A couple of weeks ago, Jay Mathews of the Washington Post wrote a poorly considered article on why he thinks ID should be taught in schools. (As hard as it is to believe, his primary justification is that biology is boring.) I critiqued it here. Now he’s come out with another article dove-tailing on his previous one:
It’s one of those “I was wrong but I was really right” articles that pundits are so fond of when they get justifiably skewered for writing something dumb. Mathews reproduces portions of some well reasoned emails he received criticizing his prior article, and notes that he anticipated this reaction (biology teachers he consulted before hand told him the same thing), yet he went ahead and wrote it anyway. And check out his bizarre rationale.
I assumed that if the idea had any merit at all, it would only be in some future age, when our big-brained, metal-bodied descendants would celebrate my meager effort as an interesting example of early 21st century off-color humor. Or something like that.
What concerns me most, however, is that Mathews notes that his views on the subject are for the most part “ill-informed”. This much is implied by the title. But not content with merely stating it, he has to go on and prove it. Here’s what he writes:
I was surprised to learn that unlike the Creationists, the Bible fundamentalists who accept Genesis literally, the Intelligent Design (ID) folks agree with Darwin that the story of life is hundreds of millions of years long, and that chimpanzees and humans share an ancestor a few million years back.
Mr. Mathews, please, please, please quit writing about subjects that you know nothing about. You do not understand the ID folks at all, and this is the main reason why your previous article came across as wildly naive. The ID people do not agree that life has been around for hundreds of millions of years (billions, actually). Some do, some don’t, and most are ambiguous. But the movement as a whole refuses to take a stand on the issue. Some serious scientists these guys are; they can’t even figure out if the Earth is 6000 years old or 4.5 billion years old, as if it somehow didn’t matter. When it comes to human and ape ancestry, the same thing applies, except that among leading ID advocates, hardly any of them accept common descent. (Only one comes immediately to mind, and that is Michael Behe.) Much of the material they produce is directly critical of shared ancestry. When it comes to humans being related to apes, you’re hitting really close to home with those who have religious objections to evolution, which is of course what the ID movement is all about – a simple fact that Mathews hasn’t yet grasped. Even among that tiny handful who may be okay with the notion of shared ancestry, shouting it too loud would alienate the large mass of creationists who they depend on for political success. And if there’s one lesson to be learned from the tactical ambiguity displayed by the ID movement, it’s that politics is far more important to them than science.
If only Mathews could understand this last point, perhaps he’d finally know why sensible people have voiced such clear objections to his poorly thought-out plan.