Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An Unintelligent Design for Teaching Science in Our Schools

In a discussion with reporters yesterday, the president said that we should be teaching ”intelligent design” in our science classes alongside evolution. If you are in the dark on this movement, you should know that advocates of “intelligent design” argue life is so complex that a supernatural agent MUST be pulling the strings, making everything from the rising and falling of the tides to the cycle of life go so smoothly.

Smoothly? Does that include the tsunami that killed about one quarter of a million people? How about the Inquisition? Shuttle explosions? The plague? Deformed babies? The Holocaust? Genocide in Darfur?

Talk about a Pandora’s box. This is the problem with teaching religion, superstition, or belief in a science class.

There are, of course, still the radicals who say that evolution should not be taught at ALL in schools. But this new momentum for “side-by-side” instruction of “intelligent design” is more insidious because it masquerades as enlightened reason.

These Christian activists claim that it is only fair to present an “alternative” to evolution in the schools. Is not education all about exposure to differing views?

We are not trying to push evolution out, they claim, or deny that scientific “evidence” supports evolution. No, they say, we just want kids to know that there is a religious point of view that they should consider.

One must then ask them: why THIS belief? If they are honest about their desire to simply expose children to a non-evolutionary belief-based “explanation,” how about the Hindu creation myth?

Why not introduce them to the ancient Greek belief that a giant bird—the only creature in the great void—laid a golden egg with two halves that became the earth and the sky?

Can we introduce them to the view that aliens keep us as pets in a big-ass cage and watch us for their amusement?

To be consistent with their own argument for putting their approach in the schools, “intelligent design” advocates must acknowledge that any and all of these beliefs are equally suitable as their own Christian creation myth to serve as a faith-based alternative to evolution in our schools.

Funny, though, I do not hear a lot of these folks clamoring for any of these other supernatural beliefs. Only their own. I guess they really do think their view is correct and should be imposed on everyone.

Faith belongs in houses of worship. A church (or synagogue or mosque or temple or ritual circle) is a place for religion ... and last time I checked, there were not many churches teaching modern science.

Not all religious leaders reject evolution—they just do not put it on a pedestal in their houses of worship. They not see it as worthy, in that forum, of equal time with the beliefs they seek to inculcate.

Reason belongs in science classes. A science class is a place for rational thought ... and last time I checked, there was not overwhelming physical evidence for a string-puller in the sky.

Not all teachers reject religion—they just do not put it on a pedestal in their science classes. They do not see it as worthy, in that forum, of equal time with the reasoning they seek to inculcate.

Nor should they.


At August 02, 2005 8:02 PM, Anonymous Steven C. replied to my musings ...

There is nothing inherently Christian about the theory of intelligent design. It is a view which simply holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. Christ never enters the picture here. In fact, it is a metaphysics of the thinnest sort --even thinner, I would, argue, than your seeming certainty that there is nothing more to metaphysics than meets the eye.

You may be correct that the Christian right tries to use it as a door through which to bring Christianity into the classroom. However, your identification of intelligent design with Christian radicalism makes you seem just as distastefully and unintelligently strident on the side of the left as those you condemn on the right.

At August 03, 2005 6:52 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

I appreciate your thoughts, Steven. I don't see a groundswell of Hindus, Muslims, or those of other faiths clamoring for "intelligent design" in the classroom; I think you hit the nail on the head saying that it is largely (by design or hijacking) a tool of Christian activists.

And I would disagree with the point that this is right-bashing. From my experience, this is not an issue of left or right--and plenty of Christians who are left-wing politically are inclined toward the "intelligent design." As my other posts demonstrate, I am more than happy to point out the madness and mirth of both left and right ... several posts have brought flames from the left AND the right. Whither the center?

Thanks for the comments. -- d.a.

At August 16, 2005 8:39 PM, Blogger Andy replied to my musings ...

Actually David you are correct when you say Muslims don't preach Intellectual Design, but that is because they along with Orthodox Jews enjoy good old Creationism (even to calculating to the day the age of the Earth ~5000 years). In fact they have taken extreme measures to quiet Muslim school children in France about the matter. They completely deny science. As for the Hindu creation story, as all the stories in the Vedas, I don't think any Hindu takes them literally.

As in my post I said that Intellectual Design is rather poorly argued but it does not lack some merit. The largest problem is that most people who "preach" it don't learn enough about science to apply it well, and philosophers are not touching it which is a shame. So the whole business seems to be dirty.

But it is an attempt to coorelate science and religion but it does try to use reason. As a student of science, the more I learn the more I realize that almost all science relys on faith of some sort. At the very base level it is the inductive reasoning that all science uses but no epistemologist would consider knowledge.

I think my blog deals with your other arguments.

At August 16, 2005 9:05 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

I appreciate your expansion of the discussion. Your comments about Islamic views of creationsim/science make it all that more remarkable that the Islamic world made such amazing scientific advances for nealry a thousand years--particularly in areas such as astronomy (remember, even the words "azimuth" and "zenith" come from Arabic) and mathematics (Al Jibr --> algebra)--while Europe languished in Church-induced stagnation.

I have not done survey research, but I suspect there are many Muslims (just as there are many Christians, Hindus, and so on) who have faith and yet can separate their views from their "faith" in the scientific method. I assume there are some good studies out there discussing the relative proclivities of different societies to scientific inquiry ... but I am mired in a vampire novel right now and cannot be bothered to find out.

Thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion. -- d.a.

At August 18, 2005 12:51 AM, Blogger Andy replied to my musings ...

Yes the Arab world had quite a few advances during the period that Christians were spreading across Europe but that isn't what the Muslim world is doing today. One of my friends likes to point out that Islam is approximately 700 - 800 years old, during Christianity's 700 - 800 year old birthdays it was called the dark ages. Many of the same features of Christianity then can be found in Islam today.

As far as what the actual believer believes and the religion preaches, that has always been a debate. For example Stephen Gould, famous evolutionary theorist, was Jewish. Now I think many of the important Jews in Israel denounced him but that didn't stop his work. So it is better to talk about what the religion actually holds rather than what people do, since that seems to be rather fickle.


Post a Comment

<< Home