Monday, August 29, 2005

Nothing But Contempt

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design
Bring Back the Dark Ages

Recently three prominent Republicans stepped forward and endorsed the teaching of the "notion" of intelligent design as if it were the scientific equivalent of the theory of evolution.

President George Bush and Republican Senators, Bill Frist and John McCain all contend that it is the best interest of our children that they be exposed to different scientific concepts and ideas. Of course The Onion caught the idiocy of the Republican position. (And, we have to call it the Republican position, because the political promotion of intelligent design as science is almost wholly a Republican endeavor.)

"As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling."

The Republican acquiescence to the religious right's demand that their narrow interpretation of the Bible become the source of science education in America is a direct attack on not only our children, but on the future technical competitiveness of the United States in the world economy.

The idea that every scientific principle and theory must be vetted by religious authorities would be frightening if it were proposed to the public. Instead the same result is being achieved by allowing religious philosophy to be dressed up as science and presented in school as a viable, competing scientific concept.

"To formulate a competing hypothesis, you have to get down in the trenches and offer details that have testable implications. So far, intelligent design proponents have conveniently sidestepped that requirement, claiming that they have no specifics in mind about who or what the intelligent designer might be.

If intelligent design were a scientific idea whose time had come, scientists would be dashing around their labs, vying to win the Nobel Prizes that surely are in store for anybody who can overturn any significant proposition of contemporary evolutionary biology.

George Gilder, a longtime affiliate of the Discovery Institute - the conservative organization that has helped to put intelligent design on the map in the United States - has said: "Intelligent design itself does not have any content."

Since there is no content, there is no "controversy" to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrated?"

I'm sure that the idea of allowed intelligent design or creationism to be taught as alternative to evolution or earth science or biology or physics doesn't seem threatening to Republicans. When you look at the way the Bush Administration dismisses and diminishes any scientific evidence that does not suit its purposes, you can see how it is to their advantage that the general public not be educated regarding science and scientific methods.

The problem here is that this approach is degrading science education in public schools all over the
United States. It's not just Kansas where school boards are demand that intelligent design gets its own pages in the text books. Public school districts across the country are being besieged by the faithful flock of intelligent design advocates.

Perhaps more troubling is a situation in California where a private Christian school is suing the University of California (UC) over a decision by the UC system to refuse to recognize science classes at Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta as meeting the standards of the UC system. Joining the lawsuit is the 800 plus member, Association of Christian Schools.

According to the LA Daily Breeze,

"The Calvary school lawsuit complains that in January 2004, a UC official informed Christian high schools that two Christian biology textbooks are not acceptable, and that the science course outlines are "not consistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."

The lawsuit contends that the University of California is violating the free-speech provisions of the 1st Amendment by requiring that students seeking admission to one of its campuses meet basic standards of educational literacy, including literacy in "real" science.

"Opening a new front in the national debate over mixing religion and academics, a Christian high school has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the University of California system, alleging its rejection of the school's "Christian viewpoint" classes unfairly prevents students from meeting college admissions requirements

The textbooks in question for this "science" class came from the Bob Jones University Press. No doubt about their “fundamental” accuracy, but as to science, there might be some questions.

For example, the basic Bob Jones Biology text bills itself as achieving the following:

"While maintaining its focus on biblical integration, this two volume set covers cellular biology, genetics, biotechnology, taxonomy, origins, microbiology, botany, zoology, and human anatomy. The text also presents Christian positions on biotechnology, abortion, evolution, homosexuality, ecology, disease, and drugs."

The first unit in this text is titled, "The Science of Life and God of Life." Additional units cover topics such as "A Biblical Worldview", "Biblical Creationism", and "Noah's Ark and the Animals".

The current debate over teaching intelligent design as an alternate scientific concept in public schools has led to this. Now, private Christian schools are demanding that one of the nation's most prestigious university systems allow students to substitute classes in religious philosophy for the UC required courses in science.

Republicans have decided to pretend theology is science so that they can gain religious right votes and they don't give a damn about the consequences of their pandering.