11/09/2005 05:21 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Intelligent Design as a "Paradigm Shift"

OK, remember not so long ago when the expression on the lips of every visionary in the market place was "paradigm shift?" Those of you with some academic background may remember the source of that expression—Thomas Kuhn's hugely influential "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." It was an ur-document for a reasonable (i.e., pragmatist) form of postmodernism in the academy. To poor Kuhn's everlasting regret, his dense and serious argument (that major shifts in scientific paradigms are partly conditioned by cultural and rhetorical factors), was co-opted by a politicized, anti-intellectual, and wildly fashionable form of postmodernism that promoted a vacuous and convenient relativism that could be dragooned into serving any idea whatsoever, no matter how bogus, inside the academy or out.

I recently argued that the atmosphere created by that fashionable form of postmodernism is one reason intrusions of Intelligent Design and Creation Science into our school curricula are so difficult to counter. When Bush and Frist defend that intrusion by saying that students should be exposed to "different points of view" on evolution, they have the "winds of postmodernism at their backs." I was talking in a general impressionistic way, but now it turns out that the lawyers for the school board down in Dover, PA, actually argued that intelligent design is a "legitimate educational objective", describing it as "the next great paradigm shift in science".

Son of a gun! Now the question is: are right wing critics of all things multicultural and relativist naively taking advantage of its ethos—or are they laughing up their sleeves as they deploy its favorite tropes in a farcical (but deeply dangerous) cause?