A choice of viewing

Osama Bin Laden's lieutenant Ayman al-ZawahriSTS-114 astronaut Soichi Noguchi waves from the Shuttle payload bay
If you’ve been glued to your PC lately, you’ve probably been watching the thrilling and moving live coverage of Discovery’s return to flight or you might have been watching miserable old git Ayman al-Zawahri justifying the unjustifiable in one of those horrible backroom video nasties that the jihadists specialise in. So that’s hope and curiosity and ambition vs despair and ignorance and indifference: I find myself wondering how things are going with the jihadist space programme (oh. Hold on. They haven’t got one)…

So it’s depressing that George Bush, leader of the nation whose extravagant optimism and breathtaking resourcefulness got those people into space in the first place, seems intent on closing the intellectual gap between America and the jihadists. He wants American schools to teach ‘intelligent design’, a kind of intellectual jihadism – a primitive effort to burn down modern thought and replace it with a simpler, more righteous picture of the world.

This, by the way, is why I don’t buy the clash of civilisations argument: atavistic suspicion of the modern is present (and powerful) even in the world’s most advanced economy. Bush and his pious friends may not be burning libraries just yet but the generation of zealots coming out of the various fundamentalist Christian ‘madrasas’ all over the Southern States just might.

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  1. Steve,

    I don’t support Bush, but I still think you are being very unfair here:

    It’s not intellectual jihadism if you say, as Bush did, students should be exposed to ‘different ideas’. Seems like intellectual jihadism would result in only one theory being taught. Plus, this was brought-up by a reporter in an informal Q and A session at the Crawford ranch; it was hardly a policy initiative. And it was later clarified and downplayed–in the article you cite–by the White House.

    In any case, what appears to be Bush’s personal view is similar to that of Einstein’s and millions of other religious people. It’s not very remarkable…or very comparable to the jihadists you mention.

    If you oppose Bush that’s fine – but he’s not trying to ‘burn down modern thought’ is he?

  2. ID and creationism are not the same as or even remotely equivalent to evolution. They are belief systems which, incidentally, exclude evolution as an explanation for the order of the universe. It’s legitimate to discuss them, even to present them as perfectly legitimate beliefs but it’s bogus to present them as ‘other theories’ for the development of life since they offer no scientifically valid evidence for their assertions.

    I also think it’s legitimate to point out that the assertion of ID as equivalent to evolution is not a neutral act – it’s ideologically loaded. The ‘think tanks’ and foundations promoting ID in the US (and even in the UK) are anti-rational, anti-science, anti-progress, anti-modern. They just look slightly less mediaeval than the creationists and sufficiently ‘scientific’ to fool the average school board member or congressman.

    And actually I think he is trying to ‘burn down modern thought’. I think he and his ilk (the religious fanatics) despise the entire rational project. It makes them feel uncomfortable because it undermines their folk beliefs. I suspect that ID is really a wedge for the religious right to a) counter Godless rationalism and its principle proponent Darwin and b) get religion into American (and Western) public education.

  3. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for responding. Your website is great. You make some good points (like I say, I don’t support Bush and I am not religious), but your rhetoric still seems over-the-top.

    I have no strong thoughts on ID. Who knows? Do you know what or who created the universe? And it’s not really the point anyway. As long as people push their agendas by peaceful means…more power to them. I might oppose them, but I’m not going to call them names.

    Oh, and I’m from the South – I haven’t seen those madrasas you mention ;-). You probably have more of those in London…

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