Intelligent design's plea for help
Intelligent design's plea for help
York Daily Record - Tue, October 25, 2005 - MIKE ARGENTO

HARRISBURG Monday saw the return of the Big Tent.
At least, this time, it was referred to as a Big Tent and not the Big Ten, which has nothing to do with this, but does permit mention that, at this point in time, the Penn State football team is in first place in the Big Ten, a development that is of much more importance to a lot of people around here than what's going on during Day Whatever of the Dover Panda Trial. (Sorry, I lost track.)

So it's Big Tent, which may or may not be a disparaging term, depending on who's using it or what they mean, if it's actually referring to a tent and not, say, a large gazebo or, perhaps, one of those screened-in jobs you put in the yard for your kid's birthday party.

The witness in question, the only witness of the day, one Steve William Fuller, a philosopher, historian and sociologist of science from England, was referring to evolutionary theory as a Big Tent, offering shelter to a variety of biological disciplines and ideas and other science stuff.

In that way, the Big Tent is not a bad thing.

Under cross-examination, Fuller said intelligent design also provided a Big Tent.

It's a very different tent. An article by an adherent of intelligent design titled Life In The Big Tent claimed intelligent design provided a Big Tent for young-Earth creationists, old-Earth creationists, special creationists and all other variety of creationists, from biblical literalists to guys who think we descended from space aliens.

Fuller objected. "That's not the intelligent design I'm talking about."

It wasn't really clear exactly which intelligent design he was talking about.

Is it a "fig leaf" for creationism, devised to get around the Supreme Court prohibition on teaching creationism in public schools? Is it science under the established definition of science, or under a definition that includes astrology? Or is it something else?

He said it's something else, I think, but never really got around to saying exactly what it is.

On the positive side, he seemed very energetic about whatever it is. He was more animated than the Cartoon Network and talked really fast. As he announced the first break of the court session, federal Judge John E. Jones III pointed to Fuller and suggested to the school board attorney, Pat Gillen, "Water or decaf."

I would have made a different suggestion.

NyQuil.

A whole bottle.

The bottom line of Fuller's testimony is that intelligent design as a science is not accepted because the rest of the scientists won't let it in their little club. It's as if the real scientists are the cool kids, smoking out behind the administration building at recess, and intelligent design is the geeky kid who isn't allowed to join them because he just isn't cool enough.

What Fuller was suggesting, I think, is that science won't let intelligent design in merely because it doesn't meet the requirements of a scientific theory, as far as science is concerned.

In fact, he said to call intelligent design a scientific theory, you had to change the definition of a scientific theory. The last defense witness who did that said his definition of a scientific theory included astrology. (I don't mean to disparage astrology, which has proven to be scarily accurate since that witness uttered those words.)

Fuller said intelligent design is, essentially, a half-baked idea, pretty much something the intelligent design guys have whipped up without doing much in the way of producing evidence.

And that's why it should be taught to ninth-graders in Dover.

You know, I can come up with a lot of half-baked ideas that no one in their right mind would want to teach to kids in Dover. Let's see. How about this? Cows think in Spanish. Discuss.

Anyway, Fuller said intelligent design "needed to be mainstreamed," which I guess is a polite way of saying that in its current embryological state, it rides the short bus of science. (I apologize for that comment. But if you think that was bad, I could have come up with worse.)

And in another bit of testimony, he said intelligent design needed "affirmative action."

Which raises the question: Why drag the brothers into it? Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Thursdays in Living and Sundays in Viewpoints, can be reached at 771-2046 or at mike@ydr.com. Read more Argento columns at ydr.com/mike.