Image: Diego Rivera, The Liberated Earth with Natural Forces Controlled by Man, 1926, Fresco, Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo Chapel, North Wall, Diego Rivera Web Museum
The "teach the controversy" argument is really a variation on the old fairness argument. It says, "Well there is this big controversy out there among scientists about whether evolution really occurred, we should teach students that so that they get all of the information," and of course, most Americans would say, "yeah, I want my children to get all of the information, let's teach the controversy." As if there is this big debate going on about whether or not evolution exists, which is nuts, it would be like saying here is an Astronomy class, let's teach the controversy over whether the Earth goes around the Sun, or the Sun goes around the Earth. Dr. Eugenie Scott, Ph.D, Center for Science Education, Ring of Fire, Air America Radio, 6-30-07
Hard Rain Journal 7-11-07: Air America's Mike Papantonio Exposes Discovery Institute, the Wedge Document and the Fraud of "Intelligent Design"
In this wonderful dialogue, Eugenie Scott, Director of the National Center for Science Education, and Mike Papantonio, one of the co-hosts of Air America Radio's Ring of Fire, expose the hidden agenda of the Discovery Institute, a reich-wing think tank based in Seattle, Washington.
In the course of the interview, Scott and Papantonio talk about Discovery's work to insinuate the fraud of "Intelligent Design" into our school systems, as well as its "Wedge document," a blueprint for bringing a de facto theocracy to the USA.
Do not underestimate this insidious threat to freedom of thought; treacherously, it is disguised as a defense of the freedom of thought.
These are dangerous times in the USA.
If your world-view is delusional, reality must be undermined. If your agenda is a lie, the truth must be marginalized. Just as journalism had to be subverted, so does science. The dumbing down of the populace is a top priority.
The Bush-Cheney regime has been so horrific that it is easy to think that the worst of it will be over when (if) they leave office. But there are serious, sweeping problems beyond the Bush-Cheney regime itself: vast sums of money have corrupted the political system, corporate monopolization has co-opted the news media and the growth of the military-industrial complex has shown Eisenhower's prophetic warning to be painfully accurate.
Furthermore, the "vast, right-wing conspiracy" -- first documented by Lyons and Conason in The Hunting of the President and then corroborated by David Brock's insider confession, Blinded By The Right -- will continue its long-term mission to subjugate the American way of life to the whims of corporatist raiders and religious extremists. No, my friend, they are not going away, and nothing on their agenda is more dangerous than their war on science.
I have transcribed this exchange from a Ring of Fire podcast. (Click here for the Words of Power Progressive Talk Radio -- Archive )
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-- Richard Power
Mike Papantonio: A very creepy, powerful organization in Seattle, called the Discovery Institute, has been pushing a right-wing agenda very successfully for years, and they have managed to fly somewhat under the radar. Joining us now is Eugenie Scott, executive director for the National Center for Science Education. Eugenie, the Discovery Institute think tank in Seattle, Washington. I tell you most people don't even know what it is, and it is a spooky, creepy organization. You have been following this for awhile, tell us about it.
Eugenie Scott: Well, I would say it is a very successful organization. For a very small number of people, they have certainly packed a real whallop. And I think it is a combination of things. And, you know, never underestimate those who disagree with you.
Papantonio: No, not when they have this much money behind them. They have a bunch of inheritance babies pumping money into this thing.
Scott: They seem to do well in fund-raising. That's true. They are a relatively small number of people, but they seem to be fairly well connected in terms of getting the attention of some major media outlets. Traditional creationists ... like Kent Hovind, Dr. Dino, the Creation Science Ministries guy ...
Papantonio: Now on his way to prison ...
Scott: Well, he is there now, he is actually ensconced. These traditional young Earth, 10,000 year old, Genesis literalist creationists, they are really below the radar. The national media doesn't pay them no attention at all, although they are a larger movement really than the intelligent design people.
Papantonio: Let me lay this out. The Discovery Institute was put together by some people that just had a lot of money. It was founded by Bruce Chapman. Of course, he was a former Reagan administration official. He went to the money guys, the crowd that actually propped Ronald Reagan up. If you really follow the money on this one, at the end of the day, it is much more about money than religion, I believe. These people want to change the way we live in America, for a lot of economic reasons. They do not like paying inheritance tax.
Scott: I think you're right. The Discovery Institute is more than the Intelligent Design group, it is an umbrella organization. They have a number of projects under this umbrella ... You are correct to note that they have a much broader agenda.
Papantonio: They same people that put the "Sage Brush Rebellion" together with Ronald Reagan, they had some very specific things that they wanted to do, they wanted to deregulate, to the point where government would not work, they wanted to change the tax system to where corporate America didn't have to pay taxes, and so that the inheritance babies that are behind this whole thing do not have pay taxes. So they are hiding behind the religious issue, trying to make this sound like the Discovery Institute is only about the religious issue, and that they want to create a society in which government runs under the precepts of Biblical teachings. But it is much more complicated than that, isn't it?
Scott: Yes, it is. But a lot of these ideas are linked -- in the sense that some of the same people that support their religious and ethical programs also support the limited or toothless government programs, the sort of laissez-faire kind of programs. ...
Papantonio: In the 1990s, they came up with the Wedge Document. Talk about the Wedge Document. Tell us how destructive it is to democracy, and to American culture.
Scott: The Wedge Document came on the scene in 1998 or 1999. It was leaked. A copy was obtained by some people who were not associated with the Discovery Institute. They read it, and they were just so shocked, they put it up on the Internet. ... What the Wedge Document calls for really is a road map to Theocracy. They talk in the Wedge Document about restructuring American society along Christian, sectarian religious lines.
Papantonio: Their image of Christianity.
Scott: That's right. Christianity is quite broad. And there are plenty Christians who are appalled that the thought that these ideas would become part of the body politic.
Papantonio: I'm one of them.
Scott: Their view is that American culture is too secular. They have this erroneous idea about the Founder Fathers, and what their religious views and intentions for the Constitution were. They have this idea of a Christian nation, and they say we have gotten away from that. ... Their solution to the problems they see in American culture is to "re-Christenize" America. They want to establish Christianity as virtually the state religion. ...
Papantonio: There are other ways to look at this Discovery Institute. ... You might have a guy like Howard Ahmanson, the multi-billion dollar heir to the Home Savings Bank fortune that his father built. Now this is a guy who calls himself a Christian. He may, at the heart of what he is doing, say "yeah, some of this is important to me." But [someone else] is putting up money, not because he is wants so much religion, and he wants to change the culture, he wants to change the tax codes of this country, he wants to deregulate this country. That is what's incredible to me, that the media is unwilling, or unable to follow the money on this story. It is a horrible story. Because now you have the organization, the Discovery Institute, changing school boards so that they can teach intelligent design, changing the nature of government so that they can teach intelligent design, and creating all of this divisiveness in education.
Scott: Yes. And they have a very long view. Their idea is you changed the views of the younger generation and eventually the culture will evolve to the kinds of views and positions they want to see. ...
Papantonio: They really haven't been very successful. They failed in Pennsylvania, they failed in Missouri. Or do you see it differently?
Scott: They have certainly failed completely with the scientific community. They made an initial foray in the mid-1990s to try to present their views to the scientific community. The scientific community said, "Huh, this is interesting," read the materials and said, "OK, this is where you are wrong, go back and fix it." Then the intelligent design proponents just turned around and went to the general public and ignored the scientific community completely. So they haven't got anywhere with the scientific community, but they have done incredibly well with the general public. It is true that in the places where policies have been passed, like Dover, Pennsylvania, or where attempts have been made like in the Ohio science education standards, to sort of slip in various intelligent design ideas, they have failed. BUT what has happened is that in about ten years a tremendous amount of publicity has been generated about an idea that was unknown twenty years ago.
Papantonio: And it's absurd, isn't it? On it's face, it is just absurd.
Scott: In terms of its scientific or scholarly value, it is nothing. There is no there there.
Papantonio: Well, we would have to assume that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old ...
Scott: Well, no. They have learned from the mistakes of the traditional creationists. They learned not to make those kind of fact claims. You will never hear the intelligent design people talking about the age of the Earth, or about how Noah's flood carved the Grand Canyon. What you will hear from them, and in the long run this is actually more toxic ... Look, as a scientist, if someone says I can show you scientifically that Noah's flood carved the Grand Canyon, we can chat, and I can show you that is wrong. I win. If someone says, "Evolution is wrong, and therefore Intelligent Design did it," I can show that statement is wrong, but it will take me a lot longer, and you actually need to know a little science for me to show you why evolution better explains the diversity of things than that God went "Poof," which, when you boil it down, is pretty much what the intelligent design position is. I think it is amazing how much they have gotten done, even if legally speaking they have not been able to pass anything so far.
Papantonio: There is a nuance to it now, you hear "teach the controversy." The argument is "science can't know." The heart of it is "science can't know all of these answers to," so you should go to the children and teach them this ridiculous theory ...
Scott: No, Mike, it is actually cleverer than that. Remember that American culture is very keen on democracy, and on hearing all sides of the story, and fairness and all of that. Whether or not we do it is another matter. But it really is part of our culture. We pay great lip service to this. We really hold this as a value. The "teach the controversy" argument is really a variation on the old fairness argument. It says, "Well there is this big controversy out there among scientists about whether evolution really occurred, we should teach students that so that they get all of the information," and of course, most Americans would say, "yeah, I want my children to get all of the information, let's teach the controversy." As if there is this big debate going on about whether or not evolution exists, which is nuts, it would be like saying here is an Astronomy class, let's teach the controversy over whether the Earth goes around the Sun, or the Sun goes around the Earth.
Papantonio: "Teach it," however absurd it is, "let's just teach it."
Scott: Because it sounds fair.
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