White House Petition: Halfway against Creationism

Half-way.  That’s how far the anti-creationism White House petition made it.

Well, almost.  After one month, the petition to President Obama to “ban creationism and intelligent design” attracted a total of 46,070 signatures, just under half of the 100,000 it needed to guarantee Presidential consideration.

What does it mean?  Not much.  Even if the petition had succeeded, it would have only been a symbolic statement about the popularity of anti-creationism.

For the sake of argument, I’m curious how many signatures a petition would get if it asked President Obama to support the right of students to learn about alternatives to evolutionary theory.

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Our Fundamentalist Neighbors, Part I

What do we do when fundamentalists act like dicks? That’s the question I ask in a guest post this morning at Jonny Scaramanga’s lively Leaving Fundamentalism blog.
The post continues Jonny’s and my conversation about the meanings of the White House petition to ban the teaching of creationism and intelligent design.  Jonny has promised to offer a thoughtful rebuttal in these pages.

In the meantime, come on over and participate in the chattering…

White House Petition: A Creationist Scheme?

Is the White House petition to ban creationism and intelligent design just a creationist scheme?

That’s the question asked recently by the ever-vigilant Sensuous Curmudgeon.

Here’s an update for those just joining us: Two weeks ago, someone filed a petition with the White House to ban creationism and intelligent design in the US.  These petitions need 100,000 signatures in 30 days in order to guarantee consideration by the Obama administration.  So far, this petition has 39,080 signatures, with 60,920 more needed by July 15.

The Sensuous Curmudgeon‘s blog is a must-read for anyone who follows creationism issues.  The Curmudgeon tracks and ruthlessly pillories creationism wherever and whenever it raises its head.  Yet the Curmudgeon opposes this petition.  The Curmudgeon argues that such things are not only useless to stop creationism or intelligent design, they actually help creationists paint themselves as victims.

We agree.

The Curmudgeon, however, goes one step further.  This petition is such a bad idea for those who support evolution education, the Curmudgeon believes, that it smells like the work of a creationist provocateur.

As the Curmudgeon puts it,

We suspect that it’s really something concocted by a small group of “clever” creationists — possibly in some dingy Seattle “think tank” — who want to demonstrate how “intolerant” we “Darwinists” really are, and how we want to suppress their glorious insights about creation science and intelligent design, and how we’ll resort to governmental force to maintain our “atheistic monopoly” on public education.

What do you think?  Is this petition just a creationist scheme?

Would You Sign It? UPDATE

This just in: the new petition to urge President Obama to ban creationism and intelligent design has evolved!

When we first noticed it yesterday, it had garnered 7662 signatures.  One day later, it has tallied 11,321.  That’s 3659 signatures per day. In order to guarantee Presidential consideration, the petition needs 88,679 more signatures by July 15. 

That would require, by my awkward public-school mathematics, just about 3550 new signatures per day.  So the future looks bright for this symbolic sally into the culture-wars No Man’s Land. 

Who knows what the future brings.  Perhaps this campaign will fizzle after the initial buzz dies down.  Or just maybe, more and more people will sign per day, blasting past the 100,000 minimum requirement. 

I don’t think that would present President Obama with much of a political dilemma.  Unlike GOP leaders, Obama does not really need to truckle to religious conservatives.  He could easily issue a few diplomatic murmurings about the importance of thorough, accurate science education in the nation’s schools. 

I will keep my eyes peeled, in any case, to see how this petition plays out.  Stay tuned. 

Would You Sign It?

Should creationism be banned from schools?  Intelligent design?

That’s the question posed by a new petition on the White House’s website.

As of this morning, the petition has garnered 7,662 signatures.  It only needs 92,338 more by July 15 to earn an official response.

The language seems mild to an evolution believer like me:

Since Darwin’s groundbreaking theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, scientists all around the world have found monumental amounts of evidence in favor of the theory, now treated as scientific fact by 99.9% of all scientists.

However, even after 150 years after the establishment of evolution, some schools across the US are “teaching the controversy,” including Creationism and Intelligent Design. Both of these so-called “theories” have no basis in scientific fact, and have absolutely zero evidence pointing towards these conjectures. These types of loopholes in our education are partially to blame for our dangerously low student performances in math and science.

Therefore, we petition the Obama Administration to ban the teachings of these conjectures that contradict Evolution.

I agree with these sentiments.  Though there are legitimate scientific questions about evolution, such questions do not merit teaching evolution as merely a “controversy.”  Evolution is a fundamental idea about science and deserves to be taught as such in public schools.

However, I think this talk of a “ban” misses the point.  The religious notions of creationism and intelligent design are already banned in public schools.  This kind of anti-creationist activism only antagonizes the substantial number of Americans who sympathize with religious explanations of the origins of life.  Antagonizes without purpose.

In the pages of the Christian Post, for example, young-earth creationist Ken Ham correctly pointed out that the petition could never have any real impact on the teaching of creationism.  The petition only proved, Ham insisted, “the intolerance of evolutionist activists who do not want to see any challenge to their deeply held secularist worldview.”  Since the petition did not specify public schools, Ham argued, this petition can be seen as an aggressive attempt to dictate the teaching even of religious private schools.

Similarly, John West of the Discovery Institute, an intelligent-design think-tank, called the petition “ill-informed, confused, and beside the point.”

I don’t want to see creationism of any sort taught in public schools.  But I agree here with West and Ham.  This petition looks like another well-meaning but ill-considered scheme by overzealous anti-creationists.

Would you sign it?