Thursday, March 15, 2007

"I've created life!" "Lisa, breakfast! We're having waffles!" "Ooh, waffles!"

I have heard a lot of people argue that public schools should be required to teach intelligent design. I believe that they are wrong.

For those of you who have been living as moss under a rock, here’s a definition: “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.” I think it’s fair to say that most people understand the phrase “intelligent cause” to mean God. It’s probably also fair to say that by, “God” they mean the Christian God. I do not mean to say that all Christians believe in intelligent design. Many Christians believe in creationism which is not the same as intelligent design: intelligent design accepts things like evolution and the 4 billion year age of the Earth – strict creationism rejects both positions.

In my mind, the many arguments that can be made in favor of teaching intelligent design can be rebutted with a single question:

Why do they want intelligent design to be taught in schools?

I think that most people would answer that they don’t want the public school system to teach their children that God does not exist or that the creation story is wrong. They want children in school to be given a religious alternative to evolution theory. This motive is in plain contradiction with the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion. States cannot insert a requirement into the school curriculum for primarily religious reasons.

I understand that there are many people who argue that intelligent design is actually a scientific theory. Independent of that position, the school board cannot add it to the curriculum for religious reasons. Because intelligent design has been rejected by more than 90% of the scientific community, it seems unlikely that any school board would want to include the theory because of its scientific merit.

I could just continue to restate here the many arguments that have been made in opposition to teaching intelligent design in schools, but that would go against my tendency to make fringe arguments for mainstream positions. So, I have one additional point I would like proponents to consider:

Asking public schools to teach intelligent design is another example of parents abdicating their responsibility to educate their children. I cannot think of any authority that has argued that the government should be solely responsible for the education of our children. Rather, the primary responsibility for educating children should lie with their parents. As such, parents are completely at will (and obligated) to explain to their children the inherent problems in anything taught at school, including the theory of evolution.

For an interesting take on the issue, check out Scott Adams’ blog.