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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"Greetings From Idiot America", by Charles P. Pierce. "Fights over creationism -- and its faddish new camouflage, intelligent design, a pseudoscience that posits without proof or method that science is inadequate to explain existence and that supernatural causes must be considered -- roil up school districts across the country.

"The president of the United States announces that he believes ID ought to be taught in the public schools on an equal footing with the theory of evolution. And in Dover, Pennsylvania, during one of these many controversies, a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line that both ends our tour and, in every real sense, sums it up: "We've been attacked," he says, "by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."

And so I ask: what do we do about this? It is a fine thing that we have Charley Pierce fulminating-- I'm a big fan. You know who isn't? 51% of the country, that's who. Minimum. The woman sitting next to me on the plane last week who was telling her college age daughter about the book she was reading: "It starts in caveman times-- actually, even before that, when people were hunting dinosaurs." You know, on jury questionnaires there is a question about "Hobbies", and a lot of people put reading down as one of theirs. I'll bet that it is one of the most frequent responses actually. The lady on the plane likes to read, obviously. She had a book, after all. So we know that education probably isn't the answer. Even in New York State I'm not sure there's an elected official with the guts to say, "The difference between science and the Bible is that one is full of made up stuff," because the nice lady on the plane wouldn't vote for someone like that. We can't teach it out of them. People believe what they want to believe, and they believe that if you insist on disagreeing you must be wrong. This is how Bush can get away with saying the stuff he says. A guy like Al Gore doesn't have a chance in this climate.

I do wonder to what extent it has always been like this. H.L. Mencken would feel right at home here in the 21st Century: is it possible that we aren't stupider than ever, but instead merely just about as stupid? That would be some comfort, I think. I am disinclined to believe in the perfectibility of man, but disposed to believe that we can at least improve. If it turns out that even that is too much, I'd settle right now for holding the line. (I found the Pierce article, which was originally in Esquire, on Bifurcated Rivets.)

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