Do not accept evolution on faith alone; give ID a chance
Over the last few weeks, Pennsylvania has received national media attention as the location of the Scopes Monkey Trial for the 21st century. A school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, has required that intelligent design, the claim that some components of living things are too complex to have arisen by random chance, be taught as an alternative to evolution. Unfortunately, in this case both sides have been espousing unscientific principles.
There?s a larger issue here, though. Opponents of intelligent design decry it because they see it as religion invading science and schools. Opponents of evolution feel that to say man arose through random chance means that man doesn?t matter. In either case, the issue is what role religious beliefs should play in public life.
Intelligent design is a theory. That said, it is more of a religious theory than a scientific one, since it cannot be disproved. The concept of falsifiability is part of the bedrock of the scientific method, and intelligent design fails on this front. This does not mean that it might not also be true; being unable to prove something true doesn?t mean that it is false.
Lucky for the proponents of intelligent design, its opponents are doing their best to get on shaky ground. The Associated Press reported that when Pennsylvania?s state board of education revised its standards three years ago, it avoided requiring students to consider evidence that doesn?t support evolution. This happened because ?critics alleged it would have led to the widespread teaching of creationism in public schools.? Unfortunately for those critics, accepting evolution or any scientific theory without looking at any evidence to the contrary is accepting evolution on the basis of faith, and is just as unscientific as intelligent design. Science advances by taking the information which doesn?t fit a theory and either changing the theory or explaining the evidence within the theory?s framework.
Let?s be clear from the start: Children should not be taught any particular religion in school. Teachers should be teaching facts, and being very clear about the difference between proven facts, like those found in mathematics, and those facts which have been generally accepted but are still falsifiable, like most scientific theories. On the other hand, they should not be prevented from participating in religious ceremonies and duties, or from spending time outside of the normal class day schedule with religious clubs.
In the past half-century, the pendulum has swung in favor of secularism. ?Separation of church and state,? a phrase that appears nowhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, has nonetheless been guiding public policy. The Declaration of Independence states that all men ?are endowed by their Creator with certain Inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?; the Founders understood that if these rights were based in Man?s laws, then Man could take them away. At its best, religion has provided for some of the crowning achievements of human history, including the end of slavery in most of the world (though sadly, not all of it).
By removing religion from public discourse, we end up with utilitarianism and other forms of moral relativity ruling the decision-making process. Basing the worth of a person on the work he can do as opposed to assuming the worth of the person a priori, it?s possible to start viewing people as sub-human, a view that has led to many atrocities in the past. Including religious beliefs as a part of public policy will continue to guarantee that such basic human rights will be preserved far into the future.