Those who follow creationism carefully know that after it became clear that Intelligent design would fail in court, the new strategy which took the field often simply called for “critical analysis” of evolution. The practical effect is the same as when creationism is forced into the curriculum, but the phrasing is more pleasant to the ear. I was reminded of this in reading a generally insipid conversation between Margaret Wente (bolded) and Camille Paglia:

But in education today – even in primary-school education – all we hear about is “critical thinking.” All the facts are available on the Web, and everybody has a calculator. So why make kids memorize the times tables or the names of the biggest rivers in Canada?

“Critical thinking” sounds great. But it’s a Marxist approach to culture. It’s just slapping a liberal leftist ideology on everything you do. You just find all the ways that power has defrauded or defamed or destroyed. It’s a pat formula that’s very thin. At the primary level, what kids need is facts. They need geography, chronology, geology. I’m a huge believer in geology – it’s all about engagement in physical materials and the history of the world.

That creationists would adopt the language of Marxist cultural studies to advance their conservative religious and political agenda might seem odd, but this bizarre admixture is actually foundational to the ID movement.

Or as Rob Pennock put it recently in Science & Education: “Intelligent Design Creationism is the bastard child of Christian fundamentalism and postmodernism.” By mixing ideas from Critical Legal Studies and postmodernism and deconstructionism with traditional denial of evolution and attempts to justify a fundamentalist reading of the bible, Philip Johnson and others crafted the bizarre mess that is ID creationism, as well as its successors.

Pennock’s article only mentions the Kitzmiller v. Dover testimony of sociologist Steve Fuller in passing, but Fuller represents the opposite side of Johnson’s coin. Where Johnson adapted postmodern ideas to justify his fundamentalist ideals, Fuller adopts the fundamentalist theology of creationism to fulfill his own postmodern aims. While Pennock does not examine Fuller’s peripheral role in the ID movement, you can review Fuller’s confusion yourself. He’s got a new book on shelves which attempts somehow to argue that science cannot proceed without religious faith, and that the religious public must take science back by tortured analogy to the Reformation.

In the Guardian, Fuller lays out how this vision of science would bear on the question of ID. He starts pleasantly by acknowledging that ID is a form of creationism. It goes off the rails within the next three sentences. After acknowledging the general belief that ID is both bad science and bad theology, he argues that this, somehow, makes “the basis of our belief in both science and God … irrational.” It isn’t clear why this should be, nor why he “agree[s] with ID” that science and religion are “interdependent.”

For all Fuller’s talk of “our relationship with God,” or his insistence, “Notwithstanding Adam’s fall, we are still created ‘in the image and likeness of God,'” Fuller is not himself religious, and calls himself a secular humanist. As with our late obsession with atheist S. E. Cupp’s defense of fundamentalist efforts to establish an American state religion, this simply makes no sense. I cannot dispute that Fuller harms scientific progress, nor is there evidence he is capable of practicing science. These faults lie not in his religious views, but in his failure to understand what science is, and how science works. In this and many other senses, Pennock rightly speaks of the Postmodern Sin of Intelligent Design.


  1. #1 rijkswaanvijand
    May 11, 2010

    Well, she got her education at a discount; I wonder why:P
    I don’t wonder why she calls critical thinking marxist though; that’s just an excellent way to get them real americuntz convinced of the entire evilness critical thinking embodies..
    Like; hey it must be demonic if it’s a socialist thing.
    Isn’t she a complete genious btw? “What worries me about the Web is the total inability of students to assess whether something is solid, dubious, or whether it’s a joke or a scam. People who’ve worked with books have the ability to do that.” As whe might have noticed from all the god-cum-eaters taking that whole bible thing serious; which according to the nutty professor is legitimate world history. CRANK!

  2. #2 Hrafn
    May 11, 2010

    Fuller, in his latest book at least, is promoting the idea of ‘roll your own’ (to use a tobacco-smoking metaphor) “Protscience” whereby groups (ID and New Age are the examples he explicitly mentions) should be allowed to develop their own sciences, independent of mainstream monolithic (‘tailor-made’, in the metaphor) science, in the same way that Protestantism has a myriad of theologies, independent of Catholicism.

    The problem with this, to my mind at least, is that Theology and Science work in very different ways. Particularly, (Christian) Theology works from a very small (~800,000 word), fixed canon, whereas science works from a far larger, and ever-growing one. The larger size makes expertise and specialisation far more important. The element of growth allows any scientist who finds the existing canon to be ambiguous on an issue to go out and make an experiment (or other scientific observation), have the results peer-reviewed and published, and thus added to the canon.

    I’ve yet to see an advantage to “Protscience” beyond a postmodernist (strictly speaking ‘Social Constructionist’) prejudice against dominant paradigms (which seems to forget the point that they may, at times, be dominant for a valid reason).

  3. #3 Marion Delgado
    May 12, 2010

    If there turned out to be a God after all, I am certain even He wouldn’t want to hear Steve Fuller discussing science OR religion :)

  4. #4 Marion Delgado
    May 12, 2010

    Also, Camille Paglia is, as Tim Lambert points out, an idiot.

  5. #5 Jonathan Bartlett
    May 12, 2010

    Hrafn –

    “Theology works from a very small (~800,000 word), fixed canon”

    I think this is a failure to grasp theology. The problem is not that your definition of canon is incorrect (well, actually, in many protestant circles, it would be incorrect – many seminaries use more recent sources as surpassing the traditional canon, but I digress). Instead, it is that theology doesn’t *stop* with the canon. Theology, at least for the most part, does not confine itself to the questions asked by scripture, nor does understanding cease at the point where scripture stops. Instead, that is the starting point for further reasoning.

    Also, about paradigms, it is certainly true that dominant paradigms are dominant for a reason. *However*, the point is that the reason that a paradigm is dominant in one community does not mean that such a reason has any bearing whatsoever on a different community. The point is that knowledge is so big, and we each only have a small piece. To think that any one group is uniquely holding the fundamental foundations of complete knowledge is foolish. Instead, allowing multiple paradigms of knowledge work for different communities allows different forms to be created which work on their own, independently of whether or not they work with the others.

  6. #6 Hrafn
    May 12, 2010

    Jonathan Bartlett:

    I think you fail to grasp what I said. I did not state that theology ‘stops with the canon’, I said that it “works from” it. Likewise, I did not say that it “confine[s] itself to the questions asked by scripture” nor that “understanding cease[s] at the point where scripture stops”. My exact point was that where theology asks such questions, the answer cannot be determined from the canon, and so the questions often remain open, resulting in (often long standing) competing theological views. This is in contrast to science where new canon can be developed, (reasonably) definitive answers therefore can be found, and competing hypotheses therefore have a finite shelf-life.

    “The point is” that your pomo handwaving is pointless. Just because ‘different communities’ have a “different” paradigm does not necessarily make their paradigm useful. To think that all paradigms are created equal is not merely “foolish” but blatantly idiotic. “The point is” that ignorance is all to frequently massive and obstinate. The point is that at the same time that scientists are sequencing the Neanderthal DNA, we have an IDiot writing letters to the editor claiming that “Neanderthal Man — said to be a transitional human form was later found to be a male human suffering from arthritis and rickets.”

    Finally, your definition of “works” appears to be unworkable. When “works” merely means ‘allows the user to protect bronze age myths from any contrary knowledge and provides the user with a rationalisation for forcing their bronze age myths on other people’s impressionable children’, it no longer serves any useful semantic purpose. Likewise it can be said that postmodernism generally, as it provides no analytic tools for evaluating paradigms, does no “work”, but is rather idle description.

  7. #7 Hrafn
    May 12, 2010


    THEOLOGY: Was Mary born without sin (the ‘Immaculate Conception’)? A: A lot of hair-splitting interpretation of very tangential passages in the Bible, and obdurate differences of opinion.

    SCIENCE: Did modern humanity come out of Africa in a single wave (the ‘Out of Africa’ hypothesis)? A: DNA analysis of modern human DNA from a number of regions and from Neanderthals, revealing that non-African modern human DNA contain some commonalities with Neanderthals that African DNA doesn’t share, disproving the strong form of the ‘Out of Africa’ hypothesis.

    (Apologies for any theological or scientific mistakes in the above examples.)

  8. #8 Hrafn
    May 12, 2010

    (#6, 1st paragraph: “such questions” should read “such unconfined questions”)

  9. #9 Ludwik Kowalski
    November 15, 2010

    Some people define communism as “paradise on earth;” others define it as “hell on earth.” The first definition is often used to seduce–all problems will easily be solved after our next proletarian revolution, according to Marxists. The second definition is a description of what actually happened in the Soviet Union. And now again Marxists promise that problems like exploitation, wars, poverty, alcoholism, anti-semitism, racism, and all other forms of injustice will disappear in classless society.

    But what about pollution, limited natural resources, overpopulation of the planet, global warming, etc.? Would they also disappear automatically in a classless society? If not then communism will not be a paradise on earth. The Soviet Union, by the way, probably became more polluted than the US. I am thinking about the sea of Azov disaster, and about Siberian rivers carrying radioactive waste to the Polar seas.

    What evidence do we have that Russians benefitted from proletarian dictatorship? They would probably be better off today if they had been allowed to develop like other Western-European countries. So much suffering for nothing …

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Ludwik Kowalski, a retired nuclear scientist and the author of a free ON-LINE book entitled “Diary of a Former Communist: Thoughts, Feelings, Reality.”

    It is an autobiography illustrating my evolution from one extreme to another–from a devoted Stalinist to an active anti-communist. This testimony is based on a diary I kept between 1946 and 2004 (in the USSR, Poland, France and the USA).

    Why am I distributing these books on-line, instead of selling them for profit? Because I want to share what I know and think about communism. The more people know about proletarian dictatorship less likely will they experience is. Please share the above link with those who might be interested, especially with young people, and with potential reviewers. Thank you in advance.

New comments have been disabled.