Updated date:

Does Intelligent Design Have Any Place in Science Classrooms?

Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.

Understanding the natural world does not require belief in a creator.

Understanding the natural world does not require belief in a creator.

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 creation? 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.

There may be a time and a place to discuss intelligent design, but science classes in public schools are not it.

There may be a time and a place to discuss intelligent design, but science classes in public schools are not it.

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 accidentally.

Many religious advocates of the 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 craft 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 were 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.

Scientific advancement cannot rely on blind faith.

Scientific advancement cannot rely on blind faith.

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 with the idea of separation of church and state, religion has no place in secular science classrooms.

Scientific research is constantly improving our understanding of the world around us.

Scientific research is constantly improving our understanding of the world around us.

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 classes—especially those 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.

Even though science can't explain everything yet, made up religious ideas can never be allowed to replace observable facts when dealing with scientific observations.

Even though science can't explain everything yet, made up religious ideas can never be allowed to replace observable facts when dealing with scientific observations.

Works Cited

  • 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.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansas_evolution_hearings

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2018 Jennifer Wilber


Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on June 14, 2018:

I really don't think they should be separate because religion by definition is "a way life which teaches one the purpose of life" rather than it being a belief in a deity. What we call science is "the search for the composition of what is" so they are both a science of a type and should be taught together because they complement each other rather than oppose.

Jennifer Wilber (author) from Cleveland, Ohio on June 14, 2018:

I agree that they can teach (but not promote) different religions in school, but it should be separate from science.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on June 14, 2018:

Jenifer, School is defined as "preparing the masses to follow leadership even to their own demise like a school of fish will follow their leader into the mouth of a larger fish:" Education is defined as "encouraging objective observing, allow participating for discovering various outcomes, reasoning with the outcomes and being able to explain the findings."

Which of those definitions do you think will allow "seekers" to actually discover truth or "their truth"? I say the latter.

Which one do you feel will benefit the "military-industrial-compels" of the U.S. of A.? I say the first.

Which do you want for your child(ren)? I desire the one that free the minds from the concepts of good and evil or, as said in science, "it is or it isn't science."

What is science? Isn't it "the study of the origin of things"? Isn't words' understanding a science which causes one to form a picture based on the words definition that they may be able to compare with the various entities of the earth's composition for reasoning? Then why shouldn't the science of language not be permitted in a physical science room of instructing?

My findings are the nomenclatures of entities, such as plants, water, rocks and animals, have a verbal description for reveal certain understandings. Take a lion, for instance, it is called "king of beasts" so when we see the concept of a lion we are speaking about some exalted person or nation in religion. If we put it in a group of four as in the bible's lion's face, man's face, calf's face and a flying eagle as in Revelation 4:7. In that context the lion would be a man who is exalted above all other man, the man's face would be a people the lion consider lesser man, the calf would be man the lion prey on while the flying eagle would be man who had to flee to keep from being annihilated. Those definition for today's man would have Europeans as the lion who consider all Europeans "the first world," it isn't said but they consider Asians as "the second world," Africans are called "third world" and leave the Native Americas as the fleeing eagle or "fourth world" although they have no actual land anymore. [Goldie Locks and the Three Bears is another such version.]

With that said, I believe if a nation wants educated people they should integrate all possible curriculums in science classes for allowing an objective view of everything that can be studied. In that way, we should also study what relationship of the things man make have with man that the answer would be "a mechanical reproduction of man's various abilities."

So, yes religion and science belongs in the same class for, if nothing more, to expand our minds beyond good/evil, right/wrong, god/devil and the like.

Related Articles