Orson Scott Card is a perfect example of why it’s better to avoid learning too much about an artist you admire — as Toulouse-Lautrec warned, the reality is almost always disappointing.
Card’s landmark novel Ender’s Game is a standing rebuke to anyone who would dismiss science fiction as nothing more than children’s literature for immature adults, and his short stories have remarkable emotional depth and intensity. It was a big shock to learn that the man whose written works evince so much human empathy and understanding was actually a howling anti-gay bigot and fundie crank in public life. Now comes a bigger disappointment: the author of some of the most probing and intelligent science fiction in existence has written a remarkably lazy and ignorant piece in support of teaching crackpot “intelligent design” notions alongside real science in the classroom.
The essay is remarkable in two ways: first, it appears to have been written in complete, pristine, self-willed ignorance of the freshly concluded Dover, Pa., court case that exposed the intellectual vacuity and bad faith of the ID crew; second, it’s pretty horribly written. As PZ Myers notes in his very thorough scrubdown of the piece, Card repeats old ID canards that were already discredited before the Dover case turned them into smoking craters. For example, Card wants us to think creationism and ID are two different things, yet it has been shown that Of Pandas and People, one of the foundation texts of the ID jihad, was written as an argument for Biblical creationism, then revised to replace all references to “creation” with “intelligent design” in order to circumvent the Supreme Court. And this notion that the complexity of life shows there had to be a heavenly hand at work is a debating trick for ignoramuses — simplicity, not complexity, is the hallmark of a guiding intelligence. That I should be typing this blog with the same arrangement of bones that whales use to swim, and bats use to fly; that the natural world shows us a number of different ways to develop eyesight, at least one of which (the squid) is arguably more elegant and better than our own; all this suggests the workings of chance and the endless drive of life to find better ways to go about the work of living. I’m glad I read Card’s fiction before I saw this essay; otherwise, I’d have never bothered with his stuff.
In short, a fine performance from Myers, and a sad one from Card.
Originally posted at The Opinion Mill.