12.22.05

Advocates of ‘Intelligent Design’ Vow to Continue Despite Ruling

Posted in Society at 12:18 by RjZ

“The important thing is ID’s intellectual vitality.” says William Dembski, a philosophy professor from Louisville (I assume Kentucky, not the Colorado town voted to the top five most desirable cities in the nation in which I live). I’d worry if I were Dr. Dembski. The fact is, in spite of how vocal the group of ID supporters are, there isn’t really a vital intellectual movement spreading around the world. Michael Behe who testified in the Dover, PA trial responds to the decision by whining about being attacked: “If you’re…publicly known as an ID supporter you can already kiss your tenure chances goodbye.”

Of course, to hear the ID proponents tell it, it’s not because ID doesn’t even follow the scientific method and is at best, an untestable hypothesis (which is not to say it is wrong, but rather that it’s not science) but rather because those mean awful, dogmatic scientists just won’t listen.

NPR commentator Joe Loconte compares Intelligent Design with the Big Bang theory. Scientists at the time disputed the Big Bang theory and they weren’t willing to roll over so quickly to a new idea. Instead, those scientists stuck in their crazy dogmas wanted something more: they wanted proof.

In time, evidence mounted and the Big Bang theory has become the most accepted scientific explanation for the origin of the universe. By analogy it seems, Mr. Loconte, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who says “I am not a scientist or a fundamentalist”, hopes that ID will be proven some day as well. Maybe, but unlike the supporters of the Big Bang theory who actually provided evidence, ID’s supporters attack the existing theory without any evidence to support ID at all. They tell us that evolution cannot explain the overwhelming complexity of the natural world. That’s it. They’re done. They don’t tell us what can, they just say evolution can’t so it must be by intelligent design. That design might be a space alien, or time traveling biologist, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (well, they don’t usually mention the Spaghetti Monster). But if this is the only evidence scientists receive I think it will be a long wait before it mounts to a point of acceptance.

Loconte finally tells us in his commentary that some scientists want to believe in God’s absence. I am sure some do. Some scientists (Dr. Behe is a biologist at Lehigh University) do not. What Mr. Lonconte missed however is that scientists want to believe in evidence regardless of its impact on the supernatural world of God (or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.) What is being discussed in these court cases isn’t the truth of Intelligent Design theory, it’s whether or not it is science (which the Dover case’s expert witnesses on both sides convinced the judge that it is not) and whether it’s implication that that the Designer really is the Abrahamic God violates the Establishment Clause.

Judge Johnson felt in this case, given the origin of ID (in the second revision of the Pandas and People the word Creationism was simply replaced by Intelligent Design) and given the public opinions of the Dover, PA school board, there was, in fact, a religious intent to the required statements and book choices.

Me, I don’t have a problem with the teaching of Intelligent Design. Perhaps it should be mentioned in a logic class as an example of the classic argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance). Perhaps it should be in a current events lesson. It’s precedence over other theories such as Hindu creation myths is important because it is in the news here in the U.S. Still, one place ID doesn’t need to be discussed is in science class.

3 Comments »

  1. Tim Rohrer said,

    December 22, 2005 at 14:37

    I somewhat agreee–ID mostly does belong the philosophy department, disussed alongside William Paley’s Watchmaker argument and David Hume’s Dialogues concerning Natural Religion and the like. But I think it can be discussed in a science class, but only if held up as an example of psuedo science during a philosophy of science unit. At what level? Surely high school students are smart enough to have a little philosophy of science taught in science class. But should ID be taught as if it were science? No. Do I think anyone will dare raise this issue high-school science class? Unlikely, unless they intend to be a martyr.

    I confess to be as little uncomfortable with the principle one can’t mention certain hypotheses at all in science class simply because they are unscientific. Would this lead to revising 11th grade physics textbooks to avoid mentioning the religious conflicts over the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism? Omitting, say, the fact that Galileo famously recanting to avoid being burned at the stake for his scientific hypothesis, as Bruno had been? Science is nothing if not a series of revolutions in thought–if we teach as an unchallengeable body of facts organized only by the currently accepted theories, we would be doing students a grave disservice.

  2. RjZ said,

    December 22, 2005 at 14:44

    Is that the implication I made? That ID can’t even be mentioned? Yeah, I guess I did say it shouldn’t be discussed in science class. I guess I hoped it would be clear from my comments (talk about it, for example, in logic class) that taught in context as you have suggested I actually have no problem with this issue being raised in school. One could ask why equal time is not also given to other ideas (like the Spaghetti Monster) but I’d respond that ID has cultural resonance.
    At any rate, I think Tim should be an editor, for I would like to modify my last line to say that ID doesn’t need to be discussed as science in science class.

  3. Penelope said,

    December 25, 2005 at 23:00

    This is a good point, and one I’ve heard before. I hope our friend Professor Robson will get a chance to read and comment on this post soon. From what she’s told me about her first semester as a college biology professor, she’s had a great time discussing both ID and pure Creationism in her Biology 101 class. She tells me that her primary goal for this class was to make sure her students left it understanding what science is. By letting the many Creationist Christians in her class bring up their concerns and theories, she’s been able to show what is and isn’t a scientific argument, and also to point out that just because something isn’t scientific, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be an important idea, or even that it can’t be true.

    Of course, Rachel is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, she is teaching on the college level at a private college, and she is there for one year while another professor is on sabbatical, so she isn’t worried about pissing people off and losing a chance at tenure. I would like to think that every teacher who introduces students to evolution, at any level, could be as wise and as brave as Rachel has been. Unfortunately, I don’t think most teachers, especially at public high schools, feel they have the freedom to discuss evolution and all of the other ideas on the origin of the world this fully. If I’m right, it’s certainly a pity.

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