Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Oppression and resistance at your local bookstore

Who knew that the dominant paradigm we would have to subvert was the Dewey Decimal System?

Comes now Portland State grad student Barbara Shaw, who discovered while working on her doctoral dissertation on the evolution of sloths, armadillos, and anteaters (Hey, hey! Don't laugh! That's a totally down-to-earth topic compared to mine!) that Powell's bookstores, like almost bookstores and libraries, follow standard cataloging conventions (Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress) to shelve their books by topic.

On the face of it, that's no bad thing. The alternative would be anarchy. Do you hear me? Anarchy!*

Problem is, both of those cataloging systems lump intelligent design, creation science, and their ilk in with serious, actual books on science.

The Merc's Amy Ruiz picks up the story from here:
Books on intelligent design—or, the idea that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection," according to the conservative Christian Discovery Institute think tank, a leading proponent of the notion—shouldn't be in the science section, Shaw argues.

"They're not science. Intelligent design by its very definition is invoking supernatural powers," she adds. The problem is, libraries and bookstores use the Dewey Decimal or the Library of Congress' systems to shelve books, and both systems lump intelligent design books in with science. A more appropriate Dewey Decimal location would be the "science and religion" section, Shaw argues.

Indeed, the issue of whether intelligent design is science or religion—and, specifically, whether it should be taught in public school science curriculums—has been addressed in the federal courts, with Judge John E. Jones III ruling in December 2005 that intelligent design "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

According to the story, Shaw and others are petitioning the Library of Congress to reclassify "intelligent design" and "creation science" somewhere away from "science"--perhaps to "speculative fiction." (Oregon Department of Education rules specifically prohibit teaching "creationism and/or 'intelligent design'" in the science classroom.)

But the coolest part of the whole story is this:
Shaw has heard there are "guerilla evolutionists" around the country who sneak around libraries and bookstores, re-shelving books.

Good luck to Barbara.

*Although I posted it this morning, I wrote this yesterday, Guy Fawkes Day; I had to work the A-word in somehow.

(Image via Sticker Giant.)

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