A Blatant Disregard: Intelligent Design in Public Schools

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We are taught in grade-school Biology class about Charles Darwin’s evolution theory as the basis of our origin here on earth. The basic idea of this theory is that we derived from apes and over the years have evolved into a less primitive and refined mirror of our alleged ancestors. Darwinism is predominant in academia with little to no plausibility given to the existence of a “creator”, or intelligent designer.  It is taboo for a teacher of science to as much mention that there are alternative metaphysical theories to explain the root of man’s existence. The U.S. Constitution mandates that government remain neutral in religious preference and is one of the fundamental reasons Creationism is not allowed to be taught in public schools. This is a very complex and controversial debate and has been going on for years. Would exposing students in public grade-schools to the possibility of an alternative to Darwinism create a better, unbiased, quality education? Why is there such a strong opposition to allowing “Creationism” or intelligent design, to be taught?  Is this strictly a political issue? Is it possible to expose children to both ideas in moderation and allow them to choose for themselves?  

The theory of intelligent design as indicated by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture is the idea that there are various things in the known universe that can’t be explained by a natural cause, thus inferring it can only be explained by an intelligent designer. The institution also says that intelligent design is not based on the bible, nor is it the same as “creationism”. Here is an interesting excerpt from the foundations’ online FAQ page.

The idea that human beings can observe signs of intelligent design in nature reaches back to the foundations of both science and civilization. In the Greco-Roman tradition, Plato and Cicero both espoused early versions of intelligent design. In the history of science, most scientists until the latter part of the nineteenth century accepted some form of intelligent design, including Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution by natural selection.      

Why is it that Charles Darwin’s own “right-hand man” saw potential for intelligent design?  Is this fact unknown to modern day scientists who adamantly oppose anything other than natural selection and evolution, or is it just ignored? Deputy Director of the National Center of Science Education, Glenn Branch states:

The US government has ruled that teaching creationism in schools violates the principle of separation of church and state. Creationists have therefore tried to argue that non-religious objections to evolution should be included in textbooks. However, the vast majority of the scientific community agrees that these objections are not serious and not scientific. Evolution is an extremely important, well-attested scientific theory. Ideological, religious objections to the theory should not be taught in textbooks.

Fair enough, but why can’t we teach the findings of “intelligent design”? Once again, according to Branch, intelligent design is a “repackaged” creationistic spin-off. Done so in a “….way that would survive constitutional scrutiny.”

The key issue with this position is that Branch seems to imply that science is pure truth and flawless in nature. He also states, “….the vast majority of the scientific community agrees that these objections (Creationism) are not serious and not scientific. “ This statement indicates to me that he cannot speak for the scientific community as a whole. His use of the words “vast majority” speaks volumes about the possible presence of scientific thinkers whom may have found plausible evidence for an intelligent designer, and may very well support their findings being included in textbooks and classroom curriculum.

According to a report done on the NPR website, currently in Alabama, started in 1996, biology textbooks contain a disclaimer about evolution. This disclaimer portrays evolution as “controversial theory”. In Georgia a similar disclaimer in textbooks describes evolution as “a theory, not a fact,” and also “this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.” This was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge but was appealed by the county school board. In Kansas students are required to learn alternative theories that disparage evolution. A law in Kentucky states that teachers can teach “the theory of creation as presented in the Bible.” Ohio has integrated debate and discussion of evolutionary theory and the alternatives into their classrooms curriculum. (Boyle, Farden, Godoy) So it is clear that many southern states are putting up a fight for what school-age children are being taught about our existence. Many other states are lashing out as well and with little success.  

So is the teaching of creationism or intelligent design a political issue? Frankly, politics is the biggest hindrance of Darwinism alternatives. According to the National Council for the Social Studies, “The first Supreme Court decision regarding the issue came in Epperson v. Arkansas in 1968, when the Court ruled that an Arkansas anti-evolution law was unconstitutional.”  Apparently teaching of intelligent design and creationism violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The Clause states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” 

The NCSS Task Force on Intelligent Design, aimed to get permission to teach intelligent design in Social Studies classes. The proposal was accepted by the National Council’s board of directors in May of 2007.

It is obvious that critics of evolution are threatening the reign of Darwinian teachings. It is furthermore apparent that anti-religious scientists seem to have an extreme bias to anything that can’t be seen and proved with sense data. For now it is our country’s political foundation that is holding back the flood waters of divergent ideas from entering our schools. With the steady, exponential growth of our technology and means of figuring out the world, it is inevitable that intelligent design will have it’s time to shine. The intricate workings of quantum mechanics and further exploration of our solar system has helped to edge scientists into new findings and views on our origin. Ironically it is both science and faith that have helped us to arrive where we are today. So why can’t science and faith both cohabitate in grade school classroom curriculum? The answer is, it can. That is not to say that we should hire pastors and conduct church service in our schools, but we should expose young minds to plausible alternatives and allow young minds to flourish with what they choose to believe in. 

Works Cited

Branch, Glenn. “Textbooks That Teach Evolution Are Not Biased.”Gale Opposing

            Viewpoints. Gale Opposing Viewpoints, 2008. Web. 25 Nov. 2011.

Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “FAQ on Intelligent Design.”  

            Discovery Institute. Discovery Institute, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

Boyle, Tara, Vicki Farden, and Maria Godoy. “Teaching Evolution: A State-by-State

            Debate.”  NPR, NPR, 20 Dec. 2005. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

National Council for the Social Studies, “Intelligent Design.” NCSS, NCSS, May. 2007.

            Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

“Establishment Clause.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Nov. 2011. Web. 23 Nov.

            2011. 

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