Design of the Times

Andover is an intellectual, renaissance-thinking, progressive, and rational community, where the science vs. religion debate seems archaic and outdated. Evolution is generally accepted around campus as a truth rather than just a theory. But science vs. religion is hardly dead. In fact it is alive and thriving in Pennsylvania as the Dover “intelligent design” case moves into its second week of hearings before the federal court. In this case 11 plaintiffs and former members of the Dover Area School District Board took the school district to court for teaching the intelligent design theory in high school classrooms. Intelligent design is a theory that accepts that evolution occurred, but claims that human existence could not have come about through random mutations alone: pure Darwinism. There are certain complex aspects of the universe that can best be explained by an intelligent cause rather than natural selection. Therefore, there must have been a Designer involved in guiding evolution. Many feel this is modern-day creationism, a topic banned from being taught in public schools in 1987. The case’s trial is two-pronged. Firstly, it must be proven that the actual theory of intelligent design isn’t religious in nature. Secondly it must be shown that the school board was not religiously intentioned when they included intelligent design in the school curriculum. But even if the particular school board members involved had ulterior motives, the intelligent design theory should not be kept from the classroom because it is not in fact religious in nature. Some complain that intelligent design “brings God into the classroom,” this does not however support the claim that it brings religion as well. God can easily exist in philosophy, independent of organized religion, and suggesting the existence of a higher power does not impose, promote, or inhibit religion. Since intelligent design is being taught alongside Darwinism as a theory, those who reject the idea of a God can simply dismiss this theory as well. They can make the choice to accept Darwinism as truth. Education should be about choice and thinking. Promoting and assessing new theories and making choices about what to believe based on their credibility forces students to think in an intelligent and critical manner. The trial aside, there are logical inconsistencies in intelligent design. With the media covering the Dover case there have been definitions of what exactly intelligent design is all over the radio, internet, and TV. The two different statements being circulated are similar yet they differ dramatically in their implications. The first is that humans are too complex to have been created through random mutations alone and therefore evolution must have been guided by another Designer. This interpretation should be allowed in classrooms. It is simply examining evolution and suggesting that there is another non-scientific source helping guide evolution. The second statement is more problematic. It proposes that humans are too complex to have been created through random mutations and therefore a Designer exists and He had a hand in evolution. The purpose of this statement is blatantly religious: to prove God’s existence using science. Not only is it theologically problematic to try to prove Gods existence in such a way, but it is also an unacceptable thing to teach in a science classroom. Perhaps these differences are simply the result of lax wording on the radio and in newspaper articles. Intelligent design should be taught. But it must be made clear that it should not be taught as an attempt to prove Gods existence, but simply to suggest that He may have had a hand in science for those who are already open to the idea of a Designer. Theories can be taught without being presented as truths. It is when people examine different ideas closely, weighing them against one another, and detect weakness that we truly learn how to think. This is the essence of education.