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busy, busy, busy

Friday, March 25, 2005

I'm going out of town in a few hours and I don't expect to be back until Sunday evening. I'll have access to a computer, but probably not the opportunity to post much, if at all. I will be in close proximity to a (really nice) digital camera, so I may treat you to some doggie pictures.

And now on to the dumbest fucking thing I have ever read (subscription-only, so I reposted it in its entirety)...

'Intelligent Design' Smart Curricular Choice
Ever since Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution and made it public, there have been those who have doubted its validity and questioned its truth.

Western society today is just as torn over whether a higher power had any involvement in the creation of our world, or if humans evolved over time from single-celled creatures to the into complex, intelligent creatures we are today in response to the environment. For a group of biology students in Dover, Pennsylvania, the debate has entered their classroom in full force.

New curriculum has been introduced in Dover biology classrooms known as "intelligent design," which places an unnamed supervisor at the helm of the creation of the universe. Inherent in this theory is the belief that the universe is too complicated and intricate to exist and have developed on its own. Because Dover teachers are not naming God as the guiding hand behind our universe's creation, "intelligent design" poses no religious threat to those students listening and learning this new curriculum.

For those who wholeheartedly ascribe to the theory of evolution, this new curriculum may be tough to swallow. However, for those with strong religious leanings toward the God-created-the-world-in-seven-days theory, biology class has been at the least incomplete, and in the most extreme cases, offensive for many years.

Although well-grounded, the theory of evolution is still nonetheless a scientific theory. For hundreds of years it was believed that the world was flat, which we now know is unequivocally false. Not that the work of Charles Darwin should be discredited, but who is to say that new overwhelming evidence will not reverse the popular consensus that evolution is a real and workable theory to describe our existence in the years to come?

While those in the scientific field would refute the notion that an intelligent hand played any role in our existence, a large percentage of the population of this country ascribes to that very belief. The introduction of "intelligent design" into the classrooms in Dover is a step toward combining the two most popular beliefs regarding the creation of the universe. Students can only benefit from learning all of the theories and beliefs surrounding this most complex mystery of our lives.

Many other disciplines in high schools include references to religion and God, without forcing students to ascribe to those beliefs. High school English classes include the study of poems that may contain references to the creation story, or to God or religion. History includes the study of some of the most popular religions in the world, and how those religious groups of people impacted the world and history. Why should biology be any different? Evolution is a strongly supported theory that many people believe, just as thousands across the country honor the idea of God creating us all. Presenting both of these ideas, without forcing students to believe in either of them, is completely harmless.

Perhaps the most overwhelming reason that leads me to find nothing wrong with teaching "intelligent design" in addition to evolutionary theory is that those who found it too offensive or were uncomfortable hearing it were permitted to leave the classroom. However, when evolution is taught in class, students are not given the option of refusing to accept the material. No matter how offensive it is to their personal beliefs, they must memorize the information and be able to discuss it intelligently on a test.

In a society where the continued debate over evolution versus creationism will rage for many years, students should be informed on both sides of the issue. The teaching of "intelligent design" can do nothing but broaden the perspectives of the biology students in Dover and throughout the country.

1) If evolution needs to be replaced because some have "questioned its truth" over time, then why would replacing it with Christian theology be a better idea?

2) There's no religious threat because the word "God" does not appear in the curriculum? Anyone with a half a brain (which, coincidentally, is what most creationists seem to possess) can see that "God" is clearly and overwhelmingly implied (unless by the term "unnamed supervisor" of all of creation they mean Kurt Vonnegut, but then only Mr. Trout would be able to pick up on that concept). If the new material was truly not religious in nature, then why are creationists elated to have it included?

3) I pity/heap-ridicule-upon anyone who gets upset or offended that Bible stories aren't taught in science class. They should show up to Sunday school once in a while.

4) So what if a "large percentage of the population" believes the creation story to be true (a suspect claim, at any rate)? Science is not a democratic process--scientists don't hold elections on what evidence to accept or reject. The world did indeed believe the Earth was flat (well, the unenlightened Christian world, at any rate). Did that make the Earth flat? It doesn't matter what anyone believes, all that matters is what the evidence shows. In this case, all of the evidence currently available favors evolution. There is no evidence for ID outside of the Bible. There can't be--it's not science. Something better may come along in the future, and until then we'll stick with what actually works (and it does work).

And scientists don't "refute the notion of an intelligent hand" in the origins of life, they just don't worry about in their work. It is not a matter of science, and as such it is outside of their scope of study.

5) Other disciplines include instruction on religious beliefs because that is where it belongs. It's not a matter of simply presenting the information and not forcing anyone to believe; in a science class, what matters is science. It's imperative to study religions in history, english, geography, and other fields because it provides an essential context; if not taken into account, then all findings in those fields are inaccurate and suspect. Not so in fields of science, where inclusion of religious ideas would have the opposite effect.

6) The fact that students are allowed to opt-out of ID instruction and not evolution should say something about the validity of ID. If students miss it, they can still understand how the world works. It's useless as a tool of investigation, it has no methodology (other than "that's complex--God dunnit!").

And as far as evolution being offensive, so be it. If a person's religious faith is so weak that it can't withstand contrary ideas, then they need to look beyong the science classroom and discover what their real problem is. Also, part of receiving an education is learning how deal with information and facts you may not personally agree with. Do you run screaming with your hands over ears, or do you go ahead and learn it, understand it, and use it to make your position that much stronger? It's called critical thinking, and it's almost a thing of the past.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I do think the ID issue would make a particularly good critical-thinking exercise. It's more suited for a "special project", however, than actual science curriculum. It teaches nothing, it explains nothing, and it has no practical use.

7 Comments:

  • Seriously, you articulate the multiple absurdities of this "debate" better than anyone.

    By Blogger Mac, at 3/25/2005 02:22:00 PM  

  • Hey, you were supposed to call before you left...

    I hate to turn this into your answering service, but you've forced me to do it!

    By Blogger Maggie, at 3/25/2005 03:20:00 PM  

  • 1) You're right about the article being, shall we say, less than a model of clarity and intelligent argument. One of the things it does badly is to confuse creationism and ID, which are actually quite distinct notions. In fact, ID (as I understand it) makes no necessary connection between the "God of the Bible" and the Intelligent Designer (whoever/whatever S/He/It might be). In point of fact, of course, ID is mostly used by ax-grinding fundamentalist Christians. However, this does not in and of itself obviate its central concept.

    2) ID comes across as a pseudo-science when, in fact, it is actually based on 19th century metaphysical concepts. It rightly should be viewed by both proponents and opponents as metaphysics not science.

    3) That said, after all, evolution IS "just a theory." And, in fact, classical Darwinism in its modern incarnation has great difficulty explaining how complex biological structures and behaviors arise in the first place, since it is a theory of selection not creation. Of course, this problematic implies nothing except that the theory, as it stands, has a big weakness, and is, therefore, incomplete in some sense. But give the devil his due.

    4) A plausible rendering of ID as narrative can be found in Olaf Stapleton's "Star Maker."
    --WMB

    By Anonymous W.M. Bear, at 3/26/2005 08:19:00 PM  

  • Yeah, but the folks touting "ID" just happen to be rabid Creationists. They use the term "intelligent design" because it sounds pretty innocuous compared to the alternatives. But once you cut through their semantic smokescreen, it's obvious the've just given Biblical Creationism a hip new monicker -- and one that will quite likely sell.

    By Blogger Mac, at 3/27/2005 01:25:00 PM  

  • Mac, I totally agree. And I think this connection is especially unfortunate, since some versions of ID (including Stapleton's) make a lot of sense. However, creationists don't care about that, they just want the benefit of whatever pseudo-scientific cachet goes along with ID.
    --WMB

    By Anonymous W.M. Bear, at 3/27/2005 07:02:00 PM  

  • I see what you're saying. For example, DNA continues to reveal new secrets. I would argue that evolution is fact, not theory, but we can always learn more.

    One scenario that rightfully falls under the rubric of "ID" is extraterrestrial intervention. Personally, I don't discount the possibility that aliens have "tweaked" the biosphere at some point during life's tenure on Earth.

    If you grant that it's statistically likely that they've been "in the neighborhood," it's not at all preposterous. But interestingly enough, you never hear Fundies arguing for a balanced look at potential evidence of alien intervention. After all, intelligent ET life is one more nail in the Biblical coffin.

    By Blogger Mac, at 3/27/2005 07:47:00 PM  

  • Here's a plan: Once ID becomes enshrined in the Kansas science curriculum (which it undoubtedly will), let's start a campaign to include all theories of intelligent design. ID proponents shouldn't oppose it, since all they want is objectivity and balance.

    By Blogger jason, at 3/27/2005 10:18:00 PM  

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