KM:Thoughts on ID

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Intelligent design. I can’t believe we’re talking about this again. Or are we still talking about it? I can’t really answer that question because I am admittedly a pawn of the media who gets fired up about things that are in the news and largely forgets about them when they go out of fashion; but how media slant influences public opinion will be fodder for another “soapbox” entry. Anyway, teaching intelligent design (ID) as an alternative to evolution is currently a hot topic in both Kansas and Pennsylvania. Here’s an excerpt from the Intelligent Design networks’ website:

The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion. In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection -- how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose

To me, this seems like a thinly veiled attempt to get religion into the classroom. It’s an interesting argument that ID is scientific. What better way to get religious ideas into the science classroom than to claim that it is science? What hypotheses are being tested? What predictions can be made from the “research”? What’s going to happen? As we can explain more and more things scientifically, fewer and fewer things will fall under the ID umbrella? Or, will all science go out the window as unsubstantiated theory and all natural (and maybe even synthetic) systems ascribed to the will of a higher power? Will we overhear this conversation in the lab sometime soon?:

  • “Oh, I rebuilt part of the living world today.”
  • “No, I don’t think you did. The ‘patterns’ seem too complex for you to have done that. It must have been done by a higher power.”

Historically, intelligent designers have been “invoked” to explain things that could not be explained in any other reasonable way. Many of these things can now be explained by science, like why it rains and why there are earthquakes, but many people still feel the need for a higher being to explain the origin of life. I guess one of the hardest things about the origin of life is that we can’t go back in time to “prove” that things happened one way or another. This is one of the arguments people purport in support of ID; if you can’t “prove” it then it could have been (probably was?) an intelligent designer. The documented evidence for evolution is huge, and true evolution experiments are done today. We can actually watch evolution happen. Evolution is technically a theory, in the true scientific sense of the word. Here’s part of the wikipedia entry on theory:

A theory is an established paradigm that explains all or much of the data we have and offers valid predictions that can be tested. In science, a theory is never considered fact or infallible, because we can never assume we know all there is to know. Instead, theories remain standing until they are disproven, at which point they are thrown out altogether or modified to fit the additional data.

Evolutionary theory has stood the test of time. Invocation of an intelligent designer does not disprove the theory. ID is not a scientific theory; it does not offer valid predictions that can be tested. ID does not belong in the classroom. What ever happened to the separation of church and state? Just because you try to dress it up a bit differently doesn’t mean that ID is not fundamentally religion. Doesn’t freedom of religion also include freedom from religion? Let’s keep this out of the public classroom. Public education is funded and regulated by the government; it is public domain and, thus, there is an inherent responsibility for us to keep religion out of it. If you want your kids to learn about ID, teach it to them at home, teach it to them in religious classes, send them to a private school. The US lags behind the world in science education of its children. Please don’t exacerbate the problem by pushing religious ideals as an alternative to real science.

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