spacer image
spacer image

Welcome! You're looking at an archived Snarkmarket entry. We've got a fresh look—and more new ideas every day—on the front page.

October 18, 2005

<< Let's Chat About E-Paper, Shall We? | Mini Wonders 2 >>

JetBlue, Intelligent Design, and the Shape of the Future

I just read this TIME magazine brainy kid roundtable chat over lunch and really enjoyed it. Tim O’Reilly, Mark Dery, Moby (!), Esther Dyson, David Brooks, Clay Shirky and Malcolm Gladwell all opine and argue over the shape of the future and what’s significant.

I agree with Tim’s comment that this idea is particularly interesting:

GLADWELL: One of the most striking things in observing the evolution of American society is the rise of travel. If I had to name a single thing that has transformed our life, I would say the rise of JetBlue and Southwest Airlines. They have allowed us all to construct new geographical identities for ourselves. Many working people today travel who never could have in the past, for meetings and conferences and all kinds of things, and this is creating another identity for them.

I’m also really struck by Gladwell’s counter-CW claim that the whole evolution vs. intelligent design debate, uh, doesn’t really matter very much. Some of his co-panelists try to argue that ceding any ground to I.D. will, you know, undermine the next generation of American scientists… but Gladwell comes back with: “Dude, the kids can just google ‘evolution’ for themselves.” Nice.

Posted October 18, 2005 at 1:31 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted


Yes, this was awesome. I actually really liked Gladwell's comment just before that, when he says: "Yes, there is homogenization in clustering, but there are many different clusters being created all at once, and the overall effect can be to increase diversity. It may be that in each of those groups, I'm finding people who are precisely like me, but there are 10 me's. There's Malcolm the football fan, Malcolm the psychology nerd."

But why David Brooks, and why Moby? (Although I did like Moby's closing comment.)

Yeah, when I read Time's lead-in saying "We assembled the smartest people we knew..." I thought, "Moby?" He's pleasant and thoughtful throughout but definitely isn't a heavyweight. It's all, "I know this lady..." and "A friend of mine..." Maybe it was the "smartest people we know who could get to our offices on a Thursday."

I share Gladwell's sense that intelligent design isn't the life-or-death issue it's been made out to be and even that it might signal a new mainstreaming of evangelical Christianity. It's still a fight worth fighting though, mostly because the ID movement wants to require teachers and textbooks to teach intelligent design and evolution as though they have equal scientific status. They clearly don't: any "debate" between the two is manufactured. If anything, biology teachers might bring up intelligent design in the context of discussing what does and doesn't constitute a scientific explanation of phenomena. Otherwise, it's all hot air.

I read this too, and liked much of it, but I tripped up on one of Gladwell's assertions.

He was arguing that evangelicals are becoming more mainstream, and used his experience with "Christian rock and roll" as an example. He said, "The rock-'n'-roll culture within the evangelical world is indistinguishable in terms of the sound of the music from the rock culture that came out of a very different, irreligious secular tradition, except that the words are about Jesus--love and all that."

But that's just plainly wrong. Rock and roll isn't about "the sound of the music" any more than it's about the chord structure or the instrumentation. It's *about* attitude. Music that's all about "Jesus -- love and all that" just isn't rock and roll, period.

The fact that some evangelicals can play the guitar doesn't make them mainstream. I'm siding with those who worry about giving any ground on "intelligent design" or anything else.

Disclosure: I was raised on a thrice-weekly fundamentalist diet. Maybe I'm just still pouting over all that Wednesday night bible study and VBS ...


P.S. I emailed Gladwell with my objection but haven't heard from him .

I have to disagree with Gladwell, and I think Chris Mooney's book lays out the argument pretty well in ways that Gladwell just hasn't addressed at all. ID is about the very principles that underlie science--teaching evolution properly is not just about raising a generation of capable biologists, but raising a generation of citizens who understand what is science and what is not. Teaching ID as science attacks the very understanding of the scientific method, undermining a whole host of critical thinking skills. And it is, very much about the separation of Church and State--to an extent that might not be appreciated by many people who don't rely on that separation in their daily lives.

I am, clearly, a huge Google fan, but Google is only as good as the person using it and the people putting up webpages, and the people using it is largely as good as their education. It's hardly a replacement. Google evolution right now and you get a lot of stuff with the creationist debate thrown in already. I've run into trouble googling things like Martin Luther King Jr. (hate sites). That's fine, b/c I'm 25 and I have a ton of education in discernment behind me. But it's an entirely different matter if I'm seven. So honestly, that quote gives me the hives. :-)

I don't know if the word mainstream is the right word--statistically speaking evangelicals might very well be mainstream, I don't even know--but with that understanding I think Howard Weaver is generally correct.

Definitions are notoriously squishy, (many fundamentalists or evangelicals would disagree on who gets included) but most estimates put the percentage of US Christians who identify as evangelical (their preferred label) at about one-third.

You could always Google it, of course.

spacer image
spacer image