Skip to comments.'Intelligent design' theory threatens science classrooms
Posted on 06/22/2003 5:29:39 PM PDT by Aric2000
In Cobb County, Ga., controversy erupted this spring when school board officials decided to affix "disclaimer stickers" to science textbooks, alerting students that "evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things."
The stickers were the Cobb County District School Board's response to intelligent design theory, which holds that the complexity of DNA and the diversity of life forms on our planet and beyond can be explained only by an extra-natural intelligent agent. The ID movement -- reminiscent of creationism but more nuanced and harder to label -- has been quietly gaining momentum in a number of states for several years, especially Georgia and Ohio.
Stickers on textbooks are only the latest evidence of the ID movement's successes to date, though Cobb County officials did soften their position somewhat in September following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. In a subsequent policy statement, officials said the biological theory of evolution is a "disputed view" that must be "balanced" in the classroom, taking into account other, religious teachings.
Surely, few would begrudge ID advocates their views or the right to discuss the concept as part of religious studies. At issue, rather, is whether ID theory, so far unproven by scientific facts, should be served to students on the same platter with the well-supported theory of evolution.
How the Cobb County episode will affect science students remains uncertain since, as the National Center for Science Education noted, the amended policy statement included "mixed signals."
But it's clear that the ID movement is quickly emerging as one of the more significant threats to U.S. science education, fueled by a sophisticated marketing campaign based on a three-pronged penetration of the scientific community, educators and the general public.
In Ohio, the state's education board on Oct. 14 passed a unanimous though preliminary vote to keep ID theory out of the state's science classrooms. But the board's ruling left the door open for local school districts to present ID theory together with science and suggested that scientists should "continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."
In fact, even while the state-level debate continued, the Patrick Henry Local School District, based in Columbus, passed a motion this June to support "the idea of intelligent design being included as appropriate in classroom discussions in addition to other scientific theories."
Undaunted by tens of thousands of e-mails it has already received on the topic, the state's education board is now gamely inviting further public comment through November. In December, Ohio's Board of Education will vote to conclusively determine whether alternatives to evolution should be included in new guidelines that spell out what students need to know about science at different grade levels.
Meanwhile, ID theorists reportedly have been active in Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, New Jersey and other states as well as Ohio and Georgia.
What do scientists think of all this? We have great problems with the claim that ID is a scientific theory or a science-based alternative to evolutionary theory. We don't question its religious or philosophical underpinnings. That's not our business. But there is no scientific evidence underlying ID theory.
No relevant research has been done; no papers have been published in scientific journals. Because it has no science base, we believe that ID theory should be excluded from science curricula in schools.
In fact, the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest general scientific society in the world, passed a resolution this month urging policy-makers to keep intelligent design theory out of U.S. science classrooms.
Noting that the United States has promised to "leave no child behind," the AAAS Board found that intelligent design theory -- if presented within science courses as factually based -- is likely to confuse American schoolchildren and undermine the integrity of U.S. science education. At a time when standards-based learning and performance assessments are paramount, children would be better served by keeping scientific information separate from religious concepts.
Certainly, American society supports and encourages a broad range of viewpoints and the scientific community is no exception. While this diversity enriches the educational experience for students, science and conceptual belief systems should not be co-mingled, as ID proponents have repeatedly proposed.
The ID argument that random mutations in nature and natural selection, for example, are too complex for scientific explanation is an interesting -- and for some, highly compelling -- philosophical or theological concept. Unfortunately, it's being put forth as a scientifically based alternative to the theory of biological evolution, and it isn't based on science. In sum, there's no data to back it up, and no way of scientifically testing the validity of the ideas proposed by ID advocates.
The quality of U.S. science education is at stake here. We live in an era when science and technology are central to every issue facing our society -- individual and national security, health care, economic prosperity, employment opportunities.
Children who lack an appropriate grounding in science and mathematics, and who can't discriminate what is and isn't evidence, are doomed to lag behind their well-educated counterparts. America's science classrooms are certainly no place to mix church and state.
Alan I. Leshner is CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science; www.aaas.org
Oh well, Scientists agree with ME, ID is NOT science.
So is Gravity, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Chaos, ....
Nice of them to tell scientists how to do their jobs.
No problem. Just get your alternatives through peer review before mandating that they be taught in class. We have to have some standards for education, you know.
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