The U.S. National Academy of Sciences in early January entered the debate about teaching intelligent design in science class.
The academy’s report says unequivocally that creationism, based on the explanation offered in the Christian Bible, and the currently popular idea of “intelligent design” are not science and have no place in public school science classrooms.
“Them’s fightin’ words” to evangelical Christians. They are the primary promoters of intelligent design, a blatant attempt to get their religion into (back into, they believe) our public schools.
Lon Klingman, a missionary from Hawthorne, Fla. expressed his opinion at a state school board meeting recently where revisions in science standards were under consideration. Klingman was quoted by The Associated Press as saying: “I believe that God created the Earth and everyone that is on it,” adding that the teaching of evolution was not compatible with his religious beliefs. There are probably many things taught in school that are not compatible with someone’s beliefs, religious or otherwise. We teach about the Holocaust in history classes, even though there are those who believe it to be a total fabrication. We teach that man has been to the moon while some people believe the whole thing was staged on a film set in Hollywood.
No, our schools cannot stop teaching things because someone has an opposing view or finds them “not compatible with his religious beliefs.” Klingman’s wife, Ruth, expressed the view that if evolution is taught in public schools, “I want it presented with its pros and cons.” She might have had an arguable point if she had stopped there. She went on, however, to say, “I’ve never seen an ape turn into a human. It’s not observable.” She just illustrated why intelligent design is not appropriate for the science curriculum. Her statement is the epitome of nonscientific thought.
If the standard is what is observable, we’ll return to teaching that the sun revolves around Earth and that Earth is flat.
Science is not about what you believe. Science is about forming hypotheses, designing a way to test the hypothesis, gathering data, interpreting the data and publishing the results for peer review, challenge and replication.
Theories are allowed to stand until scientific evidence emerges that proves them wrong, or, at least, requires they be revised.
We need a citizenry better trained in science, but our students are falling behind students from other countries.
Teaching intelligent design only confuses students about what constitutes science and what doesn’t.
Intelligent design does not lend itself to testing, challenge or even discussion. It is what it is — and it isn’t science.
On the other hand, “biological evolution,” the Academy of Science says, “is one of the most important ideas of modern science. Evolution is supported by abundant evidence from many different fields of scientific investigation. It underlies the modern biological sciences, including the biomedical sciences, and has applications in many other scientific and engineering disciplines.”
I am not aware that intelligent design has contributed to any advances in modern medical science, or any other science for that matter. It may sustain some students’ religious teachings, but I doubt that it will enhance their understanding of science; forcing it into the science classroom will certainly confuse students who want to learn the methods of true science.
Parents teach their kids their values. They must also shoulder the burden of passing on their religious beliefs without imposing that responsibility on science teachers.
Let’s agree that religious dogma be taught in church or other institutions designed to teach faith and let science teachers teach science.
Charles Cummins, Ed.D., is a retired school administrator. Send questions to him at: [email protected]
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