When Fredrick March’s fictional character Mathew Harrison Brady took the stand toward the end of the trial in the 1960 film classic Inherit the Wind, it wasn’t his opponent Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) that took him apart. It was his own dogma and blind acceptance of Genesis, the unquestioned Word on creation. It is almost unfathomable that these many years after the Scopes Trial which inspired that movie (and the play upon which it was based), people are once again going to court over whether evolution and real science should prevail in public education. The very same hucksters who branded those opposed to reproductive choice “Pro-Life” have more recently invented the pseudo-science of "Intelligent Design". In fact the mumbo jumbo that claims to give credibility to this notion and accord it equal standing with Darwin is nothing more than an ideological insistence that the words found in the first chapters of Genesis are literally true. Its proponents aren’t defending the idea that God had a role, perhaps a defining role, in getting this life we have started, but their own proclaimed definitive version of that truth. Whether or not you believe in God or in his role in creation, the fact remains that the narrative in the first chapters of the Bible reflects the view of people who were also convinced, among other things, that the earth was flat. Be assured were it not for indisputable evidence that when we fly east we will eventually reach our starting point, not to mention all those photographs of the earth from outer space, the folks pushing repackaged creationism would probably want the kids to learn about flatness as well.
Opinion polls suggest that a large number of Americans think it’s OK, and perhaps even a good idea, to teach Intelligent Design as a counterpoint to Evolution – something with which our Commander in Faith agrees. But polls today are so skewed by misinformation (huge numbers of Americans still think Saddam had a hand in 9/11) that they no longer have much credibility. In fact, there are probably more than a few Americans who believe our president’s name in Barlet not Bush. If only that were true. No this creeping creationism is just another manifestation of an ongoing attempt to turn our democracy into a partisan theocracy, not merely ruled by religion but a certain kind of religion. They decry Islamic fundamentalists who in fact are their true sole mates. Perhaps Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and company don’t send forth suicide bombers, but ultimately it’s a distinction in tactical nuance not substance. They are seeking to destroy the Republic envisioned by Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers. At a time when we are sorely lagging in teaching the sciences (our kids can’t compete with their Indian or Asian contemporaries) this assault on Darwin transcends a simple dispute over our origins. Primitive Design (a more descriptive and appropriate name) is an assault on our future, an attempt to turn the clocks back and rejoin the dark ages. When will Americans wake up to its danger? When will our political and mainstream religious leaders have the courage to challenge this, to paraphrase John Dean’s immortal words, “cancer on our democracy”?