Monday, January 14, 2008

Should Intelligent Design be Taught in sclass?

The education reporter of Florida Today, Megan Downs, is looking for input. She wants to know if we think Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. If you want a chance to response, drop her a line at

Here is the mail I just sent off, for your reading pleasure:

Short answer is no!
Long answer is not in science class, however possibly in Philosophy, Sociology, Theology, Comparative Religions, or even a Marketing class.
Reasoning: Intelligent Design is not science. While the Discovery Institute of Seattle likes to think so, they have not yet even attempted to do any scientific research nor publish any scientific papers to make any valid argument. They publish in popular books, not scientific journals, and make their case before school boards and the press rather than in the scientific community.

How much support would you like? During the Dover PA Trial, Professor Michael Behe, a Lehigh University Biochemistry teacher, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, and proponent of Intelligent Design admitted to not having done any scientific work to prove his ideas and that he knew of no one doing any actual work. He had lots of excuses but hadn't done the work. He espouses an idea called "Irreducible Complexity" where he says there are biochemical mechanisms that are too much a complex and complete system to have formed through any evolutionary process. All of the examples he listed in his book, "Darwin's Black Box," have been refuted by scientists and the evolutionary processes well documented. When faced with this evidence during the Dover trial, his response was "It wasn't enough!" Over 50 examples of research describing how things like bacterial flagellum, the human immune system, and blood clotting factor evolved as described by multiple scientists and it wasn't enough for him. His error is simple, he expects a mechanism to appear whole and fully functional and refuses to admit small changes over time could create the mechanism. He sees the appearance of design and is trying to justify it, but has so far failed.

William Dembski, another senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, was scheduled to testify at the Dover Trial, but later refused. His work is a mathematical concept based on Michael Behe's work. He basically says biochemical mechanisms could not have formed through evolutionary means because the odds of such a mechanisms being developed are too high. He makes the same error Behe makes in forming the odds based on a completely intact mechanisms. The odds fall dramatically when you look at incremental changes over time, in other words, evolved. His mathematics have also been pretty well raked over the coals by other mathematicians and his only response is to claim that his critics aren't smart enough to understand it.

Now you tell me, is this a idea you want in any science class? It is not a valid scientific theory, it is only an idea. It has no actual science behind it beyond the wishful thinking of people who already want to believe. The Dover Trial also determined that Intelligent Design is a restatement of Creationism with references to God removed. Even the textbook in question during the trial showed where the word Creationism was removed and Intelligent Design was inserted. This is not something we want in science class, it is not legitimate science.

Now if you examine the Marketing campaign the Discovery Institute is actively pursuing, it would make a wonderful example for a marketing class. The tactics they use include trying to weaken Evolutionary Theory by calling "Evolution just a Theory", forgetting to tell folks that there are a number of definitions for the word 'theory' and they use the most ambiguous one, not the one used by the scientific community. They are also calling for "Teach Evolution and intelligent Design and let students make up their own minds", how many other curriculum areas do we let the students determine what gets taught? None that I know! The most fun arguments I hear is "Academic Freedom" and "Free Speech" as if a teacher is required to teach areas outside the curriculum in support of Academic Freedom and Free Speech. These are just tactics that they have adopted following their constant failure in the Courts and reversals in school boards in Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico, California, and South Carolina -- to name a few.

There is plenty more ammunition but the bottom line for any parent should be whether or not science class should teach science. If you open the door for pseudo-sciences, like Intelligent Design, how long will it be before Astrology is being matched up with Astronomy, Alchemy with Chemistry, and Numerology with Mathematics. Once again I would like to look at Michael Behe's comments during the Dover Trial, paraphrased he said that the only way Intelligent Design could be considered science is to expand the definition of science to include supernatural causes. Enough said!

Ted Herrlich,
Weblog on Intelligent Design:

No comments:

Post a Comment