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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Intelligent design terminology entering pop culture

Just as cartoonists are discovering the fun in the intelligent design controversy, its concepts are creeping into popular newswriting.

For example, Newsweek devoted a recent cover story to a serious examination of spirituality in America.*

One comment that newswriter Jerry Adler makes is,

If you experience God directly, your faith is not going to hinge on whether natural selection could have produced the flagellum of a bacterium. If you feel God within you, then the important question is settled; the rest is details.

As it happens, I vehemently disagree with the approach to religion that Adler describes, but that's a discussion for another time. I want to draw attention to the fact that Adler assumes that the average reader knows both the meaning and the significance of "flagellum of a bacterium." That certainly would not have been the case ten years ago. So, clearly, the intelligent design controversy is affecting popular culture.

*By the way, I recommend this Newsweek article (Spirituality in America, September 5, 2005). One really positive cultural change is the recently acquired capacity of mainstream media to write accurately and sensitively about spirituality and religion. Maybe I should quit calling them “legacy” mainstream media ... reading this article was one of the few times I felt I had been unfair to them.

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Cartoons: Oops, missed one!

Here’s another cartoon on the ID controversy, mocking mammoth science textbooks. As one who has helped assemble these monsters, I can tell you what the problem is: The textbook publisher has a number of constituencies to please. But the student is not of those constituencies. So the publisher naturally tries to cram in whatever any teacher lobby wants, because their opinion counts. I used to be an expert at this, actually. I would fill in huge charts, illustrating my misdeeds, as the book grew to the size of a doorstop for a government building.

My advice, if anyone wants it: Today’s textbook should morph into a slim introduction to the topic, with a CD-ROM/DVD (with additional material, tutorials etc.) in the back jacket, plus a Web site the student can consult. Of course the big fight would then be over how much attention to give to each topic, but at leastt he student is not burdened with that. How much does 50 extra megs of information weigh, after all?

If you just got here, good morning, and here are the eight ‘toons I posted yesterday (well, nine, really).

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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