How the Palestinian Advocates Intelligently Design Each Debate

    Whether it’s A.I.D.S. skepticism or Holocaust denial, anti-environmentalism or belief in a 6,000-year biblical history of Earth, anti-intellectual factions often make use of the same argumentative techniques. Nearly all of them are fronts for much larger interest groups, designed to evangelize coarse, even bigoted ideas to university students and the nation’s intelligentsia.

    The ideas may be worthless, but the tactics employed by such groups are worth pointing out so that future charlatans and snake oil salesmen will lead harder, more brutish lives. As disparate as they sound, two such groups, intelligent-design advocates and Palestinian apologists, share much in common.

    Intelligent design, a thinly veiled offshoot of Christian creationism, has been in the news a lot lately, due to a federal court hearing in Dover, Penn. Its purpose is to provide political cover for creationists of various stripes as they try to supplant science education with religious indoctrination.

    Palestinian apologists, veiled or not, perennially take up Library Walk (as they did on May 15) to propound the misdeeds of Israel. Their purpose is to dislodge American public support for the Jewish state, and ultimately to supplant the state with an Islamist one.

    Both movements begin their pitch with an unfounded equivocation of their position and the established one. Proponents of intelligent design portray evolutionary biology as a scientific field at an impasse, filled with boring and bewildering theories, while offering intelligent design as a tantalizing alternative. Publicly, they would offer that both are valid alternatives for scientists to consider. Palestinian apologists portray Israel as a fat, ruthless state propped up by American aid while depicting Palestinians as a gigantic refugee population displaced from its homeland. To moderate their position, they argue that both nations are worthy of a hearing in the court of international justice.

    Privately, each movement sees its own side as the legitimate one, while evolution or Israel is the usurper. Once any sort of dialogue is established, the veil of moderation drops and equivocation transforms into direct accusation.

    Once the notion of a legitimate and vigorous debate is established, both Palestinian apologists and intelligent-design advocates blitz their audiences with overarching philosophical notions and incremental distortions of fact. Intelligent-design advocates might begin by pontificating about the nature of science or engaging in Socratic dialogues about the “design inference.” Alternatively, they might caricature bacterial flagella, mustering as many deep breaths and raised eyebrows as possible. Palestinian apologists often place imagery of old women in tents and words such as “human rights” or “refugees” in blood-red lettering at the center of their posters. They might also delve into statistics about the number of Palestinians killed in some connection to Israeli military operations, or present accounts of houses being demolished by Israeli bulldozers. With either group, when one angle fails to provide a fruitful line of conversation, the other is taken.

    In the grandest sense, the claims of both groups are false. The claim of intelligent-design advocates that their ideas are nonreligious because “the designer could be space aliens” is about as sincere as Hamas’ recent overtures to the Israeli Jewish population.

    The next stage of argumentation for each group is to secure “victim” status. Palestinians would live happy lives as bakers, farmers and mothers if only the Zionists would allow them to return to their homeland. Intelligent-design theorists would have blossoming careers in biomedical science if only the Darwinists would allow them to express their ideas in scientific literature and the mainstream media.

    Underneath these claims lie appalling motivations. The need to retain victim status prevents both intelligent-design “theorists” and Palestinian “authority” from producing anything of value. Neither group could bear the responsibility, whether to conduct real science experiments or to govern a real nation, were its victim status ever removed.

    The leaders of the intelligent-design movement and the Palestinian authorities have thus declined generous offers of aid, regardless of how badly it was needed. Between 1994 and 2002, the Templeton Foundation gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund university courses and research on intelligent design, but gave up after receiving no specific research proposals. As Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz discusses in “The Case for Israel,” Israeli hospitals have made offers to treat injured Palestinian victims of the ongoing violence that are often rejected.

    In the most advanced argumentative stages, both intelligent-design advocates and Palestinian apologists have learned to exploit their opponents’ internal debates. Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould once entreated textbook publishers to remove Ernst Haeckel’s embryo drawings from any page, regardless of the fact that they were not being used as evidence for evolution in embryology. Jonathan Wells, author of the popular intelligent-design volume “Icons of Evolution,” construed Gould’s appeal as evidence for his conspiracy theories about biologists suppressing the truth in classrooms. Likewise, some Jews have criticized portions of Israeli policy, such as in 1982 when Thomas Friedman declared Israel’s shelling of West Beirut “indiscriminate.” Surely, Palestinian apologists contend, the fact that Jews — even Israeli citizens — would criticize their government vindicates the Palestinian case.

    The fact that intelligent-design advocates and apologists speak unanimously while their opponents may have varying opinions makes a clear case for science. Science admits controversies and sometimes entertains mistaken notions, but overall better theories are advanced through further experimentation. Intelligent design advances no testable claims and therefore admits no controversies.

    Obviously, one battle is American and intellectual while the other reflects an ethnic war raging halfway around the world. But even the proposals made by each side to resolve either conflict bear notable similarities.

    The radicals start with equivocation and close by asking for equality, which they see as a method to eventually dominate their opponents. intelligent-design advocates, like their creationist predecessors, have made their central objective the inclusion of “equal time” to “teach the controversy” in public schools, which they know is the best route toward eventually supplanting Darwinian evolution. Palestinian apologists campaign principally for the “right of return,” which they and their counterparts in Israel know is merely a way for the larger Palestinian population to eclipse the Jewish population and thus establish one de facto Palestinian state.

    Moderates on either issue, however, want separation between science and religion, between Israel and a Palestinian state.

    When firmly confronted with sensible proposals, advocates for intelligent design, a Palestinian right of return and other specious notions reiterate their calls for “open-mindedness” and flood the debate with “facts.” But being open-minded is a lot like what Margaret Thatcher said about being powerful or being a lady: If you have to tell people you are, then you’re not.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal