Apparently, our President wants equal time for intelligent design in American schools, saying that “both sides ought to be properly taught” so “people can understand what the debate is about.”
It’s probably not really worth too much discussion in this forum, but it’s fascinating to see how this culture of false debate has emerged. If a public figure were to go out and say that the sky is green, the press would simply report it, and then ask someone else what color they say the sky is, satisfied that by presenting “both sides” of the issue they’ve discharged their duty, and (seeing that there are clearly two sides who disagree) now being able to describe it as a disputed issue. What you won’t hear is the press actually checking the facts themselves; such things are “not their department.” This is especially true when there are a large number of people who, for one reason or another, feel strongly about backing whomever it was who made the false statement; the media are really averse to flat-out contradicting someone when that may alienate readers.
But if a political movement grows, and out of fear of contradicting them nobody ever says they’re wrong, where do we end up?
The rather simple problem with the “debate” over the teaching of evolution, which nobody ever seems quite willing to say, is that the reason we don’t teach “intelligent design” or other forms of ersatz creationism in school isn’t because there’s a secular humanist bias, or because we don’t want to favor one religion over another; it’s for the rather simple reason that these things are false, and known to be false. The fact that one group strenuously advocates for them doesn’t make them any more true, and no matter how loud these groups are, the fact that people are out there saying something does not make it true, nor does it make the debate legitimate or worth people’s time; if a thousand people claim the sky is green, even by divine revelation, the sky will still be blue, and trying to convince them will still be an elaborate waste of time.
Or to say this in a more religious context, we are given senses and a faculty of reason, and we do not derive our laws and our sense of the universe from omens and signs. As R. Jeremia said, the Torah has already been given at Sinai; that is, the set of divine interventions needed to create this world was done at the creation of the world, and so the world is complete within its own context: we can study it in its own right, without having to resort to revelations “explaining” for us things which our own senses can understand on their own. (Baba Metzia, 59a-b) (Yes, I realize that making a religious argument in this context seems odd, but I don’t believe there’s any fundamental contradiction between religion and reason; only when people start misunderstanding the difference between stories and the world around them, to the extent that they reject the evidence of their own senses.)
And now, our president has decided that he needs to weigh in on this issue, because without his wisdom and guidance, where would we be?