Our local newspaper, The York Dispatch, ran an editorial on the president's perfectly sensible comments on teaching Intelligent Design last Wednesday that might best be described as argumentum ad snarkum. The editor wrote:
Well, maybe so. If sarcasm was a reason to accept an implied conclusion then the paper would have a strong case against the Bush administration's attitude toward science-related issues, but it's not and they don't. Each of these issues is framed by the writer in a highly tendentious way. The controversy surrounding global warming, for instance, is not about whether it's happening but about its cause. No one claims that drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge will have no effect. The debate is over whether the effect will be significant and permanent. Part of informing one's readers is accurately presenting the facts, but this the editorial fails to do, preferring the rhetorical appeal of snarkiness to the difficult work of thinking.
The writer then gets to the point he/she really wishes to make:
Not a theory? Does the editor mean that ID is not a proposed explanation for a set of observations? Does the editor know what a theory is? Has he/she ever actually read anything written on ID by a prominent advocate?
And what about ID makes it a "strictly religious concept"? Is it religious because some wish to use it to promote a religious agenda? Is Darwinism fascist because some have employed Darwinian principles like survival of the fittest to justify the extermination of the less fit? Is ID religious because it posits a Designer? How, exactly, would that make it religious?
Why is it irresponsible for the president to state his personal views on this issue when asked to do so? He didn't say that ID should be federally mandated. He merely opined that it would be a good thing to stimulate students to think about a very important question. Why is it embarrassing to hold a view consonant with the opinion of the majority of people one leads? Is it that the editor is embarrassed that the president lacks the same level of scientific enlightenment possessed by his/her fellow sophisticates in the media?
Moreover, what does the Dispatch mean by calling the president's words a "fundamentalist mantra"? Does the paper mean to suggest that only creepy fundamentalists believe that an intelligence underlies the world of our observation and that it's appropriate to mention this possibility in a science class? If so, what epithet does the editor assign to those who think it perfectly appropriate to discuss in science classes the view (called Darwinism) that no such intelligence is required to explain the biological phenomena we observe?
What is really "unseemly, irresponsible and embarrassing" is lazy, otiose polemic masquerading as informed argument. The editor of the Dispatch knows nothing of what he/she is talking about so, like a middle schooler caught in an argument over matters he does not understand, the writer just sputters insults. It's pretty immature, actually.
For a more adult response to President Bush's comments go here.