The Kansas State Board of Education is debating its science curriculum again. So what does that have to do with students here in Indiana?
At issue, of course, is whether or not to water down the evolution curriculum by including the so-called “theory” of intelligent design. Intelligent design is a euphemism for creationism.
It’s important for Hoosier students because Kansas represents a microcosm of what is happening across the nation to one degree or another. In nearly half the states, 24 of them, creationists are making another push to be included in science classrooms under its newest guise of intelligent design.
In Kansas, a committee of the State Board of Education held hearings on the merits of intelligent design. It heard testimony from several supporters of intelligent design, but no scientists who support evolution bothered to show up. They claimed the hearings were a sham and that the committee had already made up its mind.
All of the four committee members were conservative Christians, as is most of the current membership of the board itself.
Those who support including intelligent design concepts in the science curriculum say that the universe is far too complex to have evolved without help from an intelligent designer. Although some of them support the scientific theory of evolution to a point, they do not believe that humans evolved from simpler creatures.
But mainstream scientists say that intelligent design is nothing more than the same old creationist viewpoint with a different name. And even most creationists admit that creationism is not a true science. It is founded in faith.
That’s fine. Religious beliefs are not supposed to be backed by scientific evidence. That’s the definition of faith, to believe without proof. In a country that holds its freedom of religion dear, everyone has a right to believe in whatever religious dogma they choose.
The problem arises when some of the more conservative members of the religious crowd try to wedge their perspective into the school curriculum by calling it science.
Scientists boycotted the Kansas education debate not because they do not like to debate evolution. Scientists debate evolution, and other scientific theories, continually. There are many debates raging in the scientific community over the finer points of the theory.
But they generally refuse to debate whether or not evolution is the cornerstone theory of biology, cosmology, astronomy, and geophysics. That is a given. It is.
So to the scientific community, there is really nothing to debate. Evolution’s evidence is strong and unwavering. And every new discovery in the fields of genetics and biochemistry add further evidence to the theory.
Additionally, scientists do not debate a theory if there is no way to prove the theory false. In other words, it has to be falsifiable. Since intelligent design cannot be proved false, because to do so would be to disprove the existence of God, which is outside the realm of science, then intelligent design is not falsifiable and, hence, is not a scientific theory at all.
What, on the surface, seems to be a reasonable compromise to the evolution-in-education debate, that intelligent design be included along with evolution in biology textbooks so that students can make an informed choice, actually isn’t reasonable at all when you consider that intelligent design isn’t really science.
Science follows a method. That’s how science is supposed to work and that is what should be taught in science classrooms. There are other means of answering big questions, but those other ways are not science. They may be philosophy or religion, and the answers might be just as profound, but they are still not science.
And so it is with intelligent design. It seems reasonable as an answer to how we got here for those who choose not to believe the scientific answer. But the concept of intelligent design is not science because the answer to the question of how we got here was predetermined, not divined by experiment or by collecting evidence.
And so even in the unlikely event that the theory of evolution is eventually falsified, intelligent design still would not win by default. It would simply be back to the drawing board to find another scientific theory that would work better.
Simply put, if the answer comes before the evidence, it is philosophy or religion, and any study of it in public schools must be relegated to those types of classes. But if the evidence is gathered before the answer is clear, then it is science and it can be included in the science curriculum.