There were some encouraging developments this week, even in the midst of the president’s unsettling governing machinations. In Pennsylvania, District Judge John E. Jones issued a strongly worded opinion denying the premise that Intelligent Design had a proper place in the science curriculum of Dover public schools. And for the moment, ANWR drilling was kept from inclusion in the Defense Appropriations bill.
In the first instance, Judge Jones made it clear that those who suggested that intelligent design could hold its own in the science classroom were engaged in a thinly veiled attempt at “…a mere re-labeling of creationism” that represented religious belief not “scientific theory.” Despite the ruling, however, those who support a religious overview in public education, say the battle over ID is still to be engaged.
It is puzzling, nonetheless, that much of the reasoning and many of the points made on the religious right tend to weaken rather than strengthen their position for a creationist interpretation of The Bible that comports with scientific theory. Suggesting that Adam and Eve shared space in the Garden of Eden with dinosaurs and that the Earth is just about 3,000 years old, for example, are positions that no respectable scientist, religious or not, supports.
Indeed, the notion that human and all natural existence is too complex to have evolved but must have been designed by a higher power is a more unwieldy concept than any scientific postulate. One may hold religious beliefs about the beginnings of life that include the growth of a complex world from the simplest of organisms. But believing that the hand of God set in motion the diverse biological mechanisms of the world in a real-time, six-day time span is a consideration that falls outside of any scientific context.
Unfortunately, the real subtext of this turmoil over such things as ID and the Christmas debate, if it can be called that, is politics. Who would have thought just a short while ago that we would be publicly engaged in matters that were so personal? It used to be said that one should avoid discussing religion and politics in social situations. But these days the two have become so intertwined that the country is constantly engaged in a turbulent partisanship, tinged with religion, that has permeated every corner of our society and especially our government.
It seems nothing is straightforward anymore. Religion pretends to be science, and people argue about it as if it were a serious issue. Spending bills in Congress may be labeled Transportation, Energy or Defense but are often so filled with pork projects and extraneous measures they stretch the definition of these categories beyond all recognition. The spectacle of such duplicitous goings on should infuriate ordinary Americans, but it is often difficult to get beyond the rhetoric to which we are all subjected and become effective lobbyists on our own.
Supporters suggest Drilling in ANWR would help to free us from dependence on foreign oil. Never mind that supplies there are not expected to be significant or that they wouldn’t come on line for years or that they couldn’t, in any case, be easily delivered to domestic outlets. And forget about alternative sources of energy in a country that used to be in the forefront of innovative technologies – – consider the internet and space exploration. To massage the proclivities of Alaska’s Senator Stevens and some oil interests in an administration dedicated to preserving and protecting oil interests everywhere, the Republican majority had the temerity to attach an ANWR provision to the Defense Appropriations Bill. Not only did such a procedure violate the rules of the Senate, it was a cynical attempt to bludgeon senators into accepting a measure irrelevant to the defense needs of the country.
To their credit, Senators Snowe, Collins, DeWine, Chafee and Jeffords joined Democrats in a filibuster that prevented the Defense Appropriations bill from going forward with the ANWR provision attached. No-one, however, expects that to be the final word on the matter, but it was another encouraging sign in a political climate that has become dangerously one-sided and unresponsive to the American people.
Now if we could begin to move forward in addressing national concerns in terms of a more enlightened approach to the environment, health, job creation and foreign policy the future might look a little brighter. Probably, though, that will take some serious work in the next election cycle.

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