Teaching Evolution and the Challenge of Intelligent

The Georgia Journal of Science has published several articles about Intelligent Design presented during a 2005 Symposium titled titled “Teaching Evolution and the Challenge of Intelligent Design”

Teaching Evolution and the Challenge of Intelligent Design: A Symposium by John V Aliff Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse: A Closer Look at Intelligent Design by Barbara Carroll Forrest Countering Public Misconceptions About the Nature of Evolutionary Science by Keith B Miller Why “Intelligent Design” is More Interesting than Old-Fashioned Creationism by Taner Edis

In his introduction, John V Aliff, quickly settles the matter

Aliff wrote:

Intelligent Design theory is not a valid scientific theory for these reasons: 1.) Its hypothetical, intuitive and religious assumption of the intelligent design of complex systems is not testable or falsifiable using the scientific method, 2.) ID “theory” cannot develop hypotheses, and 3.) ID theory does not predict new discoveries as a true scientific theory does. More simply put, ID cannot explain natural phenomena beyond the intuitive and religious assumption that “God did it.”

Aliff wrote:

Barbara Forrest, professor of philosophy of Southeastern Louisiana University, has written and spoken extensively about the political machinations of the ID movement. Her book, Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (8) is an important contribution to the knowledge of the politics behind the ID movement. Dr. Forrest explained the scope of the ID movement and their political force, which in Kansas recently led to kangaroo courts (Darwin trials) that featured ID creationists.

Taner Edis, associate professor of Physics at Truman State University (MO.) and research associate of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,explained how the theory of intelligent design is scientifically flawed. He pointed out that Darwinian evolution (natural selection) has taken root outside the confines of Biology by moving into physics. Dr. Edis explained how both chance and necessity, in addition to natural selection, are vital to creativity in general. He has authored an important book on the topic of the symposium: The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science (13), and he has edited, with Matt Young, Why Intelligent Design Fails, A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (14).

The existence of God and the belief in a Creator cannot be tested or falsified using the methodology of science (6). Keith B. Miller is a research geologist (paleontologist) at Kansas State University and a Christian who has defined and defended the roles of science and religion in society. Dr. Miller and I made clear the value of science to describe nature using the evidence provided by nature itself.

As Judge Overton said in the 1982 Arkansas decision overturning a law requiring the teaching of scientific creationism, “creation science” was a “religious crusade coupled with a desire to conceal this fact” (6). The new ID creationists, like their scientific creationist forebears, attempt to disguise their religious and political motivations. The curricula of ID creationism and the olderscientific creationism are remarkably alike. Supported by illogical arguments, they are crescendos of erroneous observations about the meanings of the terms evolution and theory, as Massimo Pigliucci, evolutionary biologist of S.U.N.Y., Stony Brook, pointed out. Dr. Pigliucci’s book Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism and the Nature of Science (7) traces the roots of American creationism to populism, anti-intellectualism, and scientism (science as an exclusive ideology to explain everything in human experience) taught by some science teachers.

Aliff quickly shows why ID is scientifically vacuous, its main focus is not on doing science but rather on confusion, and political and religious propaganda

Offering only anecdotes and evidence by analogies (e.g., the irreducible complexity of the “designed” mousetrap conflated to apply to biochemical pathways), ID creationist publications, websites, and films use sophisticated propaganda designed to confuse the boundary established between science and religion by traditional academic disciplines (science, philosophy and theology) and the U.S. Constitution.

It’s time to ‘salvag[e] science education by correcting misinformation”

We must understand the motivation of the creationists. They have a deep emotional response to any information that is perceived to threaten their understanding of religious scriptures. Although it may sound ridiculous to many, creationist suspicions about the “evils” of evolution and its effects on society must be addressed specifically. Instructors of evolution should avoid the battle of literalisms: scientific literalism vs. scriptural literalism. Science should not be taught as an exclusive way of explaining everything (scientism), as most people need a comfort zone for their spirituality. Scientific theories should be presented as concepts that not only describe a set of discoveries but also serve as a way of predicting new discoveries and formulating new hypotheses.

As data have suggested, education is or should be the greatest enemy of the Intelligent Design movement. By showing how science proceeds from ignorance through hypotheses to knowledge we should contrast it with ID’s approach of hiding in the shadows of our ignorance. ID cannot survive without ignorance.

I will address the individual papers in a later posting.