The Treehouse Blog

Thoughts on Intelligent Design

on Dec.21, 2005, under Philosophy, Politics

In case you’ve missed it, there has been a bunch of fuss lately about a local school district requiring its biology teachers to read a statement on intelligent design to “balance” the teaching of evolution. This went to federal court which decided that such a statement was in violation of the separation of church and state.

This never made sense to me. Evolution describes a “how” of creation – a means by which life as we know it was brought into existence. Intelligent design describes a “why” of creation – meaning rather than means. They are orthogonal topics, without the ability to be contrasted or balanced as the school board allegedly attempted to do. The Dover School Board was nothing short of incompetent in trying to shove these things together. Intelligent design itself might not be a religious endorsement, but its forced usage in this context certainly would seem to be.

There are still things that should be included in a discussion of evolution, though. Irreducible complexity should at least get a footnote. Irreducible complexity is a concept that doesn’t intend to disprove evolution, but rather to state that there are still things that cannot be explained completely with current theories. The most important concept that can be taught in science is that science changes, and that no theory is above some measure of criticism and doubt. Science isn’t (or shouldn’t be) concerned with facts or truths, but with best explanations and predictions of observations. There are probably cases where you should remind your science teachers of this.

In situations like this, extremes get the coverage. There are many that consider the term evolution to be sacrilege when used in any biological sense. There are others that have their hand on the speed dial for their lawyer every time they think God might be inferred in a classroom. Both are stupid. It might be unfortunate, but it’s definitely a greyscale world, not black-and-white.

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December 2005


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