Intelligent design advocates bank on ignorance

December 13, 2006

In the later years of his life, after he was elected a Member of Congress from Florida in 1963, Claude Pepper’s appearances on Capitol Hill always generated memories from politicos attending, of the 1950 campaign that took away his U.S. Senate seat a decade earlier. It was a nasty campaign. Because he had actually met Joseph Stalin, Pepper, a Democrat, was called “Red Pepper” by his opponent George Smathers, a moniker designed to produce a particular reaction in Florida’s conservative but uneducated voters. Smathers never hesitated to point out that Harvard-educated Pepper had learned “under the Harvard Crimson.” But that was just the start.

There are a few recordings of the breathless claims against Pepper by campaign stumpers, and they are fantastic. Pepper’s family morality was impugned — the speaker notes that Pepper’s sister was a “well-known thespian” as if it were some sort of a sin to be an actor. Pepper himself was accused of “matriculating in public” all through his college career. It would seem normal that a college student would enroll for classes, no?

Of course, the speaker was hoping the audience wouldn’t know the meaning of those large words, and might confuse them for something else less savory. Pepper’s opponent banked on the ignorance of a large portion of voters — and won.

Do campaigns on ignorance work today?

The Discovery Institute comes now with a press release that announces, in rather breathless fashion, that Judge John Jones used the plaintiff’s suggested findings of fact in his decision against intelligent design in schools, in Pennsylvania a year ago. Read the rest of this entry »


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