Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Intelligent Design, Evolution, Whoop-de-doo
You know, I just don't understand what all of the fuss is about regarding the mentioning of so-called Intelligent Design theories when discussions about Evolution arise in our nation's schools.

Yeah, yeah. I know that Evolution is the one with all the cool fossils to see and that there is no proof when it comes to Intelligent Design. I also know that some scientists feel that without proof and without any means of testing a theory, a theory is considered bunk. However, not so long ago, the best minds in the world were convinced that the earth was flat, so I'm thinking we should be a little more inclusive in our discussions.

I wasn't raised by wolves, you know. I went to count 'em - nine public schools by the time I hit high school. During that time, I had a great number of teachers - some good, some not so good.

But there is a common theme to the vast majority of these so-called educators. They were there, not so much to "educate" but to indoctrinate. Yeah! That's right, I said it. So shoot me!

I was an exceptional student - practically a sponge - I loved to learn so much. It wasn't too long, however, before I started to notice that my father wasn't particularly pleased by some of the things I was being taught. And so, he set out to fill in where the teachers had left glaring holes in my education.

To his credit, though, he did not seek to indocrinate me to a particular way of thinking so much as he attempted to tell me the things, "the real truth," that had been omitted from my curriculum.

I will admit that early on this caused me some trouble. In the earliest years of education, they teach you that Lincoln freed the slaves and won the Civil War. It was my father who first informed me that freeing the slaves was not Lincoln's primary aim anymore than slavery was the cause of the conflict. We discussed economics, the vast differences between an Industrialized North and an Agrarian South, and the feeling of Lincoln that the preservation of the Union must be achieved at all costs.

We also discussed, at length, the Constitution, the founding fathers, the Federalist Papers, and the intent and motivations behind the words immortalized in the Constitution. He asked me what I thought and we discussed it. On the other hand, my teachers in school told me what they meant - with very little discussion. Now, I'm no brain surgeon, but I can think for myself. I can figure out what written words mean all by my little lonesome.

So naturally I butted heads more than once with the powers that be. They (okay not all of them) found my additions to the discussion to be disruptive and my views to "unnecessarily muddy the material." Soon enough, I learned to stay quiet about my views in the classroom. However, it wasn't always possible. I didn't want to be dishonest. So, if given an assignment to give a speech, pro or con, on some matter I often found myself on the opposite side of my teacher's views. I'd like to tell you that they only weighed the work and not the views, but I'd be lying.

You try giving a pro-gun rights speech to a liberal teacher who thinks you just grew horns and threatened to vivisect her with an AK-47. It can be tough to scrape by with a B, no matter what you do. They can't see past the viewpoint that they find offensive. Of course, that isn't the way education is supposed to be. It isn't supposed to stifle ideas or viewpoints, but serve as a cradle where such ideas are allowed to flourish and grow. But heaven help the fool who rails against the teacher's belief system.

You scoff, perchance?

Scoff not, ye young lads and lassies! I have proof. I am aware that in my Junior year of High School a good atheist friend of mine whored himself to our bible-thumping English teacher by discussing ad nauseum the biblical references in The Red Badge of Courage. And then? Then he asked about joining her early morning bible study. He wasn't a believer or a recent convert. Quite the contrary. He was quite vocal about how he was working her for an A and a good reference for a scholarship. I think this is tantamount to intellectual dishonesty and speaks to a level of hypocrisy and manipulation that I'm not comfortable with.

You think this is an isolated incident? POSH!

The same guy did it again the next year to another teacher, only in a different way.

In college, things only got worse. Really not a good idea to support the Second Amendment at the University of Illinois, not even if you bring into the argument your own near-rape. Do not, under any circumstances, defend the existence of Chief Illiniwek as the school mascot, lest you be branded a racist. Do not suggest that Ronald Reagan was a good guy, or that Nixon wasn't a bad guy. This is not the party line. You will suffer for it.

So, I say, let our children decide for themselves. Perhaps Intelligent Design can't be proven or disproven now. Perhaps Evolution is the real deal. But what does it hurt to expose our children to the entire debate? Can we not trust them to come to their own conclusions? If I had to sit through 4 weeks in a world history class listening to extended discourse on Islam in the 8th grade, including the 5 tenets of Islam, why can't today's students hear about the beliefs of some Christians as it relates to this issue? Learning about Islam didn't turn me into a Muslim. Being exposed to the idea of Intelligent Design isn't going to throw your child to the lions.

What's the big deal? Can't we trust our kids to decide for themselves?

My dad trusted me, and I turned out okay.
posted by Phoenix | 8:24 AM


At 1:55 PM, Blogger WitNit said...

I think that in science classes it's okay to talk evolution and not intelligent design, AS LONG AS the teacher does not bring theological statements in, like "Life is an accident" or anything making a statement about how life began. In other words, the class IS strictly scientific, and the genuinely scientific has nothing to say about the existence or non-existence of a god or questions of intelligent design.

Otherwise, they are the ones that are opening the door to intelligent design discussions.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger amelie said...

i JUST last night proofread a 6+ page paper by my roommate about the difference between the banking and problem-posing methods of education. the former is teachers telling you what [you ought to] think; the latter, teachers and students working together to formulate their own ideas. one leaves the student with a lot more creativity and allows them to hear all kinds of views on a subject -- really getting in depth. guess which one?

At 3:16 PM, Blogger amelie said...

oh, forgot to say thank you for the good post, coz!

At 3:39 PM, Blogger Phoenix said...


Your point is apt, but I'm not sure how practical it is. I mean, the whole point of evolution is the exposition of how we got here. To me, embarking on a study without discussing this is like opening a discussion of Reconstruction w/o discussing what caused it.... I would like to believe that teachers could do as you suggest and not introduce it with any non-theological statements, I just doubt their capacity to do so. I mean, my 7th grade textbook didn't even handle it correctly -- do they now?

But, I still say that if I have to learn about Islam in History, why can't they discuss a Christian belief in Science?

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Phoenix said...


You are most welcome.

You know, it has always been an interesting topic to me, the best way to educate children. It has always, for me, come down to getting the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and then providing the child with the tools to ask questions and find answers.

I believe that a child is much better prepared for life if he can question his mechanic, construct a cake, and determine how much carpet to buy, than if you simply lead him to believe he should blindly believe what he is told.

Are we raising intelligent human beings, or mindless drones?

I don't care if my kid likes to hang a spoon on his nose, but I do mind if he only does it because he's been told to do so.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger amelie said...

kudos to you, phoenix; you've got the right idea, methinks!

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Rix said...

I would support intelligent design so long as they don't just teach that the world is designed by a creator, but also that it could be designed by creators, plural. After all, why is the debate simply about monotheism and atheism. Do the polytheist not also have a right to have their theory espoused in science class? What about the Scientologist or Rayeleons? If you answer is "no," then that is proof that intelligent design is simply cover for Christian based creationism.

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Sailom said...

Science classes should talk about science and nothing else. Intelligent Design is creationism. Darwin's ideas are the cornerstones of biology. It shouldn't be presented by a teacher as a "theory among others" but as a starting-point for understanding modern biology. Religion is a private matter. Religious believes are only believes, they are not science.


At 1:41 PM, Blogger Jim said...

You didn't learn the five tenets of Islam in science class. As you say, it was in History. Learn about or discuss Intelligent Design in history or philosophy.

There is no "entire debate" here. There is science (a theory is not a guess), and there is belief (faith is not a theory).

While there is much to criticize about our educational process, citing the Lincoln-Civil War-Slaves example is a poor choice. Anyone who studies the issue beyond grade school learns that the issues involved in the Civil War were complex. But you don't teach a kindergartener why she percieves something to be the color green. You teach them simply to distiguish green from red. When they are capabale of understanding the physics and biology of color perception, then they will be taught that.

At 1:02 PM, Anonymous a-[e] said...

I agree we should be educating children as critical, independent thinkers and not spoon-feeding them an agenda. Forcing the inclusion of ID into science classrooms harms that goal.

The controversy everyone is talking about is entirely a high school classroom controversy. Evolutionary scientists don't take ID seriously. Its proponents have failed to operationalize their theory and use it to do science. This is why ID'ers need school boards and activists to popularize their ideas. Science journals aren't publishing their nonsense. What message does this send to students when we circumvent normal methods of science and scientific evaluation in favor of political activism?

If the goal is to provide a science education to students, what message do we send when we include non-scientific worldviews as science? How are we teaching them to think in a rigorous manner if we show them it is ok to throw out scientific methods if your pet "theory" isn't adaptable to testing?

Why should science, as a discipline, be expected to disregard and throw out its very successful methods in favor of religious & political pressure? How can we have *thinkers* when we toss out standards for actually testing and verifying our propositions?

Inclusion of ID into pubic school curricula is a terrible idea. It wouldn't be teaching a controversy--it isn't a science controversy--and it wouldn't make students better thinkers. It would be needlessly watering down science education to make activists and the apathetic happy. That isn't how science is conducted and it shouldn't be taught that way.

--sorry for so long a comment--


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