Nov 9th, 2005 · Categories: Culture, science · No Comments

ACLU Follies: Kansas Board of Education gets it right

The Kansas Board of Education has adopted new standards for science education that will allow teachers and textbooks to finally acknowledge scientific challenges to Darwin’s theory of evolution – no religious challenges, just scientific ones. The ACLU really doesn’t want you to know that.

Like many journalists, John Hanna of the Associated Press followed the ACLU party line in reporting the story. The ACLU has manufactured a definition of Intelligent Design theory (ID) that suits its decidedly un-Civil purposes. The ACLU calls it “a pseudoscientific set of beliefs based on the notion that life on earth is so complex that it cannot be explained by the scientific theory of evolution and therefore must have been designed by a supernatural entity.”

The irony here is that this definition is a point of agreement between the ACLU and its bitter enemies, the “creation scientists”, who would like to see in ID a validation of their scientific claims. Creation scientists start from a more-or-less literal reading of the creation story in Genesis and conform their findings to that principle – a process called deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is a requirement for religion and useful for math and philosophy, but it is the opposite of science.

“Real” science

Intelligent Design theory is not a “set of beliefs” nor is it based on any “notion” about the complexity of life. It is a valid theory arrived at independently by scores of “real” scientists at “real” universities conducting “real” research in a variety of “real” scientific disciplines. ID is the product of open-ended scientific inquiry – a process called inductive reasoning that lies at the heart of the scientific method. Commenting on the ACLU’s attack on a similar rule in nearby Dover, Delaware, Philadelphia Inquirer writer Casey Luskin (who opposes rules that require public schools to teach ID) had this to say about ID:

It is no secret that intelligent design is a fairly young scientific theory, currently supported by a minority of scientists. But it is being debated by the scientific community. In the last year, three research articles have been published in mainstream scientific journals supporting design theory. In the last five years, three high-profile academic publishers – including Cambridge University and MIT Press – have published volumes with scholarly articles both pro and con debating the scientific merits of intelligent design.

Although the ACLU is not an organization I have much respect for, I will grant that they probably are smart enough to understand the merits of ID as well the academic publishers at Cambridge and MIT. Perhaps it is their legal training that keeps them from seeing how closely their straw man definition of ID resembles an outright lie.

Another irony

Many evolutionary scientists have created their own holy book that lays out the principles to which they must conform their findings. That book, of course, is The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Such conformity is the product of deductive, not inductive, reasoning. In fact, the only real difference between evolutionists and creationists is the book upon which they pin their hopes.

When we consider how the Roman Church responded to Galileo – a scientist who produced evidence that contradicted the Church’s scientific orthodoxy, we see a precursor to the modern reply to ID. The Church lost sight of its foundation by confusing its authoritative guide to faith and practice – the Bible – with a scientific textbook. Likewise, the 21st century scientific establishment has lost sight of its foundation by confusing inductive methods with deductive ones and has reacted in a way similar to the Church – with fear and an all-out campaign to suppress the evidence.

In the end, of course, Galileo and science won out. The Church is stronger for it because it has acknowledged its error and moved away from reliance on the Bible as an authoritative source of scientific information (a claim not found anywhere in the Bible itself). Similarly, ID may win out simply because it is a more viable explanation for some phenomena. If it does, science will be stronger for it, having been forced to return to its misplaced roots in inductive reasoning and the open-ended quest for knowledge that identifies real science.

In the meantime, it is a matter to be settled by open-minded scientists, not by religious leaders and not by ACLU lawyers.

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