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August 04, 2005

Where to Hold the ID Debate

Snippets from blogs on Bush's "Intelligent Design should be taught in school" remark. Spot the repeating thread.

Protein Wisdom - "Similarly, I have no problem with Intelligent Design being taught alongside evolution in the context of questions concerning the origin of life-which, whether the President meant to do so or not, is in fact the context into which he placed the question. The origin of life-or first cause-is properly asked within the realm of philosophy or religious studies."

Ballon Juice - "I have no problem with a brief fifteen minute discussion of intelligent design as part of a religious/philosophy class, provided schools offer those courses."

DrivelBlog - In short, let science classes be science classes, and leave theoretical arguments for other classes such as philosophy."

Two Babes and a Brain - "How is this science? How by proving order and adherence to "rules" does this indicate an Intelligent" Design? ... Here is the thing: this theory is taught in philosophy or religion class--not science."

MovieBob - "Matters of faith, spirituality and the supernatural are philosophy, and Intelligent Design belongs in a philosophy class."

Louisiana Libertarian - "Intelligent design is not a serious scientific theory. It is the belief that some "intelligent designer" (ie. God or some space aliens) designed DNA to evolve in a programmed manner. That's not science, that's philosophy. It should be discussed in a religion or philosophy class, not taught as an alternative to evolution."

All these are wonderful suggestions as a potential place to put ID. But of course they're disingenuous because...well, let's let another blogger snippet say it:

L's Simple Observations - "It is a sad day when we are teaching philosophy in our Science classrooms. Maybe we should create an elective in High Schools that simply covers religion and philosophy...oh wait...there's no religion in public schools, but there can be Intelligent Design????"

So thus we have a whole host of people giving a reasonable-sounding suggestion yet which has an absolute zero chance of happening. Religion class? Forget it. Philosophy class? Perhaps as a low-attendance elective.

Any other suggestions? I mean, ones that have a snowball's chance in Havana of actually happening.

My main point here (and I'll admit, it's a little opaque) is that if you don't think ID has any place in school, just say so. That's a debate worth having. But if we're just going to get suggestions that could never happen in today's educational climate, that's not really a debate.

A fair result could be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question. Oh, that idea isn't original with me. It's a quote from Charles Darwin in the Introduction to "The Origin of Species".

A good blog for keeping up with the ID side of the debate is Intelligent Design The Future.

Posted by Doug at August 4, 2005 12:23 PM

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You know Doug, this is a great point. We can't talk about Intelligent Design in Religion classes because most of the people who are making that suggestion have been saying for years that we can't have religion classes in public school anyway.

I think it's just PC to offer an alternative that really means nothing rather than just being upfront and saying that it shouldn't be taught at all.

Posted by: Abigail at August 4, 2005 01:44 PM

I had begun to despair over the lack of rationality in this current blogosphere discussion. Good post. You have restored my faith in bloggers.

Posted by: ajmac at August 4, 2005 03:14 PM

I don't get the idea of segregating philosophy and science, or philosophy and any subject for that matter. Does our philosophy (including among other things, how we define reality, knowledge and existence) have any impact on our practice of science or the interpretation of scientific data? Yes it does. Does it affect our view of history? Yes again. Could our choices about what is appropriate to teach be guided by a Philosophy of Education? Why, yes.

Going the other way, does science impact philosophy? How about history? Religion? Yes, you bet. All of the above.

Philosophy overlaps and undergirds every subject as well as the entire enducational enterprise. The problem is not that some people want to put philosophy in the science classroom, it's that some "scientists" appear to assume that science has replaced philosophy.

Posted by: Matthew at August 4, 2005 09:39 PM

Here's another way to say what Matthew said here: let someone try to teach science without philosophy, including the assumptions that are only rational in a philosophic framework.

Let them try to explain why the scientific method is a valid approach to knowledge without philosophy (oops--that's epistemology). Let them try to explain why we look for natural causes for natural phenomena (oop--that's epistemology and metaphysics). Let them try to explain why mathematics are useful in science (careful! that's dangerously close to logic).

Maybe having philosophy classes in high school--required--isn't such a bad idea. People would at least learn it means, and quit thinking it's a dirty word.

Posted by: Tom Gilson at August 5, 2005 09:30 AM

My favorite is this one: "In short, let science classes be science classes, and leave theoretical arguments for other classes such as philosophy."

Its good to know that theoretical arguments have no place in science classes.

Posted by: Pete The Elder at August 5, 2005 11:38 AM

I took a world mythology class when I was in public high school where the subject of "intelligent design" would have been perfectly at home, right next to the theories of alchemy and luminiferous aether. There was even a nice segment about the Christian notion of the Trinity, wedged in between the Babylonian mythology and the Greek/Roman mythology. It was an English literature elective class, of course. It was taught by one of the English teachers.

Tell me again how religion isn't taught in public school classrooms. I like having my leg pulled.

Posted by: s9 at August 7, 2005 08:16 PM

I also included this bit in my post, which you leave out:

While I don’t believe Intelligent Design should be taught as a comparable theory to evolution in science classes (it’s not scientifically falsifiable¹, first of all, which means it isn’t a scientic theory, regardless of how vehemently the anthropocentic proponents of irreducible complexity insist it is—and anyway, it addresses questions about first causes that fall outside the proper purview of scientific inquiry), I nevertheless do believe that addressing the field of ID theory in science classes provides a perfect opportunity to show how ID and evolution do not necessarily contradict one another, and that—-if evolution is taught properly—-the controversy itself disappears, except as a propaganda tool ginned up either by creationists or materialists who like to use it as a rhetorical club against their ideological opponents.

Posted by: Jeff G at August 10, 2005 09:13 PM

Indeed you did, but suggesting that ID be brought up in science class has about as much chance of happening in the current climate as having a required religion/philosophy class. The climate, where any mention of a generic higher power is thought to run counter to the First Amendment, and where any questioning of evolution whatsoever is simply rebuffed as anti-scientific, needs an overhaul before any real discussion can take place.

Suggestions for how to change that are welcome, and are in fact a prerequisite. Discussing what might or might not happen after the climate has changed are, unfortunately, nothing more than nice words.

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 11, 2005 08:17 AM