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Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
~Kurt Vonnegut
Thursday, September 21, 2006

DeVos Promotes Intelligent Design

When I came home from work, and saw the headline: DeVos Backs Discussion of Intelligent Design, I knew I wanted to blog it. Alas, I get the afternoon paper. Ed Brayton gets the morning paper, and had already beaten me to it. Not only that, but Mike and PZ had already added a few licks. They even made the same points that I was planning to make.

Since Ed's post is rather polite, I thought I would play the role of attack dog. But PZ led with the headline Michigan: I presume you won't actually elect this clown, right? So that point has been made. As to whether DeVos has a chance, well, I would not rule him out yet. DeVos still trails in the polls, despite a breathtakingly expensive ad campaign. He's spent $3,250,000 of his own money so far, and $21 million total. That's compared to $12 million raised by the Democratic incumbent, .

Then I was going to point out that this is a part of the Republican War on Science. But Mike's title is: The Republican War on Science Continues.

So I had to add something new, or at least try to.

Some background: DeVos is the Republican candidate for governor in Michigan. He is also a lead operator in the Amway/Quixtar pyramid scheme. (Note: it is not, technically speaking, an illegal pyramid scheme; it is a pyramid scheme that uses a legal loophole to sidestep prosecution.)

Mike made the point that DeVos' promotion of intelligent design is yet another manifestation of the Republican War on Science. Chris Mooney has argued the point very effectively in his book. But there is more to it than that.

The war on science is also a war on reason. But the reason that is important is not that science and reason are sacred icons that are never to be defiled. The war on science is important because of the effects it has on people. The war on science has a purpose: it distorts the power structure in our country, much to the detriment of its citizens.

One of the sources of political power is the power of persuasion. The problem with science is that it can be very persuasive, but when done properly, science can be used on to persuade people of things that the science actually supports. That makes it dangerous.

And that is the connection to the Amway/Quixtar business. DeVos made his billions using the power of persuasion, but not with the power of logic. A simple mathematical analysis of the business shows that it cannot possibly work for the majority of participants. So it is not in DeVos' best interest to teach people to think in a scientifically rigorous manner. To the contrary, it is in his best interest to destroy the foundations of scientific education. By introducing faith in the guise of science, he is trying to do exactly that.

When a reported called DeVos' attention to the flap over his ID/Creationism stance, DeVos stated:

"This debate is another attempt," he said, "by the other side to take the subject away from the true debate in Michigan and the true debate is how are we going to get Michigan back to work."

No, it is not a diversionary tactic. It is a valid point in its own right. If DeVos does not understand the issues, that is a valid point. If he does not support science education, that is a valid point. If he values deception over truth, that is a valid point. In an honest debate, one does not derisively dismiss a valid point. If he has a valid argument to offer, he should let us know what it is.

An editorial in the Livingston County Press & Argus, the editorial board expresses this considered opinion:

DeVos should not be pushing intelligent design

It's disappointing that Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos has said that he favors teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in our public school science classes.

His decision appears to pander toward a segment of his political party at the expense of quality education.

Intelligent design — the belief that our world is so complex that it had to be the product of a higher form — was called religion masquerading as science by a federal judge in Pennsylvania last year. That's a pretty good summary of it.

People can and should hold their personal beliefs about the existence of a Supreme Being who created all life. But that belief should not be forced upon our public school systems as a scientific alternative.

We suspect that DeVos fully understands what he is doing and merely wants to solidify himself among some Christian observers, while forcing his opponent to reject the argument.

This is a time when we need to improve our reputation as a state that values scientific research and investment. In this case, DeVos is not providing the type of leadership change this state needs.

In an interview, DeVos said this:

"I've always believed that our children should be provided with more knowledge, not less," DeVos said in a statement. "Lots of intelligent people can disagree about the origins of life. In the end, I believe in the system of local control. Local school boards should have the opportunity to offer evolution and intelligent design in their curriculums."

This is an example of a politician contorting a topic to conclude his statement with a standard party line. In this case, he ends up not addressing the issue at hand, which he knows nothing about, but instead changes the topic to one that he feels is a strong point. The thing about this that is dishonest, is that if he really believed in local control, he would hardly be able to support a unitary executive.

Furthermore, the issue of local control is not really a strong point of the Republican party at this stage of history. Over the past six years, the Party has been selective, favoring local control when it suits their interest, but discarding it when it does not.

What he is doing in his campaign is fundamentally dishonest, just as his business model is dishonest.

In this campaign, the challenger has the advantage of having no political record that the incumbent can attack. But DeVos does have a business record, and that record reveals him to be a Merchant of Deception.
posted by : Joseph j7uy5 | link | | |


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