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Sunday, March 12, 2006

More ID

The post below created some heated responses, both in the comments section as well as via e-mail. I just wanted to briefly go over a few things that I found interesting in the responses:

Does ID contradict established theories?

In a word, no. ID doesn't say that evolution didn't happen, nor is it the same thing as creationism (let alone young earth creationism). Most websites and authors I've seen attacking ID tend to make up what ID is, then attack that, rather than actually engaging ID as a theory. It isn't an "alternative" to evolution, as it states that evolution may be guided by something beyond circumstance. Is this 'scientific'? Well, why not? Because it isn't a testable hypothesis? Would that make string theory unscientific? Much of quantum mechanics is definitionally untestable, yet the math works, so we accept it to be true. Theoris like Dark Matter, M-Theory, and so on are only considered plausable or accurate because they are descriptive. Philosophically speaking, most of science isn't "true," it's convenient. So why not teach ID?

Are Schools There to teach The Truth?

One of the comments read:
This shouldn't be the job of a public high school. If science class contradicts what you were told in Sunday school, too fucking bad. It's Mom or Dad's job to rectify that and resolve the apparent contradiction

Science departments are implemented to teach scientific theory. Intelligent Design is theory, but it's not scientific. It's theological theory. If schools want to teach Intelligent Design, set up a damn Religion Department and teach it in separate classrooms.

Really? You think 9th and 10th grade science classes are there to strictly adhere to only teaching scientific theory? Declaring as The Truth anything that they talk about?

I would go so far as to say that literally none of the knowledge you learn in high school is meaningful, and none of the content is important. When you read The Count of Monte Cristo in an English classroom, you're doing it because the book itself provides an example from which you can learn the actual skills they're attempting to relate. Likewise, teaching 'evolution' in a biology classroom is pretty meaningless. There is basically no depth to it, as there can't be at that level of education. Evolution, as outlined in most early high school science texts, basically says "Species change over time. They change due to environmental pressures, and they change based on variance in their DNA." Then they give the moths example, and maybe you breed some fruit flies. Not exactly a comprehensive view of things. Teaching ID doesn't contradict that, it just allows students to ask, "WHY would DNA evolve in such a way that allows for, and in fact relies on, transcription errors?" Is it true? Maybe not. But so what? Is it a demonstration of the scientific method? No.

What ID is, is an introduction to the philosophy of science. It's an easy to understand way to put science into its correct context. For every observed phenomenon, there are an infinite number of perfectly rational, testable hypothesis that will explain it. For every experiment, there are an infinite number of mathematical models that will accurately depict the events. So given that, why is the one that we've arbitrarily chosen the 'correct' one? You don't think that's an "important" question for science? The thing which seems to bother so many "science" people is that ID isn't wrong. In its most basic form, it's almost definitionally true. Evolution isn't random - it is shaped by the structure of the universe and social dynamics that inhere in the nature of having life. The fact that you call that "theological" doesn't change its relevance, nor does it change the fact that it's true.

One comment noted that the problem isn't teaching ID, per se, it's teaching it in a science classroom. I guess I'm curious - why is this the case? Are all interdisciplinary studies inherantly wrong for schools to do? And why the vehemence - if a school decides that they want to teach science and theology in the same class, why does that draw so much more venom than teaching, say, government and history? Both pairs relate to one another. When you're teaching American Government, you can't also talk about the Revolutionary war? I mean, it's technically not government, though, like ID in science, it certainly helps someone understand something important about the US government.

Finally, several people brought up this idea that schools need to exist independantly of the society they're being funded by, and that they need to make absolute judgements about fact and teach only those. This strikes me as, basically, nuts. A school is there to serve the community it exists in, not as a mechanism for the government to teach kids what they want. If a Texas school wants to teach Texas History (trust me, I had to take a year of it), then I see no problem.

What it comes down to is a reaction against religion in schools. There are all manner of justifications for it, but those tend to come after the fact. If an astronomy class teaches about Aristotle's view of the spheres and firmament, nobody would care, even though it is manifestly false. Yet the religious character of ID immediately gets people in a huff. I don't get why Americans are so scurred of religion in schools, to be honest. I don't understand why everyone is so afraid of offending the minority (though so unafraid of offending a majority). Maybe someone can respond and let me know, but otherwise, I still don't grasp why ID is such a terrible thing to teach in schools.

cranked out at 3:32 PM | |

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