80 years after the Scopes Trial
In the summer of 1925, a young teacher named John Scopes was tried and, after a famous trial that lasted several days, found guilty of teaching evolution in violation of the Butler Act on July 21, 1925. You'd think that such antiscientific sentiment would have abated over the years, but you'd be wrong. True, in the eighty years since 1925, we've developed antibiotics, jet travel, molecular biology, cancer chemotherapy, and have gone to space and the moon. We've developed technological marvels undreamt of 80 years ago. Despite all that, however, unfortunately somehow we haven't moved beyond the attempts of religious ideologues to impose their religious beliefs upon science. Indeed, depressingly, the antiscientific attacks on evolution today sound much the same as they did 80 years ago. Oh, creationism has "evolved" into "intelligent design," mainly because even creationists realized that arguing that the earth was only 6,000 years old contrary to mountains of scientific evidence that indicates it is much older and arguing that the fossil evidence was not what science said that it was turned out to be a nonstarter that ran afoul of the First Amendment's prohibition against government endorsement of a specific religious belief if taught in public schools. Consequently, creationism morphed into the concept of "intelligent design," which argues that life is too complex to have evolved without the intervention of a "designer." Worse, ID advocates produce no actual scientific research to support their concept and that they frequently mangle and misrepresent the theory of evolution as it is presently understood and the scientific evidence that supports it, all the while agitating and politicking to convince schoolboards to teach ID as an "alternative" to evolution in science classes. All of this makes ID a unique threat to he teaching of science.
Of course, ID advocates don't see it that way. For example, I was perusing my referral logs a couple of days ago (as I am wont to do from time to time) when I came across a several referrals from a pro-intelligent design blog Telic Thoughts. Curious (as I am whenever I see multiple hits coming from the same site), I investigated and found myself mentioned in the comments of this post. Oddly enough, it was a post about threats to science, specifically animal rights activists and their opposition to any use of animals in research, their threatening and vandalism of research labs, and their intimidation of those whom they perceive as being involved in animal research, something that Brian O'Connor documents on a routine basis at his blog Animal Crackers. As such, I can't help but agree that these extremists are a threat to scientific research. No doubt MikeGene thought that he was defending science and trying to align ID on the side of science when he concluded:
PETA, which is only one of many animal rights groups trying to put an end to research that involves animals, has an annual budget of 16 million dollars. Compare this to the ca. 1 million dollar budget the Discovery Institute devotes for its ID-related activities.
Finally, before wrapping up. I do have to admit that the comment about me that drew my attention to this article in the first place hurt a little:
I think I have resoundingly proved my point, noting that you can certainly describe PZ Meyers as one of the most ‘active’ ID critics (many posts on his blog are dedicated to it) and there it is, the incident you’ve described being criticised on his blog. I think there is sufficient evidence to state, given myself, Orac and PZ Meyers (representing a scale as well, with Orac being the least prominent ID critic, I’d be in between as I post several places on ID and PZ Meyers being a mainstream prominent one) all talking about different issues."Least prominent ID critic"? Ouch. True, I don't dedicate nearly as big a proportion of my blog to taking on ID creationists as PZ does, nor is my blog anywhere near as widely read as his, but can anyone argue that it's not a major theme of my blog? "Least prominent"? Oh, well, I guess that means I'll just have to try harder.
In the meantime, while I'm coming up with ways to try harder, it is useful to contemplate whether the Scopes Trial was temporary victory or whether it was even a victory at all:
But for some historians Scopes was no victory for Darwinism. The prosecutor, populist politician William Jennings Bryan, was seen as speaking for the "common people". Those people, repelled by an alien, arrogant, scientific world that seemed opposed to them and their values, developed a separate society increasingly bound to strict religious laws. Before the trial, evolution had not been an important issue for these people. Now it was. For many Americans, being in favour of evolution is still equated with being against God.