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.