Creationism In The Classroom
This kind of thing burns me up. Creationism / ID is not science because it’s not refutable and therefore belongs in a philosophy class. The proponents of ID are trying to polish a turd: you can spit on it, use some polish and a buffing rag, and it’ll still be a turd. Furthermore the proponents are appealing directly to ignorance: simply because we don’t know every last detail of how the universe was created, or how man evolved, the gaps must be God.
They might even be right, but it doesn’t mean it belongs in a science class because ID lacks evidence, it isn’t testable / falsifiable / refutable and is therefore in no way science. It’s based on what we don’t know rather than on what we do know.
HALF of all Americans either don’t know or don’t believe that living creatures evolved. And now a Pennsylvania school board is trying to keep its pupils ignorant. It is the kind of story about America that makes secular Europeans chortle smugly before turning to the horoscope page. Yet it is more complex than it appears.
In Harrisburg a trial began last week that many are comparing to the Scopes Ã¢€œmonkeyÃ¢€ trial of 1925, when a Tennessee teacher was prosecuted for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Now the gag is on the other mouth. In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public-school science classes was an unconstitutional blurring of church and state. But those who think Darwinism unGodly have fought back.
The school board’s defence is that intelligent design is science, not religion. It is a new theory, which holds that present-day organisms are too complex to have evolved by the accumulation of random mutations, and must have been shaped by some intelligent entity. Unlike old-style creationism, it does not explicitly mention God. It also accepts that the earth is billions of years old and uses more sophisticated arguments to poke holes in Darwinism.
Almost all biologists, however, think it is bunk. Kenneth Miller, the author of a popular biology textbook and the plaintiffs’ first witness, said that, to his knowledge, every major American scientific organisation with a view on the subject supported the theory of evolution and dismissed the notion of intelligent design. As for Ã¢€œOf Pandas and PeopleÃ¢€, he pronounced that the book was Ã¢€œinaccurate and downright false in every sectionÃ¢€.
The plaintiffs have carefully called expert witnesses who believe not only in the separation of church and state but also in God. Mr Miller is a practising Roman Catholic. So is John Haught, a theology professor who testified on September 30th that life is like a cup of tea.
To illustrate the difference between scientific and religious Ã¢€œlevels of understandingÃ¢€, Mr Haught asked a simple question. What causes a kettle to boil? One could answer, he said, that it is the rapid vibration of water molecules. Or that it is because one has asked one’s spouse to switch on the stove. Or that it is Ã¢€œbecause I want a cup of tea.Ã¢€ None of these explanations conflicts with the others. In the same way, belief in evolution is compatible with religious faith: an omnipotent God could have created a universe in which life subsequently evolved.
It makes no sense, argued the professor, to confuse the study of molecular movements by bringing in the Ã¢€œI want teaÃ¢€ explanation. That, he argued, is what the proponents of intelligent design are trying to do when they seek to air their theoryÃ¢€”which he called Ã¢€œappalling theologyÃ¢€Ã¢€”in science classes.
Darwinism has enemies mostly because it is not compatible with a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. Intelligent designers deny that this is why they attack it, but this week the court was told by one critic that the authors of Ã¢€œOf Pandas and PeopleÃ¢€ had culled explicitly creationist language from early drafts after the Supreme Court barred creationism from science classes.
In the Dover case, intelligent design appears to have found unusually clueless champions. If the plaintiffs’ testimony is accurate, members of the school board made no effort until recently to hide their religious agenda. For years, they expressed pious horror at the idea of apes evolving into men and tried to make science teachers teach old-fashioned creationism. (The board members in question deny, or claim not to remember, having made remarks along these lines at public meetings.)
There’s one way to have a positive outcome from this: if the ID people insist on having it taught, it could open the door for actual philosophy classes in high school, which would be useful with or without ID.
Cross-posted from Insults Unpunished.