Darwinism, Design, and Public Education
Michigan State University Press
January 1, 2003
Link to Original Article
This balanced volume contains essays by both supporters and critics debating intelligent design and whether design should be allowed in public school science classes. The scholars approach the question from the standpoints of constitutional law, philosophy, rhetoric, education, and science.
Legal scholar David DeWolf, and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, argues that teachers should have the academic freedom to teach intelligent design in the classroom because of its empirical, nonreligious basis. John Angus Campbell, Discovery Fellow, sees intelligent design as the pedagogical and historical antithesis to Neo-Darwinism, both of which must be taught if students are to properly understand biological origins. Pro-design technical arguments reach into many forums:
William Dembski finds that many scientific fields already use design reasoning to detect design via “specified complexity,” Stephen Meyer applies such reasoning to argue for design of the encoded information in DNA and the origin of life, while Michael Behe argues that irreducibly complex molecular machines were designed. Stephen Meyer, Paul Chien and others argue that there is design indicated by the rapid origin of the animal phyla during the Cambrian explosion. And Paul Nelson, and Jonathan Wells argue that design is the best explanation for homology and genetic convergence in biology.
Discovery Senior Fellow David Berlinski subtly divulges his “intellectual unease” with Darwinism. He begins, in his straightforward manner, by pointing out the inconsistencies of modern Darwinian thinking, addressing problems in the fossil record, language, information, and the nature of complex biological life. He poses the one question Darwin fails to answer, Why?, and is met with only “verbal shrugs” and vague confusion within the evolutionist camp. Rather than explaining the diversity and complexity of life, randomness presents Darwinists with the greater problem of its undirected “alien influence.” In the end, Berlinski writes that evolutionary theory is “in the doubly damned position of having compromised the concepts needed to make sense of life… while simultaneously conceding that the theory does little to explain them.”
CSC Fellow Walter L. Bradley’s contribution is incredibly relevant for the debate over Darwinism and education because it examines what high school biology textbooks actually say. Bradley, an expert on the origin of life, has the most accurate and straightforward assessment of leading texts and the different areas of science they teach. As Bradley illustrates, the picture these texts paint does not correspond with the evidence. From exaggerated experimental results to outdated atmospheric models, “the errors, overstatements, and omissions found in the high school biology texts we examined all tend to enhance the plausibility of [evolution]… [they] mislead students and impede their acquisition of critical thinking skills” (p. 218).
CSC Program Advisor Philip Johnson outlines the problem for arguing intelligent design is not one of a lack of evidence, but one of standing. That is to say, the problem is not that there is any deficiency of information to support the ID argument, but that a “materialist prejudice bars the door,” making it so that “advocates of ID cannot get a hearing regardless of how much evidence they have” (p. 550). After outlining the problems for objectivity in evolutionary science, Johnson explains the rhetorical strategy of the ID movement: “break through the materialist prejudice by separating the two components [the study of empirical evidence and the materialistic philosophy] of the contemporary definition of science” (p. 552). Johnson’s illuminating insights go right to the heart of why intelligent design is not accepted by the scientific elite and what must happen in order to change that.
Discovery Senior Fellow and science curriculum author Michael Keas opens up this chapter with a quote from the Scopes trial: “Evolution and the theories of evolution are fundamentally different things” (p. 135). This essay on the different meanings of “evolution” makes distinctions in order “to show that critique of evolution in one sense [does] not necessarily count as critique of evolution in the other sense. To assume otherwise would be to commit the logical fallacy of equivocation.” It is this fallacy that Keas combats in the teaching of science, helping teachers to make the distinction in order to help students “distinguish evidence and observations…from inferences and theories” (p.136). Keas then takes the reader through six different meanings for the term “evolution,” the most concerning being “The Blind Watchmaker Thesis,” which posits that evolution is an “unsupervised, impersonal” process. It is this definition that the National Association of Biology Teachers holds to be integral to their core, materialistic philosophy, and it is the conflagration of this meaning with the other, scientifically supported meanings which should concern educators and parents.
The balance in the volume is illustrated by numerous articles critical of intelligent design, who are not affiliated with Discovery Institute. Celeste Michelle Condit argues that the natural origin of rock bridges provide a useful analogy to defeat Behe’s arguments about the supposed unevolvability of irreducibly complex machines. Bruce H. Weber contends that we should not rule out evolutionary explanations, arguing that there are many promising accounts for biochemical evolution in the scientific literature. Massimo Pigliucci attacks the funding sources of design proponents and suggests that natural selection can produce specified complexity. Michael Ruse proposes that critics are far more valuable in intellectual debate than are friends, and goes on to call design “religion,” and explains that neither religiously oriented “popular” versions of Darwinism nor intelligent design belong in the classroom. Ruse contends that the science classroom should only teach “professional Darwinism.”
Other contributors not associated with Discovery include Mark DeForrest, David DePew, Steve Fuller, Eugene Garver, Donald Kennedy, Brig Klyce, Malcolm Lancaster, John Lyne, Gordon C. Mills, Warren A. Nord, Alvin Plantinga, William Provine, Marcus Ross, and Chandra Wickramasinghe.
Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins
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