Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Intelligent Design rears its ugly head in Ohio

Pymatuning Valley School District may be the next venue in the argument to keep Intelligent Design out of the science classroom. The Star Beacon in Andover Ohio reported this. Two things struck me in the article. First a parent, a Mr. Frank Piper, seems to have the same problem many people do and distinguishing between Creationism and Intelligent Design. That one was less scary than the quote from the School Superintendent, Dr. John Rose: “The big-bang theory has been around forever, but (the parent is) right; it’s just a theory,” Rose said." Doctor Rose is falling into the use of the word Theory, which I have already spoken of in thei Blog. Scary thing!

I fired off this letter to all members of the school board. Not sure it will do any good, but without any dissenting opinion, Pymatuning could find itself embroiled in a lawsuit like Dover PA, and that is money better spent on improving education rather than introducing unscientific topics into science class.

Here is my letter:

Last night I read [Star Beacon, 11 Dec 2007, Parent wants intelligent design in PV] how one parent asked about teaching alternatives to the Theory of Evolution and I would very much like to present my opposition to that idea. I’m sure you are aware of what it cost a school system in Dover PA when they attempted to have a statement concerning Intelligent Design read in class. Not only did the biology teachers refuse to read the statement, but the members of the school board who supported that idea were voted out of office. The court case ruled that teaching Intelligent Design was tantamount to teaching Creationism, something already ruled unconstitutional in previous challenges.

I was also concerned by something in the article, a quote by Superintendent Rose: The big-bang theory has been around forever, but (the parent is) right; it’s just a theory,” The superintendent is falling into a semantically trap set by anti-evolutionists. A scientific theory is not the same thing as a theory. By definition a theory is just an idea – but a scientific theory is an idea that has been proven to explain observable phenomena in a plausible and acceptable way. These two different definitions of the word theory are usually used in differing contexts and stating that Evolution is just a theory was specifically found during the Dover trial to be a deliberate word trick designed to weaken the theory in the eyes of students.

Rather than believing me, take a look at the following Internet Website: It’s a letter signed by over 11,000 Christian Clergy in support of the Theory of Evolution. In that letter they specifically state: We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.”

Before taking it upon yourself to go against current state curriculum standards and risking a lawsuit similar to Dover’s, please discuss this matter with your Biology teachers and consult with the legal staff who can advise you. The Dover PA school board ignored the advice of their legal counsel and completely disregarded the wishes of their biology teachers and paid a high price.

One last point, many public figures have expressed the idea of teaching both Evolution and Creationism/Intelligent Design, but few have detailed what they mean by teaching them both. There is nothing that says Creationism/Intelligent Design cannot be taught in a sociology or philosophy class. The rulings of the past have stated that they cannot be taught as science in science class.

There is a widespread public relations and marketing campaign to convince people of the scientific validity of Creationism and Intelligent Design and so far has failed to actually put forth scientifically valid proof. Any controversy over teaching Evolution exists in the social forum and not in the scientific community. According to Professor Michael Behe, an Intelligent Design supporter, in order for Intelligent Design to be accepted as science the definition of science would have to be expanded to include actions by the supernatural. In doing so science would also become the home of other currently unscientific areas of interest. Allowing Creationism into the science classroom by redefining science may open the doors to Astrology in place of Astronomy, Alchemy instead of Chemistry, and Phrenology rather than Psychiatry. Please don’t be a part of such an action.

Thank you for your time and attention. I would like to close by saying that what is taught in the classroom needs to be guided by many factors. But when it comes to specific curriculum areas, like science, mathematics, history, languages, and such, are also guided by the way that discipline is accepted and used following High School and for the rest of life. Science should remain within the realm of science; mathematics should remain in the world of mathematics and so on. Allowing a religious subject, like Creationism, into science class and allowing a science teacher to cover such a subject would be the equivalent of asking my family priest to teach biology. Keep theology where it belongs, in the realm of church and keep science in the science classroom.

Thank you,

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