This week’s Oklahoma Gazette has two dualing op-ed pieces on the issue of teaching of evolution and intelligent design in public schools, an anti-intelligent design essay by Kurt Hochenauer (author of Okiefunk.com — click here to read his recent post that touches on this topic) and a pro-intelligent design essay by State Rep. Thad Balkman
As usual, I find myself torn between both perspectives. . .
* Where I agree with Kurt — I agree that “Intelligent Design” is not a scientific theory, because it is difficult (if not impossible) to test the theory, a key component to the development of any scientific theory. I also agree that it is a mistake to not teach evolution in school science classes, if for no other reason than that students who intend to study advanced science in college will need to understand it.
* Where I agree with Thad — Thad is dead on the money in highlighting the social impact of the theory of evolution, in that it gave fuel to racists to back their stupid and wacky views (as well another social impact that he didn’t mention , that social evolution was used by early capitalists to justify to represssion of the working class since the common man was seen as “less evolved” that those in power) It is not right to allow the tyranny of science to be used to justify evil. Certainly I understand that almost all evolutionists today do not buy into the racist ideas of the past, but I think it is fair to say that the logical implication of evolution could very easily lead folks in that direction. (for a more modern day rendition of this, look at the Bell Jar theory that was quite popular a few years back)
* Where I disagree with Kurt — Kurt says that…
Many scientists believe ideas like intelligent design belong in philosophy, not science, classrooms. Our public educational systems in Oklahoma and throughout the country have plenty of room for discussions over differing views about the origins of life. Intelligent design, for example, could easily be discussed in a high school contemporary events course.
I agree with Kurt that this discussion does belong in a philosophy class… the problem is that Oklahoma public schools (as far as I know) do not have philosophy classes, and in fact tend to not teach critical thinking skills to students, or even give them the chance to voice those perspectives. I speak from experience here, as I was told in junior high and high school that I was asking too many questions, and was graded down for doing so.
And I disagree that this discussion belongs in a contemporary events course. That sounds like minimization to me. Pushing this discussion aside to being “an interesting thing that is in the news” is not the answer. This question is much bigger than that. What one believes about the nature of existence is at stake.
Certainly intelligent design isn’t science, but if students are not allowed to rebut it elsewhere, then they should have the right to argue against it in science class. Science itself is no more sacred than anything else.
* Where I disagree with Thad — Thad says that “neo-darwinianism” is the “theory that you and I are merely the lucky result of random mutations and blind natural selection.” I don’t completely agree with that. As a theistic evolutionist (one who believes that evolution is the process of creation, but that God is behind the process and is involved in the process), I think he is mischarcterizing evolution. Maybe it would be better to put God back into evolution than to throw him out.
* Thoughts in summary — I think many folks on both sides of the aisle are afraid of the ideas on the other side of the aisle. In an ideal situation evolution could be taught in science class, but could be critically discussed, rebutted, attacked, and anything else you want to do with it in philosophy class, and for that matter science itself should be open to attack. Because this type of critical thinking isn’t happening, I personally think science is too dangerous to even teach in schools. It is not fair and it is not right to unleash the dangers of science and technology without having this criticism, because it implies that there is only one kind of truth.
Now please hear me… I’m not opposed to science. I am opposed to the worship of science, at the exclusion of ethics, spirituality and proper rememberance that human beings cannot understand the incredible complexity of a beautiful and mysterious universe. This kind of reverence is what is missing from education today and that is the real shame.