Intelligent Design: A Position Statement of National Council for the Social Studies

Compare the following article in the Christian Post and the Discovery Institute ‘spin’ with the actual statement by the National Council for the Social Studies on Intelligent Design

In the Christian Post article, Crowther is quoted suggesting that the NCSE and other supporters of evolution education have flip-flopped on the topic of whether or not Intelligent Design should be allowed to be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution in social science classes.

Crowther cited several examples from previous articles in which the NCSE and other supporters of evolution education proposed social studies as an appropriate forum for discussing non-Darwinian thoughts such as Creationism and Intelligent Design. Furthermore, Crowther suggested that critics of Intelligent Design have strategically misrepresented the scientific claim as synonymous to Creationism to exclude it from being taught in science classes.

While Crowther is still misrepresenting Intelligent Design as presenting scientific claims, it is clear that for all practical purposes Intelligent Design has been found to be lacking in scientific content (Kitzmiller) and that given its historical foundations, Intelligent Design is linked with Creationism

Judge Jones wrote:

In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Having corrected this minor confusion amongst ID proponents, I will now explore if the NCSE has flip flopped on the topic of teaching Intelligent Design in social science classes.

One need not go further than the announcement at the NCSE web site which explains that

After reviewing the legal background of efforts to teach creationism in the public schools, the NCSS statement specifically addresses proposals to teach creationism in social studies classes rather than science classes, observing:

In other words, while the NCSE left open the possibility that ID could be taught in social study classes, the NCSS’s review of the legal background combined with the recent attempts by Intelligent Design to ‘teach the controversy’ has led to additional guidelines

Social studies may, at first glance, seem to be a better fit for this approach to teaching intelligent design, but the same constitutional issues arise whether religious beliefs are taught in science or in the social studies curriculum. While the social studies classroom is the proper forum for the discussion of controversial issues, educators should be wary of being used to promote a religious belief in the public schools. **This unintended outcome can be the result of teaching students that a scientific controversy exists between intelligent design and the theory of evolution when, in fact, no such controversy exists.** 

In other words, just like the recent findings by the Council of Europe, the NCSS observed that social science classes need to avoid pretending that there is a scientific controversy between intelligent design and the theory of evolution.

Contrary to the claims by the Christian Post and the Discovery Institute, the statement still allows for the introduction of Intelligent Design in social studies

The NCSS statement acknowledges, however, that “there are a number of ways in which social studies teachers might introduce the issues surrounding intelligent design in their curriculum,” giving examples of constitutional, historical, sociological, anthropological, and public issues perspectives. None of them convey the misleading impression that there is a scientific controversy over evolution.

These areas include

The following recommendations examine the issues from a social studies, rather than a religious, perspective.

  • Constitutional perspective: A teacher using this approach would focus on court cases that consider policies requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
  • Historical perspective: A teacher adopting this perspective would focus on the historical conflict between science and religion since the Middle Ages, with particular attention to public debates over the teaching of evolution in the United States in the past century.
  • Sociological perspective: A teacher using this lens would focus on competing organizations and social forces involved in the attempts to teach about intelligent design in the schools.
  • Anthropological perspective: A teacher choosing this perspective would have students analyze creation stories and beliefs of many cultures as well as scientific theories dealing with the origin and development of human life.
  • Public issues perspectives: A teacher using this approach would encourage students to research intelligent design and debate whether intelligent design should be taught in the public schools.

Does this sound like a flip flop to you?

Remember what Crowther claimed

Crowther wrote:

“[A]fter endorsing censoring science classes and relegating intelligent design to discussion in social studies, the NCSE is now flip-flopping and praising censorship of social studies classes as well,” wrote Robert Crowther Friday on the blog for the Center for Science and Culture

You be the judge.

As to the claim that Intelligent Design has scientific relevance or that it proposes positive theories, it is sufficient to show the following data points

  1. Intelligent Design concludes ‘design’ when science is unable to (yet) explain or account for in sufficient detail, how a particular system arose. In other words, Intelligent Design is based on an argument from ignorance, where design is defined to be the ‘set theoretic complement of regularity and chance’, nothing more, nothing less.

  2. Intelligent Design proponents such as Dembski have conceded that design need not require an intelligent agent.

Nichols wrote:

Before I proceed, however, I note that Dembski makes an important concession to his critics. He refuses to make the second assumption noted above. When the EF implies that certain systems are intelligently designed, Dembski does not think it follows that there is some intelligent designer or other. He says that, “even though in practice inferring design is the first step in identifying an intelligent agent, taken by itself design does not require that such an agent be posited. The notion of design that emerges from the design inference must not be confused with intelligent agency” (TDI, 227, my emphasis).

Source: Ryan Nichols, The Vacuity of Intelligent Design Theory

  1. When asked for examples of how ID explains a particular system, ID proponents attempt to downplay the evolutionary explanations as ‘just so stories’ and ‘lacking in sufficient detail’ while also arguing that ID is not held to similar standards

Dembski wrote:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.”

  1. On ERV’s blog we find the following desrciption of Dembski’s ‘argument’

A student at the other mic chimed in, and they got Dembski to admit that no amount of detail would ever convince him of evolution. No matter how much evidence you had, he wanted ‘evidence + 1’. I shit you not, Dembski retreated to the YEC fossil defense– For every fossil you find, you create two more gaps. Dembski modified this to for every step in the evolutionary process science discovers, it creates two more half-steps to explain.

From a more recent posting we learn how Dembski avoided learning about a plausible evolutionary pathway for the flagellum

MASKED MAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!!!!!– Can I explain it to you? Would you put up your slide of the bacterial flagella? And I would be happy to explain this system to you.

**audience ROARS with laughter– seriously I about busted my eardrums on the audio**

Demsbki– I have colleagues who know this system as well as you do. Ive talked to them. I DONT NEED TO GET AN EDUCATION FROM YOU!

PS: The ‘masked man’ was Dr. Philip Klebba, Department of Chemistry and Biochemsitry at Oklahoma University.

And lets not forget the unforgettable testimony by Behe during the Kitzmiller trial

 Q. And I’m correct when I asked you, you would need to see a step-by-step description of how the immune system, vertebrate immune system developed?

A. Not only would I need a step-by-step, mutation by mutation analysis, I would also want to see relevant information such as what is the population size of the organism in which these mutations are occurring, what is the selective value for the mutation, are there any detrimental effects of the mutation, and many other such questions.

Q. And you haven’t undertaken to try and figure out those?

A. I am not confident that the immune system arose through Darwinian processes, and so I do not think that such a study would be fruitful.