Does Intelligent Design Have Any Place in Science Classrooms?
Where did we come from? How did we get here? We have been searching for the answers to these questions since the beginning of human civilization. A deep desire to learn where our species originated has lead humans to create many different religious stories and myths in an attempt to explain our origins. Because of the seeming complexity of human beings as a species, it is easy for us to imagine that our creation was guided by some kind of mysterious intervention by an all-powerful entity. But Is there any truth to the Biblical stories of our creations? Is there any scientific evidence that we were intelligently designed? Do religious theories about human origins really belong in science classrooms? This debate has waged on for over a decade.
The Kansas State Board of Education
Most advocates of intelligent design don’t usually completely disagree with Darwin’s theory of evolution. Instead, proponents of intelligent design tend to subscribe to the belief that human beings, as a species, are simply much too complex to be merely the products of random genetic mutations. Humans, these people reason, are too complex and too intelligent to have simply evolved accidently. Many religious advocates of intelligent design theory claim that human beings are too “exquisitely complex to have evolved by a combination of chance mutilations and natural selection,” (Wallis, 30). Intelligent Design advocates believe that a creator god guided human evolution in order to create us in his own image. This is similar to the beliefs of creationists, though creationists discount Darwin's theory of evolution in its entirety.
Proponents of intelligent design claim that an intelligent designer (“God”) must have been responsible for setting the stage for human evolution and for guiding the evolutionary process. Because of this marriage of religious ideas and scientific theory, many advocates of intelligent design believe that their religious-inspired "scientific" theories should be taught alongside mainstream scientific evidence in public schools. In 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education successfully changed the science testing standards through the Kansas evolution hearings (Wikipedia) to include intelligent design in the science curriculum of public schools throughout the state as an alternative explanation to natural selection and Darwin's theory of evolution. Some Christian parents and activists in the state likely feared that young students may abandon Christianity if they are presented with conflicting scientific points of view presented in science class (Beliefnet). It is understandable that religious parents may not want their children's religious upbringing to be compromised, but at what cost? But is it really a good idea for religious ideas to be taught in science classrooms? Luckily, in 2007, the board voted to reject the standards set in 2005.
Does Intelligent Design Have Any Scientific Credibility?
Opponents of intelligent design claim that the theory of intelligent design championed by many religious people has no scientific credibility whatsoever. The idea that human evolution was guided by divine intervention cannot be proven beyond reasonable scientific doubt. The aim of science education is to teach established scientific facts. According to David Thomas, president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, “[t]he intelligent design people are trying to mislead people into thinking that the reference to science as an ongoing critical inquiry permits them to teach ID crap in schools,” (Wallis, 33). Many critics of intelligent design refer to intelligent design as simply "creationism in a lab coat.” Critics of intelligent design also claim that “to point to an intelligent designer as the cause of certain biological systems is to abandon scientific inquiry” (Beliefnet). Further, “[t]eaching ‘intelligent design’ would violate the Constitutional separation of church and state,” ruled Judge John Jones. “We have concluded that it is not [science], and moreover that intelligent design cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents” (Gallagher). Since America was founded on an idea of separation of church and state, religion has no place in secular science classrooms.
Does Intelligent Design Belong in Public Schools?
The answer to this debate is very obvious. Since intelligent design has no scientific credibility, it should not be taught in science class, especially in science classes in publicly-funded schools. There is no scientific evidence to support intelligent design, and to teach such religious ideas as scientific fact goes against the basic goals of the educational system. While many religious people believe that their views are the absolute truth, there is no scientific evidence to support intelligent design, so it has no place in science classrooms. Science classes are not the place to debate religious beliefs and practices.
If intelligent design were to be taught in public schools, it should only be taught as part of a comparative religions class and presented as just one option out of many religious viewpoints that different cultures may believe in. One religion's beliefs should not be given more consideration in the classroom than another religion’s if we are to have a separation of church and state.
Though the religious right believe that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution, there is no scientific evidence to back up intelligent design. Publicly funded schools should not teach religious ideas presented as science.
Gallagher, Delia, and Phil Hirschkorn. "Judge Rules against 'Intelligent Design' in Science Class." <http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/12/20/intelligent.design/index.html>.
"FAQs: What Is Intelligent Design?" <http://www.beliefnet.com/story/166/story_16641_1.html>.
Wallis, Claudia. "The Evolution Wars." TIME 15 Aug. 2005: 26-35.
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© 2018 Jennifer Wilber