Friday, May 13, 2005

The Bigger Picture

The debate in Kansas over teaching evolution and “intelligent design” in the public schools isn’t just about what high school kids learn in the classroom. As this piece in Salon.com points out, it’s not just about science.

[Jack] Krebs, like others around the country who have stood up for evolution in recent years, regards the current creationist fixation on intelligent design as a wedge, intended to open the door to the introduction of a wide range of creationist ideas in science classrooms. For that matter, he also views the entire struggle over evolution as merely a wedge in the religious right’s efforts to tear down the constitutional wall between church and state. “This is all part of a bigger political struggle,” says Krebs, matter-of-factly. And some creationists agree. “If you believe God created [a] baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby,” Terry Fox, pastor of the Southern Baptist Ministry in Wichita, told a Washington Post reporter this spring. “If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die.”

It’s no secret that the right-wing has been very successful at inculcating themselves into the fabric of politics and public policy. Ironically, they have done it by doing what they say couldn’t have happened in Darwin’s theory: evolving from a one-celled political organism into a fully-grown sentient being, and doing it by natural selection: the survival of the fittest — or in their case, the ruthless. It’s been in the works for generations, starting with the backlash to Brown v. Board of Education (also a case from Kansas — are we seeing an evolutionary laboratory here?), fed on the resentment against the 1960’s liberalism, and hardened by the coldly calculated Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon and rosy-scenario bigotry of Ronald Reagan. Anyone who thinks that this suddenly blossomed with the emergence of the Republican majority in the halls of Congress ten years ago hasn’t been paying attention. I remember all too well the battle-cry of Anita Bryant and her anti-gay campaign in Dade County, Florida nearly thirty years ago, and I knew that it wasn’t going to go away when she did, nor did I think that the downfall of Jim Bakker meant the end of televangelism. Evolution predicts that the force of nature is too strong, and that applies to the bad as well as the good. Things mutate.