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Intelligent Design in the Classroom

As students head back to biology classes everywhere, the evolution curriculum debate continues to heat up. Even President Bush has weighed in on the matter, responding to the press’ questions by saying, You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas and the answer is: Yes.

Few, however, seem to be addressing the crux of the matter: what should or shouldn’t be taught in the classroom and why. Instead, most are treating the issue very politically by participating in unsupported name-calling rather than a rational discussion of the issues.

Enter the glory of O-nerd: Does the teaching of intelligent design have a place in the biology classroom? In the classroom at all?

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Science or Not? by markmcb

I think the real question that one must ask, and is often asked, is "Is intelligent design scientific in nature?"

You’ll hear all sorts of opinions on both sides of the fence, and I think both sides have validity.

Side 1: No. Intelligent design is based on the idea of a God that requires faith. Though this concept may be important, it has no place in a science class such as biology that uses science, not God, as a foundation for reasoning.

Side 2: Yes. Intelligent design simply provides a potential solution. With intelligent design, a god or some other higher-order being crafted the world as we know it. The idea is not based on faith, but is rather an educated guess given the complexities of our world.

I tend to agree with #2. It’s like asking, do amoebas believe in humans? It really doesn’t matter. Whether or not they are aware of humans is irrelevant because we do exist and do affect their surroundings. Likewise, and scientifically, it shouldn’t be so hard to consider that a being of a higher order than a human exists and regardless of our beliefs, does affect our surroundings. To dismiss this notion is to make the huge assumption that we are the most complex and intelligent beings in the universe. So if the science movement is against faith as a solution (as it should be), why is it so quick to take on faith that a higher level being can’t exist?

It seems to easy to me. I don’t understand why a textbook couldn’t read something like this:

Begin book entry

Science, though useful, cannot explain everything in our world, or at least not yet anyway. A great example is the origins of life and our universe. There currently is no scientific proof that lends itself to any sort of solution to this problem, however, observations coupled with data from similar experiments have given two viable, yet unproven solutions to this age old question.

The first is evolution. This is the idea that matter existed and through large amounts of time and random chance, complex molecules were formed and eventually spontaneous life occured. Once life had a foothold, it began adapting to its environment. As it spread, new adaptation led to new and different organisms. Over time, the world as we know it developed.

The second is intelligent design. This is the idea that humans are not the most complex beings and that a higher being(s) created the universe as we know it. This idea is the foundation for many religions around the world and can be learned about in detail in any of a vast number of theology books and classes.

End book entry

Granted, that’s short and could be expounded on, but I don’t see why either is wrong as neither are proven and both are guesses based on observations. I really don’t like the idea of leaving out possibilities. I understand that science books need not quote scripture. Interestingly enough, scripture or religion in general is not necessary for the idea of intelligent design. The only assumption necessary is that there may be something out there way smarter than us. Given the great chain of being that we all observe and have observed for centuries, I don’t see why this idea is not scientific in concept.

In summary, I think both evolution and intelligent design should be taught, even if very briefly. It’s a question that man has asked for as long as man has existed. We must expect our children will ask as well. We have two options: ignore them, or tell them what we know. I say tell them what we know even if all we know is that there are two possibilities that are widely observed, not proven, and not disproven. I think if we give them that, they can make up their minds on their own.

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Parallel debate by nickfranklin

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

It’s ironic how many atheists and self-described "skeptics" have absolute, unquestioning faith in science.

As a voter, I respectfully call on all our elected officials to cease
all efforts to force their religious views upon our children by
including intelligent design in schools. It is NOT their role as
representatives to force exposure to COMPLETELY scientifically
unfounded, politically fueled garbage that results from a limited mind
unable to conceive of a universe large enough to allow for "unlikely
events". Just because they feel the need to point to something outside
of their shallow and empty selves to give meaning to their existence
doesn’t give them the right to pass LAWS that requires other people to
listen to this drivel.

This, not be my dissertation or anything, was written hastily, and was only breifly proofread. I apologize for any mispellings or errors.

Let me state that I am posting a reply to this discussion because Brandon has been hounding me too. I apologize for the belated reply and I suppose that most have moved on from this discussion and taken what they would from this. Allow me also to preface my statements with the observation that most people who have commented on this issue have already subscribed themselves to one position or another. The nature of this topic tends to create a distinct polarization in beliefs, and discussion tends to depolarize little. Why this topic should be so polarizing is debateable, but it is my opinion that those who support the "Intelligent Design Theory" do so with the belief that it’s GOD or nothing. The beleif that evolution is for atheists and that ID is for the religious. The belief that it is all or nothing. With such a thought at it’s core, ID is difficult to discuss rationally and opinions are rarely changed. If this is truely the thought core of ID proponents, than to not support ID is to deny GOD, and that is unacceptable. That being said, I do address this subject lightly, nor do I do so fully.

I am currently obtaining my PhD in biology with emphasis on population genetics and evolutionary biology. I don’t state this to envoke the notion that my opinion is more valid, or that I, having dealt with the topic greatly, am more knowledgable. Brandon has been dismissing my education as sub-par to his intellect of logic and reason for years. I state by background because I truely believe that the Theory Of Evolution is poorly taught in public schools. In fact, I feel that this subject is poorly taught even at the collegiate level. The problem is that it is such an encompassing subject that it is disscussed only in general terms. The majority of students have a very narrow understanding of the scope of evolution. Ape to Man. Natural Selection. Dawinism. All these topics are exploited and generalized, and so lead to a narrow scope of a natural process. And that is what I would wish to discuss.

Evolution is a PROCESS. Biology is the attempt to understand NATURAL processes. ID is the attempt to understand NATURE. There is no PROCESS in ID. And in science we study PROCESSES. You can test a PROCESS. You can observe a PROCESS. Gravity was a process before a LAW. We are not talking about the LAW of EVOLUTION. We are talking about a THEORY. The problem with ID, whether it is right or not, is that it doesn’t explain a process. It is the attempt to understand how we are here. And while one may say it is scientific in nature it is not. The rational that you are applying to ID is that it is either evolution or ID. That is not a hypothesis, that is an ultimatum. ID is not the converse of evolution. You may view it as such, and that’s your perogative, but the scientific method won’t allow you to bend it that way. Either Evolution (and in using this term I mean it in the way ID proponents mean it: APE to MAN (even if this is a narrow, and inadequate scope of evolution) is true or not. Fine. But that doesn’t mean that ID wins. The scientific method states no such thing. Inferances are useful in science, but are not science. Therefore, ID must have it’s own hypothesis and be tested to establish its validity. And that is the key to this debate. Can ID be subjected to the scientific method? Evolution holds descent with modification. That is the process. ID claims no such process. ID claims that something was designed and formed outside the bounds of NATURAL LAWS. How is that science? How can we use natural laws to test unnatural laws? Explain this to me? ID seeks to offer a counter theory to evolution, but tries to prove itself by disproving evolution. Regardless of what you may have learned from your 5th grade science project, the scientific method does not allow you to do this. This is what is meant by ID not being falsifiable.

If you take anything from my post at all, please take the notion that evolution is a process. Like any other process it can be seen, tested, and observed. Micro to macro is a huge leap, but such evidences are used in physics, chemistry, biology, etc to establish theories. ID is not science, true or not. Let it be taught, but teach it in a philosophy class where it belongs. As for evolution being taught in schools, do so with more discretion. Don’t generalize a process to Ape to man. Teach the process and that is it. Descent with modification. Teach it and leave it up to people to embrace it as an end all or a natural process with limited implications. I’d invite all of you to re-examine the science of evolution, in doing so I think you will see the flaws in ID as a "scientific theory." Please try to keep GOD out of science. I don’t mean to say that God has no dealings in science, but it does tend to cloud debate.

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Why God? by Anonymous

I realize I’m coming late to the party, it’s probable that no one will read my post. One thing that bothers me about Intelligent Design as a theory is this: Why God? Let’s say that evolution on Earth is being directed by other worldly intelligence. Isn’t it a GIANT supposition that this direction is at the hand a of a benevolent yet invisible creator. If you accept Intelligent Design as a working "theory" of evolution, how can you make the assumption that it is God that is doing it? Why not space aliens, Mother Nature, or little dancing bears? The reason is that you who propose Intelligent Design believe in God and you want to have evidence of his existence. I’m sorry but it simply doesn’t work that way. Belief requires faith, science requires proof.

Much of the motivation for putting ID in the classroom comes from the fact that the left, through its proxy, the courts, has put a "gag rule" on any topic even related to religion in schools: school prayer, abstinence education- even the word God in the Pledge of Allegiance is under seige.
"Freedom of religion" has been preverted into "freedom from religion," against all historical and logical precedence.
Perhaps religious people have picked the wrong fight—I’m not smart enough to understand either theory—but the school board in Kansas was democratically elected.
The secular left and the religious right use different weapons to get their way: the courts (the constitutional "right to sodomy" found in the Texas case last year) and the ballot box (Bush beats kerry by 3.5 million votes).
Nixon spoke of a "great silent majority", and in 1972 it elected him in a landslide. Religous people are an overwhelming majority who are sick and tired of their First Amendment rights being trod upon. The ID debate is one of the first of many instances in which this majority is learning that silence is the best way to get steamrolled.

I’m taking my first real philosophy class this semester. No, I’m not still a college student; I’m just taking the class for fun (although I did opt to get a grade). In my first reading assignment, I read something that I thought was interesting in relation to this discussion.

The book starts by discussing Hesiod and Homer, and then moves on to talk about the first pre-Socratic ‘thinkers’ and what they did to create philosophy as we know it. First, Thales asserted that everything was full of water and of the gods, but he defined the gods in terms of things we can see and touch. Next, Anaximander moves on the idea of how things came to be by talking of the difference between things that have a beginning and things that are beginnings. After that, Xenophanes gets rid of the idea of the gods as being anything similar to humans.

In connection with all of these is the underlying assumption that order is the result of intelligent action; that it doesn’t just happen. Then, the text says this:

"Whether this assumption is correct is an interesting question, one about which modern physics and evolutionary biology have had interesting things to say. Modern mathematicians tell us that however chaotic the jumble of books and papers on your desk, there exists some mathematical function according to which they are in perfect order. Bur, for these ancient Greeks, the existence of order always presupposes an ordering intelligence" (Melchert, Norman. The Great Conversation. McGraw Hill Publishing. p17.)

In this philosophy book, there is room for mentioning the work of scientists and mathematicians in order to give a better and more complete knowledge of the subject at hand. Why can’t this be accomplished to a similar degree in the reverse case for the same purpose?

I know that most people have moved on from this thread, but I came across an interesting and relevant article today. The Dalai Lama has recently written a book regarding the interaction between science and spirituality. With a Buddhist flavor, he explains his views on how the religious should view scientific discoveries which may disagree with religious precept.

I honestly don’t have a strong enough grasp on Buddhism to put his statements in context. Any Buddhists out there care to comment?

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