Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Intelligent Design Lost But Ignorance Remains High.

There are a few fascinating details about the decision by a Federal Judge to reject the teaching of “Intelligent Design” as an alternative scientific theory.
First, the judge - Judge John E. Jones III - is not some liberal activist who wants to destroy Christianity – he is a Republican appointed by President Bush and a Christian [albeit not of the fundamentalist kind – he is a Lutheran].
Second and more importantly not only did he give a number of legal arguments to show that teaching Intelligent Design was in “violation of constitutional provisions against the establishment of religion”, he also gave an abundance of logical arguments based on simple common sense, thus clarifying the boundaries between science and personal belief.
I am no scientist but it all seems to make sense to me and I think a few elements exposing the failing logic of those backing that Intelligent Design is a science are worth quoting.
Here are some of the major arguments he used in his 139 page-long judicial statement [available here in Pdf]:
  • science, by definition, deals only with natural phenomena whereas intelligent design invokes "a supernatural designer"
  • science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth.
  • an argument against one thing cannot necessarily be interpreted as an argument for something else. For example, the fact that the fossil record is incomplete is not evidence that human beings must have been created in their current form.
  • the acknowledgment by notable mainstream scientists of the gaps in the Theory of Evolution does not amount to a new theory of life's origins and development.
Interestingly, the judge also exposed in his ruling the deceiving strategy of some leaders of Intelligent Design:
Two of the most outspoken proponents of intelligent design on the Dover school board, William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, lied in their depositions about how they raised money in a church to buy copies of an intelligent design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," to put in the school library.
Both men, according to testimony, had repeatedly said at school board meetings that they objected to evolution for religious reasons and wanted to see creationism taught on equal footing.
Judge Jones wrote, “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the I.D. policy”. (NY Times)

While this is a great battle won against ignorance, the war is not over yet. Most polls show that between 40% and 55% of Americans favor “a strict biblical creationist view of evolution”. (Wash. Post)
As you can read in details here, this is precisely because of the “low information” level of the public when it comes to both the science and the politics involved (as other poll results indicate). There is also “some evidence that science knowledge is fragmented, with little integrated understanding of how human origins might be connected to other dimensions of natural history.”
In other words, it is the ignorance of what science is that seems to explain such appalling results. It says a lot more about [the failures of] high school education than about anything else.


At 18:52, Anonymous kstrygg said...

“a strict biblical creationist view of evolution” - what the hell does that mean?

At 12:03, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

It does look contradictory in terms. I'm not sure what they mean...
I can only imagine one should read "the biological origins of humans" for "evolution" or something like that...

At 04:27, Anonymous kstrygg said...

Point being, can you read anything into to the numbers of a poll that asks such an ambiguous question?
Personally, I would hesitate to do so. Polls are really only as clear and convincing as the questions they ask.


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