Sunday, August 07, 2005

Intelligent Design, Creationism, and Power

My sense of timing is kinda screwed up (Don't ask!) but I believe it was early last week when Bush announced his belief that intelligent design deserved attention in our nation's schools.

For those not in the know, intelligent design is an approach to explaining the origins of life on earth. It posits that a being or beings created life on earth. The nature of this "designer" is not specified. The whole, supposedly scientific, thing is offered as an alternative to both creationsim (God created the world and everything in it.) and evolution.

What's sociological here? Well, the history of the struggle over what explanation for the origin of life shall dominate our minds is sociological. Bush's pronouncement is part of the latest episode in this ongoing struggle over what we believe about the origin and nature (moral and otherwise) of life on earth.

Bush and supporters of intelligent design (Christian or not) want to sell us on one definition of how life came to be. Supporters of evolution want to sell us on another definition, one that makes the biological sciences even more powerful and important. The intelligent design side wants to sell us on what one scientist called "creationsim in a cheap tuxedo", so we accept their theological explanation. Both sides are simply vying for control of how we view one important part of reality. And the more either side can claim to explain the more important they are, at least in their own minds.

These same sorts of power struggles over how we define reality take place in other arenas as well. Consider debates over animal rights, the state of the global environment, globalization, and capitalism versus socialism, and gender roles. What are sides in these power struggles and what do they want? There's something to bring up in your next sociology class or keg party. OK, maybe not a keg party :-)) Or, if you were floundering around looking for a term paper (thesis? dissertation?) topic, now you have something!


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