Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mr. President - Mr. Chips?

The Washington Post published an article on August 3rd reporting President Bush's statement that he believes Intelligent Design should be taught along side evolution as competing theories. His contention is that schoolchildren should have the benefit of learning both theories of how we became who we are.

Mr. Bush said:

"Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

So, our Commander in Chief is asserting his views as "Commander in the Classroom". Is he right or wrong? I think it all depends on how you propose teaching Intelligent Design.

Whether you fall into the camp of believing in Intelligent Design or in the camp of those who believe in Evolution, the issue is notwhether Intelligent Design be taught. The issue is Intelligent Design capable of being taught as science. Science, according to Webster's New World Dictionary is defined as: "Systematized knowledge derived from observation, study, and experimentation carried on in order to determine the nature or principles of what is being studied. A branch of knowledge or steudy, especially concerned with establishing and systematizing facts, principles, and methods, as by experiments and hypotheses." If Intelligent Design can indeed be taught as Science, then there is little problem I see in comparing the two theories. The problem, I believe is that Intelligent Design presupposes the idea that something or someone that we can never observe, study or experiment with to establish that as a fact a creator is responsible for the origins of life and the eventual establishment of all species and sub-species of all organisms. I believe it is impossible to prove factually the existence of this something or someone. Therefore, the idea that Intelligent Design can be classified as science is flawed.

Science is generally focused on discovery and accumulation of knowledge through experimentation, theorizing and investigation. Intelligent Design has its origins in philosophy. The idea of a creator is not new, nor is it the exclusive property of a particular religion or belief system. If one taught Intelligent Design, how would it be taught? What explanations would be provided that the Intelligent Designer used to establish life on Earth? Would it be the story from Genesis, ancient Persian stories of creation or Native American explanations of how we got here? It seems problematic to decide on one particular story for expediency sake and forsake the others. One would have to make a choice in which story would be most compelling. Since there is no way of determining by scientific method which story of creation or "design" is the best, we would have to select the one we would be most comfortable with. That, most likely, would be the Judeo-Christian explanation for creation found in the Bible. And since the Bible has little ability to provide data to prove factually that there is an Intelligent Designer, we are back to the problem again of whether or not this can be classified as science.

So, now we have to go back to the definition of science to make a determination of whether or not Intelligent Design should be taught in an equivalent manner to Evolution or any other scientific theory for that matter. I believe Intelligent Design cannot be taught as science.

At the end of the day, I believe Intelligent Design should be taught as philosophy. There is room in our curriculums for this as well as other philosophical thought. The ancient Greeks explained many things both physical and metaphysical through Philosophy.

Here's an idea. There is a way to deal with this however that would allow both sides of the debate to have their views and issues heard and an objective opinion formed as to whether or not Intelligent Design could be taught as science. The President should convene a "Blue-Ribbon Commission" consisting of top scientists from every field of generally accepted science. This would include Biology, Physics, Earth (Physical), Anthropological, Paleontologica, Archeological, Geological, Astronomy, Medical, and any other accepted scientific field. The members of this commission should come from the best universities across the world. Asian, African, American (North and South) and European scientists would listen to the proponents of both arguments and at the end of the debate decide if Intelligent Design can indeed be taught as a science. Science is not exclusive to the United States. It is not exclusive to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or any other religion. Science is universal (or at least global) and belongs to no one group. Pulling in the greatest minds of our time together to discuss issues such as this would be of incredibly benefit.

Let's stop the bickering and politicizing of education. It is too important an issue. Treat science seriously and let's figure out a way to teach both views but in their proper context.

Best Regards,


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