Note for new readers: I don't talk much about politics on this site, since there are more than enough blogs to cover every political position imaginable. But once in a while we veer off course. . .
The uproar over President Bush's support for "Intelligent Design" seems to have died down a bit. (You can find commentary all over the blog world, naturally - My fellow Corantean Carl Zimmer was, understandably, dismayed. For some cries of distress on the pro-Bush side, try Sissy Willis, Jane Galt, and this roundup at Instapundit.)
I wasn't too thrilled myself. I have no time for the ID folks. I think that the best of them are mistaken, and the worst are flat-out intellectually dishonest. But I wasn't that surprised by Bush's statement, either. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that he doesn't know enough biology to know how silly his support (wishy-washy though it was) makes him sound to people who do.
But I also think that, as a politician, Bush made a back-of-the-envelope calculation that saying this sort of thing wouldn't do him any harm, and (within error bars) it probably hasn't. I'm not sure how much of a slice of the electorate people like me represent (voted for Bush twice, convinced that Intelligent Design is pernicious), but I'll bet it's not too big. And other issues, which frankly - though I hate to admit it - I find to be more pressing, still leave me not regretting my vote in the last election. If Bush goes further in promoting ID teaching, I will of course oppose that in any way I can think of, in the same way I opposed his steel and textile tariffs. That doesn't mean I'm cheerful about the situation, but there's no possible President who wouldn't tick me off about something or another.
I would expect most Presidents to outsource their needs for any knowledge of evolutionary biology, anyway. It's not a job requirement. Now, I know that being smart enough to see problems with Intelligent Design would seem, on the other hand, to be a job requirement, but it depends on what a person turns their attention to. And a review of Presidential history suggests that performance is not well correlated with intelligence, anyway. If anything, the distribution is a bit U-shaped. Dullards like Franklin Pierce and Warren Harding failed, but on the other end of the scale, academicians like Woodrow Wilson failed in different ways.
Aaron Haspel's discussion of "Chet" - friendly, hard-working, well-adjusted, riotously well-paid Chet - is worth reading in this context. And I'll let James Branch Cabell have the last word, in a famous passage from Jurgen, when he meets that fantasy's nearest thing to God:
". . .And of a sudden Jurgen perceived that this Koshchei the Deathless was not particularly intelligent. Then Jurgen wondered why he should ever have expected Koshchei to be intelligent? Koshchei was omnipotent, as men estimate omnipotence: but by what course of reasoning had people come to believe that Koshchei was clever, as men estimate cleverness? The fact that, to the contrary, Koshchei seemed well-meaning, but rather slow of apprehension and a little needlessly fussy, went far toward explaining a host of matters which had long puzzled Jurgen. Cleverness was, of course, the most admirable of all traits: but cleverness was not at the top of things, and never had been."
I'll try to talk a bit about Chets (and George Bushes) as I've experienced them in the drug industry in an upcoming post.