Dear Editorial staff of the Marshfield Times,
Should intelligent design be taught in school? Sure…it would be a great topic for discussion in a world religion class. However, it cannot be taught in a science class, nor should any religious ideas be used to censor and limit what is taught in a science class. This comes down to what science is, what intelligent design is and the separation of church and state.
When this issue has been legally debated, the courts have consistently ruled that intelligent design is fundamentally a religious idea that does not meet the standards set forth as science (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 2005). Science is the knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through replicable experiments and observation. Intelligent Design, much like Astrology, does not have the physical evidence to support or refute its central ideas.
If we broaden what we count as scientific exploration to include religious theory, how can we decide which religions qualify? This was a central problem that the Kansas Board of Education faced when they proposed giving intelligent design equal time with evolution a few years ago. Their proposal even spawned a demand for equal time from the Pastafarians who believe that we were all created by a flying spaghetti monster (Open Letter to the Kansas School Board from Bobby Henderson, 2007).
The American Academy of Religion is an association of over 10000 religious scholars and teachers who are “dedicated to furthering knowledge of religion and religious institutions in all their forms and manifestations.” They also posed the question, “Can creation science or intelligent design be taught in school?”
Yes, but not in science classes. Creation science and intelligent design represent worldviews that fall outside of the realm of science that is defined as (and limited to) a method of inquiry based on gathering observable and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. Creation science, intelligent design, and other worldviews that focus on speculation regarding the origins of life represent another important and relevant form of human inquiry that is appropriately studied in literature or social sciences courses. Such study, however, must include a diversity of worldviews representing a variety of religious and philosophical perspectives and must avoid privileging one view as more legitimate than others.
Until these ideas are discussed in the proper place, I consider myself lucky to have the freedom and ability to take my own children to a church where they can learn religious ideas while also being encouraged to critically examine and explore the world we live in. This article has made me think about and respond to this issue…and it definitely will affect how I teach this subject, hopefully for the better. However, it should be very clearly stated that it would be unfortunate for anyone to be forced to learn someone else’s religion in a required science class.
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