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The battle of origins – and Cain's wife

“Evolution is a process of God’s using,” declared Charles Darwin who, when he attended Cambridge University thought seriously of studying to become a priest of the Church of England.

For those Christians so fundamentalist that they feel called to regard the Book of Genesis (Adam and Eve story) actual history, there are all sorts of difficult questions, including: Where did Cain’s wife come from?

On the other hand, the alternative to believing in intelligent design is the plausibility of an explosion in a printing press resulting in several miles of paper forming Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.

The likelihood of this seems roughly equivalent to the agnostic-atheist idea that everything in our experience all fell together by chance.

In Time magazine, columnist (and psychiatrist) Charles Krauthammer writes the following:

“The half-century campaign to eradicate any vestige of religion from public life has run its course. The backlash from a nation fed up with the ACLU kicking cr?ches out of municipal Christmas displays has created a new balance. State-supported universities may subsidize the activities of student religious groups. Monuments inscribed with the Ten Commandments are permitted on government grounds. The federal government is engaged in a major anti-poverty initiative that gives money to churches. Religion is back out of the closet.

“But nothing could do more to undermine this most salutary restoration than the new and gratuitous attempts to invade science, and most particularly evolution, with religion. Have we learned nothing? In Kansas, conservative school-board members are attempting to rewrite statewide standards for teaching evolution to make sure that creationism’s modern stepchild, intelligent design, infiltrates the curriculum. Similar anti-Darwinian mandates are already in place in Ohio and are being fought over in 20 states.”

In Newsweek, columnist Jonathan Alter writes:

“A teacher in Kansas, where war over Darwin in the schools is still raging, calls the theory of intelligent design ‘creationism in a cheap tuxedo.’ Great line, but unfair to the elegant tailoring of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based think tank that has almost single-handedly put intelligent design on the map. Eighty years after the Scopes ‘monkey trial,’ the threat to science and reason comes less from fundamentalists who believe the Earth was created in six days than from sophisticated branding experts and polemical Ph.D.s who are clever enough to refrain from referring to God or even the Creator, and have now found a willing tool in the president of the United States.”

Is our president a “willing tool”?

On Tuesday, Aug. 2 at the White House, President Bush met with a number of Texas reporters.

When one of them, from Knight-Ridder, asked him if he believes that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, the president replied that he does, because:

“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.”

That statement was applauded by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a leader in developing intelligent design. Stephen Meyer, the director of the institute’s Center for Science and Culture, told the New York Times:

“We interpret this as the president using his bully pulpit to support freedom of inquiry and free speech about the issue of biological origins. It’s extremely timely and welcome because so many scientists are experiencing recriminations for breaking with Darwinist orthodoxy.”

It was also hailed by President Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of America’s second largest religious denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Land told the Times:

“It’s what I’ve been pushing, it’s what a lot of us have been pushing. Evolution is too often taught as fact. If you’re going to teach the Darwinian theory as evolution, teach it as theory. And then teach another theory that has the most support among scientists.”

Intelligent design, advanced by a group of academics and intellectuals and some biblical creationists, disputes the idea that natural selection – the force Charles Darwin suggested drove evolution – fully explains the complexity of life. Instead, intelligent design proponents say that life is so intricate that only a powerful guiding force, or intelligent designer, could have created it.

Intelligent design does not identify the designer, but critics say the theory is a thinly disguised argument for God and the divine creation of the universe. Invigorated by a recent push by conservatives, the theory has been gaining support in school districts in 20 states, with Kansas in the lead.

Strong opposition and denunciation of the president came from the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State who called the president’s comments irresponsible, and said that “when it comes to evolution, there is only one school of scientific thought, and that is evolution occurred and is still occurring.” Mr. Lynn added that “when it comes to matters of religion and philosophy, they can be discussed objectively in public schools, but not in biology class.”

And Susan Spath of the National Center for Science Education said: “It’s not fair to privilege one religious viewpoint by calling it the other side of evolution.”

And from Massachusetts, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank offered the following:

“It is, of course, further indication that a fundamentalist right has really taken over much of the Republican Party. People might cite George Bush as proof that you can be totally impervious to the effects of Harvard and Yale education.”

Which, considering Congressman Frank’s membership in Harvard’s Class of 1962, suggests the question: Does he believe that President Bush and the majority of U.S. voters are pervious to sodomy?