Intelligent Design bill in Missouri: My Response

I saw an alert from the National Center for Science Education that another bill has been introduced in the Missouri legislature to damage science education by attacking Evolution.

Here is the response I emailed to my Representative and posted on the Facebook wall of the sponsor, Rick Brattin (R-District 124).

Intelligent Design was proposed a few years ago as an alternative to Evolution after the Supreme Court ruled that Creationism couldn’t be taught. It’s essentially a way to insert Creationism under another label into public school curricula. This was demonstrated conclusively in a big court case in Pennsylvania a few years ago:

That ID is rebranded Creationism wouldn’t inherently be a problem for public school science education if ID presented any ideas that held up to scientific scrutiny. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. ID proponents have had more than a dozen years to demonstrate that their ideas have more predictive and explanatory power than Evolutionary Theory does, but they’ve never been successful. The closest they’ve come are with notions of “Irreducible Complexity” and “Specific Complexity”. Unfortunately for them, every example they’ve ever presented as an example of IC or SC has then been shown to be explainable through existing Evolutionary processes.

Further, IC and SC boil down to the idea that hard problems are hard, so we should stop trying to find answers to them. Instead of being an advancement of science, ID represents an end to scientific inquiry.

I care about science education, so this sort of interference rankles me. As an analogy, it would be the same as proposing giving 9th graders equal access to astrology and astronomy and expecting them to be able to figure out which is more likely to be true. Or asking 7th graders to be able to tell the difference between chemistry and alchemy when their teachers aren’t allowed to tell them which has evidence behind it. Or teaching 10th graders that the Holocaust might or might not have happened (and it’s just not fair to give evidence one way or the other).

Even with the failures of ID proponents to this point, that’s not to say they shouldn’t be able to continue trying. They should definitely keep trying. However, what they shouldn’t do is subvert the educational process by attempting to inject a failed hypothesis into science education.

The academic process is to test the frontiers of knowledge and develop and test new ideas in the post-graduate and professional ranks. When ideas have been demonstrated to be reliable, then they are taught to the lower levels of college and eventually to public schools.

This bill (and others like it) is an attempt to skip the line – to give a failed notion equal billing with a theory that has been tested and validated for 150 years and not give unsuspecting students the tools to tell the difference.

It’s not fair to science, and it’s not fair to the students.

About Lance Finney

Father of two boys, Angular/TypeScript developer, Ethical Humanist, and world traveler (when I can sneak it in). Contributor to Grounded Parents.
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6 Responses to Intelligent Design bill in Missouri: My Response

  1. Ken Totten says:

    I respect everyone’s right to apply faith towards science and religion and I feel it takes equal amounts to believe in evolution or ID. If we teach one we should teach the other.

    • Lance Finney says:

      I can’t agree with the notion that it takes equal faith to believe in two different notions when one is a full Theory with demonstrated explanatory and predictive power that has survived innumerable attempts to falsify it for 150 years, while the other is merely a hypothesis that can’t even propose a means by which it could be confirmed by evidence.

      Also, if we are going to take the perspective that teaching one idea means we should teach any idea, then how do we decide to exclude any ideas? How do we choose to include ID but exclude the Mayan and Hindu creation myths from biology class? By what standard do we exclude astrology and alchemy?

    • I’ve got to say that I’m with Lance here. While I respect people’s rights to believe as they will and even teach their children as they will, I don’t believe that something which does not have it’s basis in science should be given equal footing in a science class. If there were evidence to support ID in similar abundance to what there is for evolution (or in ANY abundance for that matter), then I would be alright with it being taught as an alternative theory. There just isn’t. As such, it doesn’t have a place in curriculum.

      Further, why is the legislature trying to codify the teaching of religion into law? Trying to call ID a scientific theory is just silly. It wasn’t inspired, constructed or tested via the scientific theory and is therefore just an idea. The equal footing argument is silly, IMHO. We don’t give equal weight to all ideas, because not all ideas are created equal. That is what science is for: separating the wheat from the chaff. I’m not necessarily discounting the idea of a creator here, but I am discounting the assertion that the idea of a creator is based in science. It isn’t. It’s based on religion and belief, which is fine…but that doesn’t earn it a place in science classes.

      I would also disagree that it takes equal amounts of faith to believe in evolution or ID. I don’t “believe” in evolution. After having heard many points of view on the subject, studying the science and looking at the world around me, I have chosen it as the best working hypothesis. There are a great number of things that we can’t “know”…but that doesn’t mean that choosing one over the other requires equal amounts of faith. When evidence clearly favors one idea, faith is no longer a part of the picture.

      Also, evolution does not preclude the existence of a creator, so I don’t really understand the push back against it by certain segments of society. From what I can tell, the only reason to fight evolution as an ideological issue is if you believe that the Bible is literal and inerrant…which is, from my perspective, a bit foolish. There are simply too many internal contradictions and implausibilities to take that idea seriously. Yet we cling to it as though we were going to be struck down just for thinking about the possibility that it may not be so. If we were created by God, then he jelly molded these brains in our heads so that we would use them…and that means being able to question the world around us. The Bible is no different. There have been more hands messing around in those words than most people even have an inkling of. So, questioning it’s words isn’t questioning the word of God. Rather, it’s questioning the motives and veracity of centuries worth of theologists, scribes and authors.

  2. Pingback: Another Embarrassment for Missouri | Lance's Blog

  3. Pingback: It’s Back… Intelligent Design Bill Reintroduced in Missouri | Lance's Blog

  4. Pingback: Editorial: Intelligent Design Bill in Missouri | The Ethical Society of St. Louis – To Seek the Highest

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