September 26, 2005
A school district in Pennsylvania is being sued for adding a discussion of intelligent design into the school's curriculum. Whether or not they do allow it doesn't necessarily matter to me, but they will. They will because there's some prominent politicians, i.e. the president and his political allies, that will support it. If it does pass it will probably springboard into other areas of politics. That's what bothers me. The school is being represented by the Thomas More Center and the center's president said something that illustrates my problem with Intelligent Design as a movement:
"All the Dover school board did was allow students to get a glimpse of a controversy that is really boiling over in the scientific community"
At first glance it seems like a noble cause, and it would be if that controversy existed. It doesn't. The scientific community doesn't recognize Intelligent Design as a scientific theory. They don't even consider it science, putting it in the same un-testable category as creationism (the two are closely related) where it belongs. According to the Intelligent Design Network intelligent design "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". In other words, some intelligent agent, usually God (or aliens but that seems to be a very small minority so I'll pretty much ignore them here), has had a hand in our development. That sounds a lot like the Christian idea that God created everything. Whether or not you believe in intelligent design hinges on whether or not you believe in God, and that is not science, it's religion that has no place in schools or politics.
The only reason it's even in the news is because the idea of Intelligent Design is endorsed by several prominent politicians, and as far as I know, they're all conservative republicans. It's almost like they're trying to browbeat us into believing that a controversy exists despite the fact that I've never heard of one scientist that endorses intelligent design. It seems like they're trying to push their religion on the rest of us, and the last time I checked, there's a piece of paper in Washington that prohibits that.
Intelligent Design isn't a scientific theory - that's definitely the truth. Still, there's more dimensions to the issue than the one, I think. For instance, science can only take shots at the immediate cause of something - like a cause and effect relationship. Anything other than that is outside its domain. However, simple ideass like opposite magnetic fields attract does us virtually no good until we extract that fact out of science and into the domain of life, and start making electricity to power light bulbs and computers to carry our thoughts on. We don't care that certain types of radiation can cause new types of cells to grow until we realize that it can destroy someone you are close to. Science in a vacuum is useless. Hold on, I'm getting to my point.
Evidence points to an evolutionary process. What most people don't get is that evolution does not preclude a God. So you've got the religious right telling their children not to believe scientists and you've got all these leftist people condemning anyone who attempts philosophy inside the biology classroom... Its just a very confusing mess. With a few sentences, a lot of confusiong about this could be cleared up. "Evolution and Natural Selection are processes, and do not make an attempt to describe a motivating force. Any sort of intelligent design or the lack thereof is neither supported or ruled out by those theories. They are outside the domain of science." That would put a lot of people's minds at ease. I agree, however, that "teaching" intelligent design is a bad idea. We just need to clarify what science can and cannot address.
I also disagree with the assertion that religion has no place in the schools, as well as the assertion that any talk of God is religious. Philosophy is an academic discipline. Talk of God (or lack thereof) is integral in the discussion of values. In addition, the vast majority of people in the united states describe themselves as religous. Why should we ignore the elephant in the room, so to speak? Since most people seem to want to make biology a religious issue, it seems to me that there should be something to address this. One can study something and talk intelligently about it without sermonizing, worshipping, or otherwise converting the classroom. Seems like some kind of clarifying is necessary on what is science, what is not, and where do you go to get answers that science can't produce.
Comment by: matt good at 9:33 PM, September, 28, 2005
"evolution does not preclude a God..."
One hundred percent agreed.
However, the moral implications of speaking about God and religion in schools wasn't really my aim. But, I still see intelligent design as something that doesn't need to be brought up in a classroom. If somebody's parents want them to recognize God or some other higher power, then they can bring it up. The discussion of values stemming from God (or lack thereof) should be addressed at home, not in schools. And let's not be naive here, the vast majority of people pushing intelligent design attribute it to God, and they do so to have an alternative to evolution that includes God. That, as you said, the two are not comparable doesn't matter to them. They have no interest in philosophy...only their religion.
My real point was that in the mass public forums, intelligent design is being treated as a controversy within the scientific community when that controversy does not exist. To me, it comes off as an attempt by conservative politicians to get more votes from the strongly religious without completely alienating the more moderate voters who are apathetic to the entire issue.
Comment by: Neil at 2:17 AM, September, 29, 2005