Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lewontin: Attacking Family Control Over the Ideological Formation of Their Children

In my last post, I made reference to a quotation from Richard Lewontin from a review entitled "Billions and Billions of Demons" concerning a book written by Carl Sagan, entitled The Demon-Haunted World. It is a shame that that book review is no longer available for free on the web. A link to where you can buy it from the The New York Review of Books web site is here. It is worth a read for a variety of reasons. Whether it is worth $3.00, you must decide.

I read parts of it again, and this passage jumped out at me, given the misguided preoccupation with theocracy conspiracy theories by the Darwin Only lobby. Lewontin (who is clearly part of the self-described materialist elite culture) rolls the tape back further and suggests that the Creation Science movement itself was actually a response to a concerted political and public relations campaign to promote material explanations of the world over religious ones, and to extend the domination of a cultural elite by "attacking the control that families had maintained over the ideological formation of their children":

The struggle for possession of public consciousness between material and mystical explanations of the world is one aspect of the history of the confrontation between elite culture and popular culture. Without that history we cannot understand what was going on in the Little Rock Auditorium in 1964. [Ed. note- reference to a debate on evolution discussed earlier in the review.] The debate in Arkansas between a teacher from a Texas fundamentalist college and a Harvard astronomer and University of Chicago biologist was a stage play recapitulating the history of American rural populism. . . .

In the next paragraph, he discusses what happened in the 1950's:
A group of biologists from elite universities together with science teachers from urban schools produced a new uniform set of biology textbooks, whose publication and dissemination were underwritten by the National Science Foundation. An extensive and successful public relations campaign was undertaken to have these books adopted, and suddenly Darwinian evolution was being taught to children everywhere. The elite culture was now extending its domination by attacking the control that families had maintained over the ideological formation of their children.

The result was a fundamentalist revolt, the invention of "Creation Science," and successful popular pressure on local school boards and state textbook purchasing agencies to revise subversive curricula and boycott blasphemous textbooks. In their parochial hubris, intellectuals call the struggle between cultural relativists and traditionalists in the universities and small circulation journals "The Culture Wars." The real war is between the traditional culture of those who think of themselves as powerless and the rationalizing materialism of the modern Leviathan. There are indeed Two Cultures at Cambridge. One is in the Senior Common Room, and the other is in the Porter's Lodge.

Yes, he really said that. Of course, we know that that is what good science education is all about: extending the "modern Leviathan" of scientific materialism by attacking the control that parents have over the ideological formation of their children. Can anyone say Brave New World?


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