Saturday, July 02, 2005

Teaching Creation and Evolution?

School Districts lead debate on Evolution vs Intelligent Design in the Science Curriculum in the USA

Does Intelligent Design qualify to be included in the High School Science Curriculum?

Is Evolution by Natural selection just a theory, or a fundamental part of science?

Should Intelligent Design be taught in High School Science?

These sort of questions and others apply equally to the Dover Pennsylvania School Board, Topeka Kansas and our Educational institutions here in Victoria. The only difference is, it is not an issue in this part of the world.

The main issues a going on in Dover Pennsylvania and Topeka Kansas, where the school boards are elected with conservative Christians of the Republican Party trying to introduce religious claims to Biological and Paleontology subjects in the Secondary Schools which are covered in say year 9 - 12 equivalent. Creationists are serious and make claims that the Intelligence Design ideas should replace the Evolution Theory that is widely covered in those subjects in the Science fields from first year undergraduates to Phd.'s and professorial employment in the great fields of Science and medical areas. They do this without any theory being reviewed tested by its peers, nontheless it is being touted as a replacement. This is breaking all the rules of science developed over the last 250 years, they have been told again and again, without a dent in their program.

In October 2004 the Dover School Board voted to require school science teachers to teach alternatives to Evolution, including Intelligent Design.1 This started a case where politics and religion were put together with science on the side lines. Arkansas, Florida and Kansas joined the group as the wedge was being applied through out the US. What is the wedge2? It is a policy document of the Discovery Institute with the purpose to bring a creationist view of biology and geology into those subjects as a legitimate alternative theory. The only problem with their plans is intelligent people, science teachers, science practitioners, science apologists, rationalists, etc. So how does such a program want to succeed? It is simple, rely on the ignorance of the general public, and the loyalty of conservative Christians to compel the State School Boards to change the curriculum to include Intelligent Design. Where this group has a majority, it is likely it will pass.

The only problem is that Intelligent Design3, or ID is not a scientific theory, it is a statistical criticism of a scientific theory, which means it shouldn't be in a science class, but where it belongs, in the undergraduate philosophy of science subjects or a theology class, which in the US can not occur in a State School because their constitution forbids the State from making any laws with regard to religion. Therefore legal concerns occur, parents opposed to such actions and concerned citizens, all join the party. This is what happened in Dover Pennsylvania and Topeka Kansas.

The Kansas case was made more interesting because the science community refused to be part of the debate, so it was left to legal arguments,the science community felt it was not required to defend science in a forum dominated by christian conservatives with a clear agenda to introduce Intelligent Design to it's Schools and replace Evolution. The evidence was high farse from all accounts, with no science being disgust it must have been earie to here the oposition to the School Board explaining why it is unconstitional for such a obvious religious subject to be introduced to the curriculum without it going to the Supreme Court, and then everyone else saying how marvelous for our children to hear how some unspecified intelligent being allowed some of the adaptations and speciation to occur, and that an unpublished, uncritiqued by peers of the subject, and simply not science. That's how Daniel Ortega described the going on in better words than me in his article Scopes Snoops.4 Next week, I propose to introduce the discussion of magic in our physics classes and how it explains lightning and storms after a rain dance and why it should be used as an alternative to another theory.

Some of the big wigs of Intelliget Design were rolled out to defend the philosphy, Michael Behe attended a dedication meeting of a Dover Area High School to make“five points why intelligent design — the concept that life is too complex to have been evolved solely through natural selection and must have been created by an intelligent designer — was a better explanation for the biological world’s existence.”5

There is no reason why a belief in Intelligent Design can't be taught, but the maths is far beyond High School and should be taught in some undergraduate subject like philosapy of science, or theology and science. Meanwhile the creationists can teach their children in Sunday School, which will not impose their religious beliefs on anyone except the willing. That is not the plan.

From our perspective in the antipodies this subject is probably a small news subject, but in the US it is larger and covered by the media in the smaller cities where it is happening and as a subject in the Conservative Christian Areas and the debate between Evolution and Creationism that raise its head every now and again in the larger media in the US and as a curiosity here.

The papers I use are the ones available on the York Daily Review6, the talk.origins7,discussion and various other areas on the World Wide Web. It has been an education about the US and the conservative Christians Creationists. The rise of Biblical Literalist within the conservative branches of the Republican Party since George W Bush became president, indeed they assisted in his victory and worked hard on the campains, educateds any organisation how to go about gaining change in their society.

In Dover today, the witnesses for the plaintifs have withdrawn8, which leaves the court to decide on the non specialised events of lawyers and teachers, school board and parents. Since the science specialists boycoted the proceedings of this trial, the outcome will in all probability be in favour of the defendeds. However, in the State Capita, Harrisburg, legisaltors have proposed changes to the States Public School Code inorder to effect the introduction of Intelligent Design into the Science Curricullum9. It is not over yet, and probably, judging by the determination of the Creationist camp, will continue, at least as long as there is a Republican majority and President.

1York Daily Record
2Discovery Institute (internal document)

3Intelligent Design was rescently made famous by WilliamA. Dembski, The Design Revolution, Answering the Toughest Questions about intelligent Design, Inter Varsity Press, 2004, ISBN 1844740145.

4DanielOrtegs, Scopes Snoops,
5Joseph Maldonado, Dover hosts speaker on evolution, Professor defends intelligent design, York Daily Record, Sunday 24th April 2005,

6York Daily Record, York Pennsylvania, Dover Biology,, and The Pitch Kansas City, MO

7Talk.Originswebsite ;"for the