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The Most Craven Generation

Scientific Attitude Missing in My Age Group

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 18, 2001.

I cannot decide if I am still too fat-headed for words or just married to the scientific attitude. The Scientific Attitude, if I may regress to 1950 class in a New England Quaker school, is that of the open minded always willing to bend to new, compelling evidence. Short of new discovery, the true scientific attitude retains firm adherence to the last theorem that makes sense based upon known evidence. Always there is the realization that current evidence may be altered by new information or even wrong.

This comes to mind because of a debate that is emerging about Darwinism. Again. Darwin's Black Box, Darwin's God and other books purport to throw the gossamer of divinity over physics. Most see it as a noxious attempt by the Bible Thumpers to dress up Genesis metaphor into the science of Creationism, and there are obvious examples that this is often the case. But given the number of books that come out attempting to undermine natural selection and evolution itself, mere hypocritical bombast cannot be all of it. There aren't enough idiots to buy these books to account for their popularity. Otherwise rational, well educated people are entertaining the bovine again.

I think a large proportion of this is my generation's innate cowardice as it finds itself edging towards the ditch and wimping out. We're good at that. The generation that was going to change the world proves to be as hypocritical and philosophically half-assed as any other. As we get closer to worm food, we seek again the embrace of Daddy, and the sureness of a light on the porch as it gets darker every day. We jettison all the artistic logic and beautiful prose of youth and middle age and embrace - yuck - poetry, and bad, bad poetry at that. This is mere fear. How else to explain the ludicrous foundations of the New Age, with magnets and pyramids and the inevitable fumes of hemp, poppy, and patchouli to lull its adherents into accepting logic that has the gravitas of Joey Ramone's lyrics, RIP sir.

What is happening is a rather obvious attempt to reintroduce the existence of an all powerful deity to science without disturbing science. They try to get around this with the phrase "intelligent design". This is merely a variant of the Deists' philosophy in the Enlightenment, in which they postulated that God created matter and started the ball rolling and went on to other things, like Mozart and the beauty of the sphere and an early start of Heidi Klum. Evolution can thus be viewed as the very first Survivor series with a host you absolutely do not want to mess with or contest against. This makes lovely syllogistic sense with a logical illustrative image. But, like Jesuitical debate, it implants the contention that there is a Host, and a holy one at that. Thus the debate is reduced to argument about the nature of this host, not whether it exists at all.

Just like the recent fraud of magnetic pillows - which was based upon a blending of false attributes of electromagnetism , magnets, and gravity - seemed to bring compassionate medicine to the side of the Workshop Generation, to argue about intelligent design is to grant legitimacy to religion which it has not earned.

The vanity of humans is immense, and nothing speaks to this more than religion. Consider: religion is based on the assumption that there are unknowable things and only a God can explain their existence, which is to say we're so smart only a being outside our capacity could have created what we do not and cannot ever understand. Science is the assumption that there are things we do not know because we are currently meatheads but, with work and time, could discover. It hardly requires an all powerful God to be smarter than we are, but as we age and realize again how deep is our vacuum of knowledge, and that surrounded for send off with family, friends, and devotes, inexorably we still die alone, the fear generates a desire for comfort and something more, something beyond. This provides the aging audience for books questioning Darwin, and there is a huge population bubble in this country to make these authors rich.

Still, Stephen Jay Gould's analogy of evolution being a drunk weaving down the street with a brick retaining wall on one side, retains its compelling logic. The universe is matter in motion. There is only one way for it to go, since stasis is not possible with motion. It can not become less complex - that's a brick wall. It bounces off the wall repeatedly until it, in effect, crosses the road, the first chicken to do so. There it breeds with other chickens, and while some devolve back to the wall and simplicity again, others continue both down the linear street of its life but also upward to other streets and neighborhoods of deeper complexity. Every once in a while an eighteen wheeler roars down the street pruning all drunks that made it that far, and evolution starts again. But with time and luck, we and eventually greater creatures arise. It requires no God.

So when nitwits in Colorado spend legislative time and money to get the Ten Commandments posted, or to teach the idiocy of Creationism in Kansas schools, to institute bovine Christianity as a national mandate, and to appeal to the aging female cowards who nod at new television commercials featuring an alleged female doctor suddenly dealing with abortion's conflicts, it is all of a piece. The right wing is now appealing to the fears and cowardice of the generations that had them on the ropes for the last fifty years. It will be the greatest irony if my generation, of all people, in the end wimps out and hands victory back to the hypocrites, the patriarchs, the idiots.