or I can ever expect from them but more of the same. We’ve tried patiently explaining the science supporting evolution to them, and all they have ever said in reply is to wash, rinse and repeat the same old claptrap.

My view of the anti-evolution lobby matches Mr. Wilford’s. It’s just that I want to try to put in a wedge of my own, between the hard core on the one hand and, on the other, the chunk of the majority that backs them whose concern is morality rather than biology.

By making common cause with those religious believers who don’t want their children taught Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinism, liberals may be able to split them off from those who actually hate Darwin’s Darwinism, because they hate the idea that the human intellect can grasp the processes that run the world by observation, reason, and criticism — that is, scientifically — rather than by parsing sacred texts.

Right now, the “anti-evolution” viewpoint is the popular one: according to the latest Harris Poll, given a choice of ways of handling the evolution question in school, only 12% want what you and I want, even though 46% belive that “Darwin’s theory is proven by fossil discoveries.”

Here’s the breakout:

Teaching evolution only 12

Teaching creation only 23

Teaching intelligent design only 4

Teaching all three 55

None of these 3

Unsure 3

If you think it a good idea that the coming generations learn the scientific worldview with respect to biology, these are pretty daunting numbers. Liberals need to figure out what to do about them. Calling the majority fundamentalist boobs may be fun, but it’s not helpful and, incidentially, not true.

So let’s practice a little bit of multicultural understanding, shall we?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com