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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Intelligent design ... of a political strategy

With a few simple coy phrases, President Bush has tossed red meat to the base, generated a slew of news stories, and helped to re-open a wound that has festered for years based on pandering by the theocons.

"Intelligent design" is the slick phrase political marketers have come up to grace a theory that has been out of fashion (not to mention credibility) since the Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925. Backers of this pseudo-theory contend that order of the universe could not be as random as postulated by Charles Darwin. There must be some "intelligent design," such as the hand of God, behind the development of the world.

Tennessee teacher John Scopes was put on trial by the state of Tennessee when he violated a state law that banned the teaching of evolution. The pitched legal battle featured the "silver-tongued orator" William Jennings Bryant for the state versus Clarence Darrow for Scopes. Scopes lost at trial and won on a technicality during his appeal.

The "Monkey Trial" was the most recent of the battles through the centuries over evolution. A good history of the trial -- and the battle -- can be found here.

But the theocons have not been quiet and slowly but surely have ramped up the argument -- doing battle in far-flung places such as Dover, Pa., and Kansas, where school boards controlled by theocons have insisted that there are doubts about evolution and that these doubts should be taught in the schools. And of course they have found a willing ally in the Roman Catholic Church, where one theologian flipflopped on Pope Pius XII 1950 encyclical that declared that teaching evolution did not contradict Catholic teaching.

Enter George. With the proverbial wink and nod he puts the issue near and dear to the heart of his rabid base on the front burner. While never explicitly endorsing the concept, he offers the broad plaudit that schools should be open to all ideas. A slab of red meat to any of the faithful who may not be sure that John Roberts is a true believer. Headlines to keep the base happy.

And as an added gift, he made monkeys out of the reporters who took that slim gruel of a quote and made it into a story worthy of running in major dailies.


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