During GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick's campaign stop in Redmond last week, someone in the crowd asked: "If you are in the U.S. Senate, will you vote to support the teaching of intelligent design in public schools?"
As first reported on Slog, The Stranger's blog (www.thestranger.com/blog), McGavick did a lot of qualifying: He thinks Darwinism has more scientific weight than intelligent design; he's not running for school board; curriculum should be set at the state, not the federal, level. Finally, however, McGavick stated that, yes, intelligent design should be taught in public schools. And it's okay if it's taught in science class, he added.
"I want students to have available to them all the different theories that could be," McGavick told the crowd at Marymoor Park on August 3. "I do believe we should teach all theories. Education is all about different beliefs and how they compete for our mind, and so I would never want to see limiting ideas being taught. I want [students] to be fully informed about different views or comparative support or lack of support. That's what being a student is all about."
In the abstract, McGavick's rap seems reasonable, even wise; and it's probably appealing to the highly educated types on the Eastside. Certainly, students should be "fully informed" about different theories. However, in the context of a question about intelligent design, McGavick's answer is deceptively naive and faux-idealistic. While there may be some germane scientific questions about Darwin's The Origin of Species, ID is simply a kitchen-sink attempt to raise questions—and then offer an explanation that is shorthand for creationism. Indeed, in throwing out the infamous Dover School District requirement that intelligent design be provided as an alternative to evolution, Pennsylvania U.S. District Court Judge John Jones (a Bush appointee) ruled that teaching intelligent design in public school biology classes "violates the Establishment Clause [of the First Amendment]...and cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."
Even a red state like Kansas was uncomfortable with teaching ID. Just last week, voters in Kansas held a de facto referendum on intelligent design by voting out the state school-board members who passed a curriculum last year that challenged evolution and encouraged intelligent design.
So it would seem that McGavick is more amenable to the agenda of the Christian right than voters in Kansas and Bush-appointed judges. More precisely, McGavick seems amenable to the agenda of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based conservative think tank that developed intelligent design and stoked the "teach the controversy" movement. McGavick's campaign contributors include a crew that's associated with the Discovery Institute. Discovery Institute board members Tom Alberg, Christopher Bayley, former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton, and Michael Vaska have given a combined total of $7,300 to McGavick. (Discovery Institute founder Bruce Chapman's wife also kicked in $250.)
When The Stranger asked McGavick's rival, incumbent Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, if she thought intelligent design should be taught in the public schools, she didn't dilly-dally. She said she, "believes that intelligent design has no place in the science curriculum of our public schools."
McGavick did not return a follow-up call. I wanted to ask him if his impulse to err on the side of making "all the different theories" available in the classroom came with any sort of criteria for which theories made the cut.