Jan 24, 2007
The Intelligent Design and Anti-Evolution lobbies often argue that evolution is but a theory and that opposing theories must be taught in order to be properly scientific about the origins of the human race. Well, if its debate they want, then it’s debate they shall have. The Education section of the Guardian reports that the UK government wants religious education classes for 11-14 year olds to encompass the notion of intelligent design (ID) and to highlight texts such as the writings of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Galileo, and Charles Darwin.
It’s about time. While it is all well and good giving our children an education that offers them the opportunity to understand the traditional religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam etc – the only way to get a true perspective on philosophical thinking is to provide them with the perspective of those who have no religion.
“ID,” The Guardian says, “argues that the creation of the world was so complex that an intelligent – religious – force must have directed it.” The debate has been an incredibly contentious issue for scientists and “people of faith” in Britain and the US in recent year, with several education boards (Kansas in the US, Gateshead in the UK) famously scratching evolution from the curriculum because it is purportedly an “unproven theory”.
Scientifically speaking, evolution is a theory, of course and as all good scientists know theories cannot be proved. Science can only look for contradictory evidence that requires said theory to be refined or discarded if too many observations conflict with the predictions of the theory. Scientists are yet to find any such conflicting evidence when it comes to evolution. In contrast, there is much evidence that ID “as a theory” is wholly invalid.
Take the eye, for instance. How on earth could such a device have been designed and if it were, then why were so many variations developed from the simple light sensors of flat worms to the prismatic arrays of fruit flies to the honed sensors of the Golden Eagle?
Debate is a good thing and it is certainly a positive step to at least address the concerns of scientists about the degrading of evolutionary theory by the ID lobby, but there is the worry that 11-14 year olds who are not generally keen on science will become even more confused by the complexities of evolution as a sound explanation for the origin of species. It might even nudge a proportion of them to the far easier to understand fairy tales of benevolent sky gods.
How do you feel about this development? Does evolution have a place alongside Intelligent Design in religious education or should they both be kept for science lab debates?