ID and Ego
The claim that equity demands balanced treatment of evolutionary theory and special creation in science classrooms reflects a misunderstanding of what science is and how it is conducted. Scientific investigators seek to understand natural phenomena by observation and experimentation. Scientific interpretations of facts and the explanations that account for them therefore must be testable by observation and experimentation.
-Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition, p. 26
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.
To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.
The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
Katzmiller, et al, v. Dover Area School District, et al pp136-137
Last Wednesday, the ever-thoughful Polanco blogged about the decision handed down in Pennsylvania regarding Intelligent Design. The very first comment made was from a woman who wrote: "It's amazing how many evolutionists are scared of alternative theories. "
That comment pisses me off no end. I have spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out why it pisses me off. And I discovered that it was because it sums up a whole plethora of misconceptions many have about the whole kerfuffle. Let me count the ways:
First off: The use of the term evolutionist. Webster's defines an evolutionist as "a student of or adherent to a theory of evolution." That's fine, but I'm getting the feeling that this term is being bandied about by those who would like to see Intelligent Design incorporated into high-school science classes in much the same way as others are using terms like 'abortionist' and 'liberal'--in other words, with scorn and disdain. As an exercise, I typed 'evolutionist' in the 'search blogs' window at the top of the screen, and sure enough, the majority of bloggers on the top of the list (first three pages) were supporters of ID. This doesn't suggest that the majority of blogger out there support ID. It does, however, suggest that the majority of bloggers who use the term 'evolutionist' aren't supporters of evolution.
I keep telling myself this isn't a valid scientific process, but then I remind myself that the proponents of ID don't seem to be too keen on valid science, so fuck it.
Then, I went to google and searched 'evolutionist theory,' and found a whole bunch of 'talking point' websites, and almost as many sites 'debating' (as polite a word as I can come up with) the issue.
What I didn't find was a whole bunch of actual evolutionists who had anything to say about the issue. Again, I'm not saying they are silent on the subject; just that I couldn't find any using popular web searches.
My conclusion: Evolutionists really aren't debating this topic.
And why should they? They left this topic years ago. Perhaps a century ago.
This goes to the second part of the sentence--that evolutionists are scared of alternative theories.
As far as I can tell, true evolutionists--scientists who have made the study of evolution their life's work--are no more scared of the 'alternative theory' of Intelligent Design than geologists are scared of the the alternative theories of the Flat Earth Society.
In other words: evolutionists aren't really in this debate at all. Shouldn't that tell us something?
They aren't in this debate because, in my opinion--and in the opinion of the Republican, Bush-appointed judge who handed down this ruling--this debate really isn't about evolution, or Intelligent Design, or anything at all scientific.
So what's it about? It's about free thinking.
Look at it this way: The odds of any one of those ninth-graders in the Dover School District growing up to be an elite research scientist in any field is probably comparable to the odds of any of those kids growing up to be a Major League Baseball player. This isn't a slam on their intelligence any more than it's a slam on their physical prowess. Statistically, there's not a lot of either types in the general population. In fact, twenty-five years from now, those kids will probably know more about baseball than evolutionary theory.
That's because, on the whole, the evolution/ID debate doesn't really matter. It will honestly matter less in their lives than the wins and losses of the Phillies.
What matters--what really is to me the heart and soul of this debate--is that, for those ninth graders, many of them for the first time in their lives, will be asked to think. To conjecture. To come up with conclusions that they will have to factually support.
That's the true importance of high-school science for the overwhelming majority of us. It teaches us to weigh facts. It gives us a structure to reach rational conclusions. It give us a tool to use when deciding what to do. That is the great gift of science. The ability to be dispassionate about something.
By introducing ID into the fray at this point, in the venue of science the message becomes muddied. One of my Dad's favorite cartoons showed two researchers in front of a huge blackboard. The left side of the blackboard was filled with this huge mathematical equation, as was the right side. In the middle, were four words: 'Then a miracle occurs.' And one researcher says to the other: 'I think you might have a problem with step number two.'
Intelligent Design wants you to belive there is no problem with step number two.
Perhaps there isn't. But the debate over that should not ever be in ninth-grade science.