Friday, July 08, 2005

evolution vs. intelligent design

Eighty years after the famous Scopes Monkey trial (read Inherit the Wind if you don't know the story), why is there a resurgence now in the debate over teaching evolution in schools?

Today, there is a movement to teach "intelligent design" (ID, the idea that a higher being (not specified) created life because it's just too complicated and too perfect to have evolved that way) along with or instead of evolution in the public schools. Proponents of ID argue that evolution is "just a theory" and thus, competing theories must be taught.

There has been a lot public controversy in the past few years (especially in Kansas) and a lot of editorials and letters to the editor in the science community press in the past few months. This week Science tackles the subject in their lead editorial. The science community generally comes down hard against teaching ID alongside evolution, and I stand alongside them.

ID supporters are not only intentionally distorting the nature of science, and the scientific meaning of the word "theory", but they are also asking public schools to teach religious ideas (even if not spefically Christian) in direct violation of the separation of church and state. How would a young agnostic or atheist feel if their science teacher started lecturing that life was created by a higher being? Or how about the daughters of biologists and geologists who have been taught by their parents about evolution and its evidence all around us? Even religious believers can still support evolution as a scientific principle; believing that we evolved from monkeys does not diminish the possibility of an awesome God.

I am discouraged by the growing strength of the fundamentalists Christians and their influence on secular society and science. I worry about the sort of environment that I will bring kids into. Good science is good science and it should not be disparaged because it does not support seven literal days.


Anonymous said...

Anne, I understand why you believe in evolution, and why you promote its place in the classroom. I even understand why you blanch at the thought of lessons about "ID" in public schools. However, since evolution is a theory, I am uncomfortable with it being presented as the absolute truth. As an educated Catholic, I would feel much more comfortable if my future child's future teacher said something to the effect of, "Okay, here's the theory of evolution with its' masses of scientific evidence. Now, just so you know, some religious groups have presented alternate theories." And then let me explain God to my child. But the people who would be unhappy with that one are those who are too [insert adjective of your choice here] to teach their kids. It's the same reason schools now have to teach ethics - the kids aren't getting it anywhere else.

island said...

My only criticism would be that Anne needs to stop convoluting the agenda that's behind the proponents for ID, with the actual claims, which say nothing about religion.

As "far-fetched" as it may be, they leave open the distantly plausible possibility that the intelligent designer was an advanced alien life form, so evidence for this would mean that it doesn't matter to science how young agnositcs, atheists, daughters of biologists and geologists felt about it.

Without said proof, it sure as heck doesn't merrit a place next to evolutionary theory though, and even if you were given some example of "evidence" for design in nature, this could still on its best day only prove that there is some method in nature, without making an unfounded philosophical leap of faith.

That last point is of critical importance, because IDists will get away with using evidence for design in nature as proof for Intelligent Design, because there's a very strong tendency by the "other side" to deny any such evidence, rather than to give in to the ideological compromises that would necessarily result if they were to admit to method in nature.

They don't "typically" like Einstein's view of nature, to the point of fanatical denial, in other words, so bear that in mind in the future if you're actually interested in the truth, rather than just getting in your shots in the political war.

robert landbeck said...

COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED. A real monkey wrench is about to hit both sides in the ID vs Evolution debate and particularly religion is in for difficult times. For a wholly new interpretation of the teachings of Christ, contained within the first ever religious claim and proof that meets all the criteria of the most rigorous, evidential, testable scientific method, is published and circulating on the web. It is titled The Final Freedoms. An intellectual, religious and political bombshell!

It is described by a single Law and moral principle, offering its own proof, one in which the reality of God confirms and responds to an act of perfect faith, by a direct intervention into the natural world, delivering a correction to human nature, including a change in natural law [biology], consciousness and human ethical perception [proof of the soul], providing new, primary insight and understanding of the human condition!

So while proponents of ID may have got the God part right, if this development demonstrates itself to be what it claims, and the means exist to do so, all religious teaching, tradition and understanding of ID are wholly in error, while the proponents of evolution who have rightly used that conception to beat down the credibility of religious tradition, but who have also used it to deny the potential for God, are in for a very rude shock.

However improbable, what history and theology have presumed to be impossible is now all too achievable. The implications defy imagination! No joke, no hoax and not spam.

Review copies of the manuscript, prior to paper publication, are a free pdf download from a number of sites including: and