Quote of the Day: "The Job of a Science Teacher Should Be to Present the Evidence in Favor of Darwin's Beautiful Theory"
James Randerson of the Guardian wrote an essay a while back on efforts to forestall any move, hypothetical or otherwise, to introduce discussion of intelligent design in schools in England. Needless to say, the British context does not translate directly into American terms, and Discovery Institute has consistently opposed pushing ID into public schools. Nevertheless, Randerson's essay raises interesting questions.
His article, interspersed with my commentary, follows:
The origin of speciousness
School science lessons are not the place to teach children about creationism and 'intelligent design'
Growing numbers of school kids (we are told) believe in creationism. That poses a problem for teachers presenting evolution as part of the science curriculum. So they should cover religious explanations of origins alongside Darwinism.
Darwinism, as an explanation of origins with implications favorable to atheism, is no more and no less a "religious explanation" than any rival theory with implications favorable to theism.
Evolution, the study of biological change in populations, is the relevant science. Regarding the origin of biological change, different scientific inferences have been drawn. Some of these inferences point to evidence for intelligent agency in biology. Some don't. As long as they are testable theories about nature, all are science.
That was the argument put forward last week in a new book entitled Teaching About Scientific Origins. One of its editors, Prof Michael Reiss of the Institute of Education in London, told the Guardian:
"The days have long gone when science teachers could ignore creationism when teaching about origins. While it is unlikely that they will help students who have a conflict between science and their religious beliefs to resolve the conflict, good science teaching can help them to manage it -- and to learn more science.
"By not dismissing their beliefs, we can ensure that these students learn what evolutionary theory really says, and give everyone the understanding to respect the views of others," he added.
Prof Reiss, who has a PhD in evolutionary biology and is also a Church of England priest, qualifies his position in the book:
"Teaching about aspects of religion in science classes could potentially help students better understand the strengths and limitations of the ways in which science is undertaken, the nature of truth claims in science, and the importance of social contexts for science.
"I do not belong to the camp that argues that creationism is necessarily nonscientific ... Furthermore I am not convinced that something being 'nonscientific' is sufficient to disqualify it from being considered in a science lesson. An understanding of (nonscientific) context often helps in learning the content of science."
Prof. Reiss is right, in the sense that teaching students about the scientific questions regarding the origin of design and the broader question of teleology in biology is, in the appropriate school setting, sound didactics. One cannot really understand evolution without understanding the questions that have been asked about the origin of the teleology that is seemingly manifest in living things.
Intelligent design and Darwinism are two answers to the same question: Whence the design/teleology, or appearance of it, in biology? ID is the theory that intelligent agency, compared to rival interpretations, best explains the appearance of biological design. Darwinism is the theory that biological design has arisen without intelligent agency. Students cannot understand either theory without understanding the question about intelligent agency in biology, which means understanding the basis for both answers.
"Understanding" Darwinism without understanding the questions posed by its critics and rivals is merely indoctrination in Darwinism.
This "anything goes" approach to school science will only serve to blur the boundary between evidence-based scientific knowledge and faith.
Intelligent design is based on physical evidence for intelligent agency. It is not faith.
At best it will provide an unwelcome distraction in an already tight curriculum. At worse it has the potential to confuse children as to what science is and what it is not.
Science is not indoctrination. It is the evidence-based investigation of nature. Indoctrination in Darwinism is not science.
To borrow an example from the evolutionary biologist and popular science author Prof Steve Jones, we don't ask science teachers to spend valuable teaching time explaining why the stork theory of human reproduction won't get you many marks in the exam. Nor do we ask them to go in detail through the case for the sun revolving around the earth.
Right. When Darwinism -- the theory that intelligent agency is not discernible in biology -- is as proven as heliocentrism, we can dispense with the questions and get on with the indoctrination.
Darwinists' panic about intelligent design is clear evidence for the opposite: Darwinists are terrified that students will find out how little evidence there is for the naturalistic foundation of their theory.
School science lessons are for giving pupils a working knowledge of our current -- but of course provisional -- picture of how the world works, plus the evidence underpinning that. There is too much fascinating science out there to waste time rehearsing discredited old ideas.
To understand Darwin's theory, you have to understand the question the theory addresses: is there evidence for intelligent agency in biology, or can biology be explained by a naturalistic process? You can't really understand that question unless you understand the claims of intelligent design.
The job of a science teacher should be to present the evidence in favour of Darwin's beautiful theory.
That is the money quote. Overwhelmingly, Darwinists see science as an opportunity for indoctrination, not an opportunity for exploration. You do think our theory is beautiful, don't you? Don't you?
The new guidelines from the government on teaching evolution state that alternatives to Darwinism such as creationism and intelligent design can come into discussions on the subject, but only to illustrate what does and does not constitute a scientific theory. In stating clearly that creationism and intelligent design "should not be taught as science" they are right on the money.
"Science" is the elaboration of testable theories about nature. If Darwinism is true, then any competing theory -- for example, intelligent design -- must be false. If intelligent design is not testable, and therefore not science, then Darwinism is not testable, and not science.
It's perfectly fair for teachers to teach that intelligent design is wrong. But to do so, they must teach the evidence for and against it, and adjudicate the evidence. They must teach the students the truth: intelligent design is science.
Prof Reiss is not saying that creationism is science,
Intelligent design is quite different from creationism, if creationism is understood as the belief that the first two chapters of Genesis are true in a literal sense and the Earth is a few thousand years old. Creationism is certainly science -- it is a testable theory about nature-- but I think that the evidence is against it.
Intelligent design has nothing to do with Genesis or the age of the earth. It has to do with the inference that intelligent agency is discernible in biology. The evidence for it is overwhelming, in my view.
but his proposals seem to stem from the dangerous notion that religious views are beyond challenge. Education should be about allowing such views to be challenged.
Darwinists are all for challenging other people's religious views. But they feverishly scramble to prevent you from challenging their creation myth, which they present in science classes. They challenge your views. Don't you dare challenge theirs.
Darwinists put their religious ideology -- materialist/atheist metaphysics -- beyond challenge, which is the only thing that this kerfuffle about intelligent design is really about. They aren't interested in a discussion, much less a debate. You must not ask questions, because Darwinists know that their theory cannot bear it. It cannot bear even questions from school children.
Darwinists will use legal force to stop people from asking questions. It is the Lysenkoism of our era.