Wednesday, November 09, 2005

There but for the Grace of God

When I first heard about the decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to approve the teaching of intelligent design, my knee-jerk reaction was that the inmates are running the asylum in Kansas. And I was somewhat reassured to hear that a Pennsylvania school board was recently purged due to their pro-intelligent design stance.

But then I read this article, which reports that the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association have refused to publish the Board's proposed curriculum changes. The author finds it troubling that "the NAS and NSTA are using their copyrights to bring wayward Kansas educators into line," and I strongly agree. There are important Freedom of Speech implications here.

Just because we disagree with an idea doesn't give us the right to silence the ideologues. Surely we've learned that lesson by now. And we who consider ourselves scientists have an obligation to keep an open mind and consider all possibilities. It is important to bear in mind that the Theory of Evolution is precisely that - just a theory, not proven fact. There should be room in people's minds for other theories.

Of course, that doesn't mean that every individual or group with an opinion should be able to change the education curriculum to be whatever they want. In the Pennsylvania case, "the eight new school board members ran on a pledge to 'discuss intelligent design in the proper forum.' They define that as philosophy or religion classes."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, the intelligent design issue isn't a problem of free speech. The problem is that intelligent design isn't science. That is, it isn't proven or disproven through empirical evidence. The only real argument there is for intelligent design is that there isn't any empirical evidence that the universe WASN'T intelligently designed.

And is that what science ought to teach kids? That anything science can't 100% disprove is a plausible theory? Or is intelligent design really more about faith than science?

As a Christian, I reconcile Newton's laws of physics with my own religion the same way Newton did - my faith tells me God had a had in f = ma. But Newton couldn't PROVE that to be true, and neither can the Kansas school board. Leave science alone, and let intelligent design be taught in a theology seminar if its free speech they're worried about.

We're doing children a disservice otherwise.

Ilana said...

Just slap one of these babies http://www.swarthmore.edu/NatSci/cpurrin1/textbookdisclaimers/
on any textbook you see, and we're all set!