FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kansas, Extinction and "Intelligent Design"

by KARL SHEPARD

I am astonished that the Kansas state school board would once again make itself a world laughing stock. Like a little boy caught with his pants down, it tries hard to conceal the face of science. It is a difficult task when you expose the source of speciation. At 40,000 feet up in the Gulf Stream, “the angels made me do it,” will not suffice as an excuse.

The claim is that intelligent design is somehow different from creation science.

The postulate is that the complexity and interconnectedness of the natural world cannot have occurred by chance and therefore must have been intelligently designed.

It would do us well to distinguish the physical world from the natural world in such an argument. All plants and animals including hominids are subject to a physical world.

The tsunami, earthquake, volcanic explosion, meteorite, or climate change, can wipe out whole populations of plants and animals. What happens next depends upon the adaptive radiation of species. You know, that cornerstone of evolution whereby animals are traced to a common ancestor that colonizes new territory and diversifies over time into new species to fill the available niches.

Marsupials in Australia are a good example. Koalas, kangaroos, and Tasmanian wolves evolved from a common marsupial ancestor. (Oh god, this is so complex for the Kansas State School Board and so well understood by everyone else.) The last caged Tasmanian wolf died in 1933. I guess this extinction at hominid hands was also part of an intelligent design. Or, was that extinction malevolent intent? Geological events and climactic catastrophes might also be attributed to bad planning. Is it an intelligent design or wrathful superstition that stops our queries? Only the veal is cowed. Scientists lack the fear of questions.

So intelligent design, malevolent intent, or favorable geographical chance on some planet in the universe is by design? Perhaps. But not in any testable hypothesis I can conceive. What do you do with an intelligence that condemns most species to extinction in the absence of human permission? Is that intelligently designed? How would we know? What observable evidence could prove it?

Hominids trace their past to the last million years. Evidence of the cockroach is dated to 450 times that number, to the last 450 millennia. It would be easy to argue that the intelligent designer was more interested in these relatively unchanged insects than human improvement.

At its root, we are only at one end of a branch of ancestors reproducing to survive, just another species on a speck of dirt in the universe. We do have an advantage, consciousness of self and sometimes self-knowledge of our claims and questions. The least conscious barely understand what it means to not know. Discourse and discussion will find those limits among those who ask questions.

Clearly, species can and will alter their environments as they populate it and will in turn adapt and radiate to fill the space. Every successful creature only attempts to reproduce. As conditions change, and they always do, reproduction succeeds or fails.

The real myth is ecological balance. What appears to be balance is in fact a moving target. As humans have become more successful, as with every wildly successful species, their impact has grown.

The human animal chooses animals and plants both domestic and wild. We keep, improve and cherish some. We discard, deny, and destroy others. We do weed gardens. We also kill wolves, some in sheep’s clothing.

In the absence of wolves, we try to kill as many deer as we are able in the Mid-West to restore a semblance of balance and make our crops safe for market. It is a perennial complaint by the Missouri Department of Conservation that we do not kill enough deer. The deer eat corn and soybeans to the dismay of farmers. We cull elephants in African game parks to insure that a patch of land is not overrun for similar reasons.

We actively seek the extinction of disease organisms. The eradication of small pox springs to mind. We choose to vaccinate the hominid body and purposefully make it inhospitable. Without the parochial superstition in northern Nigeria, polio could be eliminated in Africa. Polio is not intelligent design; it is a pernicious crippler and killer.

It is no accident that the now rare early 18th century Berkshire pigs, in the last 150 years have lost favor for the newer breeds, Hampshires, Yorkshires, and a Duroc or two. It was the observation of variation in domestic animals that paved the way for our understanding of natural selection.

Only modern humans can force extinction or survival, even their own. We may yet be a warming pot of frogs, cozy in the heat. I seriously doubt that an intelligent designer would have left that cauldron to us.

I aver that the Kansas school board is mostly early 19th century Berkshires, lost in the annals and perhaps now among the scarce pre-Darwin swine of time. All are eaten, some more slowly than others.

Humans manage their environments even their social ones based on their understanding all too frequently lacking in abundance. Unfortunately, “intelligent design” undermines serious and legitimate questions in the interest of political ends, and a pernicious one at that. The board seeks nothing less than the reintroduction of religion into the science and its flip side, the extinction of inquiry. Kansas’s students will suffer, whether or not they believe in supernatural causes.

Inquiring minds want to learn of the school board’s next retreat from science. Perhaps they will revive Ptolemy. I am certain that if they work hard enough they could find the quacks that would work out cycles that once again put our planet at the center of the universe. They could call it “cyclical design” and force its consideration in astronomy classes. Scientists would refer to both “designs” as recurring cycles of stupidity.

KARL SHEPARD has a BA in History from the University of Kansas, an MA in History from the University of Kansas, and has completed PhD coursework in African Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1989, he received a Fulbright-Hayes Dissertation Fellowship to pursue field research in Kenya. Originally from Kansas City, he currently resides in Hillsboro, Oregon. He can be reached at: karls@easystreet.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail