Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017--A Word About Intelligent Design

There is a hot debate underway among progressives and others who do not in any way support Donald Trump about how to relate, if at all, to those who voted for and are sticking by President Trump.

The fact that I have difficulty referring to him as "President," is indicative of how complicated this situation is. About as complicated as how Republicans in the main had difficulty thinking about Barack Obama as "President" and opposed him aggressively, seeking from Inauguration Day to bring him down.

So Democrats and Republicans share that.

I have been arguing here for some time that, while opposing most of Trump's initiatives, progressives need to reach out to the most independent-minded of Trump supporters in an attempt to convince them that we understand their frustration and anger and make the case to them that traditional Democrats share many of their concerns and would like to welcome them back to our enlarged tent. Even including abortion opponents and Second Amendment defenders.

Others argue that we shouldn't waste our time reaching out to them. They are so unredeemable from a progressive perspective that we should not engage with them.

Yesterday, guest-blogger Sharon made that case forcefully--
If I have given up trying to reason with and understand people I already know who perhaps have spent too many years being brainwashed by Fox News, trolls and "news" outlets even further right, I have even less interest engaging strangers who want people to be free not to have health care.  I hold in special contempt those who encourage conspiracy theories that spur the lunatic fringe to shoot up pizza parlors, etc.
I respect this, understand, but disagree. I feel we have to do the opposite--no matter how difficult or infuriating, we need to seek opportunities to talk about our differences to see if there is any possibility of finding some common ground. 

In that spirit, Rona and I have been talking about how to have these difficult dialogues. Unlike our life in New York City where, politically, pretty much everyone we know has nothing but contempt for Trump and his supporters, we are fortunate up in Maine to know people with a wide range of views, including some who are eager to talk across the divide.

Thus, we have been searching for issues, topics around which to organize potential discussions. We even made a list. The first few topics are not good places to begin since about them there is little or no possibility for compromise. For example, abortion. If to opponents it is murder and for supporters it's a woman's right, there is not much to talk about. There is nothing to negotiate.

Here are some of the topics--

The Second Amendment
Same-sex marriage
Prayer in school
The deficit
Government regulations
Climate change
Food stamps
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Evolution/Intelligent Design

We have had considerable success talking about SSI. A number of conservative friends expressed vehement opposition to it, claiming that almost everyone receiving benefits is perpetrating a fraud, lying about their circumstances, and thus should be denied ongoing assistance  To complexify matters and to see if there might be some room for give, I looked up who actually receives SSI benefits and found that 33 percent of the 8 million are children or elderly and 15 percent more are significantly disabled and incapable of working. When discussing these recipients in turn, all on the far right agreed it was important to continue to help these people. To many of them it was the Christian way.

I then said, "So we agree about nearly 50 percent. That's progress, and of course it's OK to disagree about the rest."

With this in mind, Rona suggested that maybe we should move on to talk about Evolution. Many who are deeply conservative and often evangelicals who believe the Bible is the literal truth do not want to see it taught in public schools. They either call for its outright ban or, at a minimum, that it be taught alongside the theory of Intelligent Design (ID).

"Where's the give with this?" I asked, quite skeptical.

"There is overwhelming scientific evidence to support Evolution," Rona said, "But, hear me out, no valid scientific evidence that discredits Intelligent Design."


"That's right. Tell me how you know, how we know that there was not some force of nature, or something more divine that guided the evolutionary process? Therefore, why not concede that it's worth putting this out for discussion? Doesn't a good education include teaching the history of controversies? Like Evolution and ID?" 

"Interesting point. Maybe this is like same-sex marriage. Twenty years ago only a small minority favored it but in more recent years it received overwhelming support, so much so that the Supreme Court stretched to find it to be constitutional."

"Bottom line," Rona said, "As difficult as it is and how unpleasant it can be, if we want to have a more inclusive and civil country, we need to not give up on having these kinds of conversations."

"I agree," I said, "But I do understand why others might come to a different conclusion."

"I'll predict that we could also have productive conversations about climate change and . . ."

I cut her off, "Let's take this one step at a time. I'm already feeling exhausted."

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