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Want To Teach Intelligent Design? Put It In A History Class

Mar 14, 2008
In 1980, the Reagan Revolution meant not only a reconsideration of sex education, but also a reconsideration of the theory of evolution. Back then, the alternative theory was called creationism or scientific creationism; today it's called intelligent design. I am no scientist, but I have issues with teaching intelligent design as science.

Intelligent design revolves around the idea of an "intelligent designer," some unexplained force that created life, the earth or the universe. The idea of an intelligent designer is explained more thoroughly in history, philosophy and theology than in science.

I can understand why; when an unexplained force is used to explain science, the end-result is science fiction until scientists prove otherwise. That's their job, and they've done it very well. There's been considerable advancement on Darwin's theories, since his work, The Origins of Species was first published in 1857.

Until science provides an academic explanation of an "intelligent designer," I would consider intelligent design to be part of the history of scientific thought.

Just as societies once believed the planets in the Solar System revolved around the Earth.

Before Galileo proved otherwise, and he was tried as a heretic and placed under house arrest, because his scientific beliefs were in conflict with the Holy Scripture. The shame was that the Catholic Church did not express regret for their actions until 1992, 350 years after he died.

I do not know of a public school district in America that would not allow discussion of Galileo's trial to take place in a high school European history or world history class. I also have no doubt that such a discussion would show a defeat for science over the popular public opinion of the 17th century.

Just as I do not know of a public school district that would not allow discussion of the Scopes Trial in a high school American history class.

The Scopes Trial was a triumph of public opinion over science; the laws of the State of Tennessee in 1925 prevailed over the testimony of scientists' expert on evolution. John Thomas Scopes, the biology teacher on trial, was found guilty of breaking the law. He was not fired, only fined for his actions, although he never paid the fine and he never taught high school again.

It's interesting, in both cases science lost to religion under the laws, philosophy and theology of the times. A man's reputation suffered in the short term, past beliefs of a society remained challenged, but scientific inquiry moved forward.

That's the main lesson; science is about investigation, not about accepting gospel as the answer for the unexplained. We live in a time when we are asking for scientific advancement and more science educators, yet we find politicians who want to see a non-scientific explanation for human development taught in public school science classes.

That's confusing to me, is it confusing to you?

I can only hope those politicians, if elected to an executive chair, as governor or president, do not use evolutionary beliefs as a litmus test to appoint advisors or judges.

This would be a giant step backward for scientific inquiry, at a time we need it the most to provide thoughtful explanation and innovations to better manage natural resources and invigorate economies.

I have no issue with discussing intelligent design in the context of a history, philosophy or theology class; it has its place in those debates and there are many historical facts available for discussion. However, it should not be part of a science class, until it is proven as science.

I only hope the teachers fit Galileo's trial into that curriculum too.

It provides great lessons for conservative politicians to learn - on how not to treat science and scientific inquiry.

(Originally published at Educated Quest blog and reprinted with permission of the author, Stuart Nachbar).
About the Author
Stuart Nachbar has been involved with education politics, policy and technology as a student, urban planner, government affairs manager, software executive, and now as author of The Sex Ed Chronicles. Visit his blog, Educated Quest.
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