Someone at Esquire decided it was time to warn the fashion-conscious men of America about the perils of Intelligent Design, so the November issue offers not just one air-raid siren, but two. Charles P. Pierce's "Greetings From Idiot America" offers a unified theory of everything annoying to an Esquire contributor, explaining not only Intelligent Design but also George W. Bush, the war in Iraq, and -- oh, the injustice -- why Fox News draws better ratings than the erudite Keith Olbermann.
Tom Junod's "The Case for Intelligent Design" is a wry attempt to claim I.D. on behalf of agnosticism, if not for process theology.
Neither author makes much effort to describe I.D. in terms other than caricature -- while railing at nearly 6,600 words about intellectual laziness, Pierce dismisses I.D. as nothing more than slack-jawed creationism in a lab coat. Neither article is available through Esquire's penurious website, so some blockquotes will have to do.
Here is Pierce:
On August 21, a newspaper account of the "intelligent design" movement contained this remarkable sentence: "They have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin's defenders firmly on the defensive."
A "politically savvy challenge to evolution" is as self-evidently ridiculous as an agriculturally savvy challenge to euclidean geometry would be. It makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy Party ticket. It doesn't matter what percentage of people believe they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly, none of them can. It doesn't matter how many votes your candidate got, he's not going to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.
On the front page.
Of The New York Times.
Gadzooks! Even the Times has become captive to the know-nothing patrons of bars across America? And yes, the bar is an image invoked by one of Pierce's interview subjects, then beaten into the ground by the author:
"The reason the creationists have been so effective is that they have put a premium on communication skills," explains [MIT professor Kip] Hodges. "It matters to them that they can talk to the guy in the bar, and it's important to them, and they are hugely effective at it."
It is the ultimate standard of Idiot America. How does it play to Joe Six-Pack in the bar? At the end of August 2004, the Zogby people discovered that 57 percent of undecided voters would rather have a beer with George Bush than with John Kerry. Now, how many people with whom you've spent time drinking beer would you trust with the nuclear launch codes? Not only is this not a question for a nation of serious citizens, it's not even a question for a nation of serious drunkards.
Here is Junod, who never quite recovered -- theologically, at least -- from an acid trip's revelation that God bears the blame for evil, what with creating thorns and all:
It's an interesting exercise, to try to find a rationale for the crucifixion -- and, by extension, for Christianity itself -- in the precepts of intelligent design. Christians of all stripes tend to love it, so you'd figure it would offer some kind of foothold for their sanguinary and human-centered vision of the cosmos. It doesn't. Intelligent design offers, instead, the Cult of the Really, Really Smart God, which undercuts Christianity at least as much as it supports it. How can humans be redeemed if they've been designed? What are they being redeemed from? Their animal nature, which is so integral to their design that it's woven into their DNA? Their DNA itself? A design flaw? A mistake, either in conception or in execution? And if so: How intelligent is a designer whose design is so flawed that it can only be repaired by the sacrifice -- the torture slaying -- of his innocent offspring?
. . . I'm pretty sure my own response to my own lysergic noodling was gnostic -- more gnostic than Christian, anyway. My gnosticism permitted me to stay Christian. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth the only way he could, the only way he knew how. He was really, really smart, but there were limits to his smarts, as there were limits to his power. To make the creation work, to make it come into being, he had to incarnate forces that poor, befuddled human beings, coming into consciousness many, many years later, would come to regard as evil. It was the only way. And so God was not innocent of human suffering any more than humans were innocent. He evolved as we evolved, as the universe evolved. Hey, he needed us -- he needed us to humanize him, he needed us to be human. He not only listened to our prayers, to our inchoate wailing; he listened to our music. He read our books. He existed in our music and in our books. And he was moved. He took pity. He apologized. And that was Jesus -- God's apology. His apology for making us the way he did. His apology for the sin of implanting sin in our hearts. His apology for putting us in really sort of an impossible situation. His apology for evolution.