Design For Confusion

The Religious Right's 'New Creationism'

Efforts by Religious Right groups to force the teaching of creationism into the public schools have been struck down by the courts, but that doesn't mean they are giving up.

Every few years they rename creationism and trot it out for public consumption yet again. This year's model is called "Intelligent Design" (ID). In a nutshell, ID proponents argue that life on earth is so complex that it must have been designed by a higher power. They don't often name the higher power, but other than one ID "scientist" who suggested space aliens! they've offered no candidate except for God.

In other words, the intelligent-design drive is religion flimsily repackaged as science.

Except for a handful of sectarian schools, no university in this country or around the world teaches intelligent design as serious science. Its proponents publish no papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals. They have added nothing to modern scientific thought.

Instead, ID advocates backed by big money from right-wing foundations conduct pressure campaigns through the media that target state and local school boards. IDers can't seem to get a paper in a science journal, but, oddly enough, they always have the money for a full-page newspaper ad to turn up the heat on those who work in public education. They're more familiar with lobbying than laboratories.

It's vitally important for school officials and the general public to understand what is really going on here. Religious Right activists are simply adding one more beachhead to their war on America's public school system. These folks won't rest until our schools conform to their religious beliefs. And they are willing to try many different tactics to achieve that goal.

We cannot let them succeed. Some 2,000 different religious groups, communities and traditions operate in the United States. Our public schools welcome children from all of them, but we cannot revise the curriculum to conform to religious dogma. Any attempt to do so would violate church-state separation and invite terrible religious discord.

Recently, several states have resisted pressure from the intelligent-design crowd and rejected efforts to add the concept to science classes. Texas is currently grappling with the issue, and North Carolina may soon be.

Your state could be next. So stay alert. All defenders of church-state separation and sound public education must stand ready to oppose creationism whatever its advocates choose to call it this month.