Keep Intelligent Design Out of Science Classes

Good education doesn't expect students to choose from a smorgasbord of ideas. Teach the best science we have: evolution.

BY: Michael Ruse


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I believe that there is an even greater tie between creationism and ID. Both groups worry about right living--"moral values," in today's jargon. Traditional creationists like Henry Morris and Duane T. Gish are explicit "premillennial Dispensationalists," meaning that they think that Jesus is going to return soon, lead the troops at the battle of Armageddon, and then rule the earth for a thousand years before the Last Judgment. This means that all human efforts at progress are pointless. Better to concentrate on personal purity and converting people, so that God will be pleased with you when he returns.

Some ID folk (the philosopher of science, Paul Nelson, for example) share these eschatological views. Most do not. But they do seem to agree with the creationists that moral values are the real issue, and that evolution points to a different--a wrong--kind of future.

Again and again, ID writings go off on moral crusades--moral crusades in the direction of traditional evangelical Christianity. Johnson particularly is always fulminating against modern society--divorce, single mothers, kids in jail, homosexuality, cross-dressing (a particular Johnson bugaboo), and more.

Turn now to the second question. Should this sort of stuff be taught in schools? I do expect morality to be taught, or at least I expect the kids to leave school with a sense of moral values. I do not share all of the ID values--I think gays are just regular people--but I recognize that Americans have different values, and I can see that schools should try to reflect this a bit. I do not want everyone in Kansas to come out a bigot, but obviously teachers are going to reflect their societies. Overall, I want teachers to teach children the worth of every human being and the common decencies that go with that realization.

I am quite happy with the teaching of ID in courses on religion--not theology, but comparative religion or world religion. In such classes, ID would not be taught as the truth, but as a system to which others subscribe. Personally, I think that we have a crying need for courses in comparative religion. I want to see various kinds of Christianity covered, but also other religions. In this day and age, I think every American child should have at least a nodding acquaintance with Islam, so that we can know what people in Iraq and Iran and Afghanistan truly believe.

However, I argue strongly against teaching ID in biology classes in state-supported schools. If people want to do this in privately funded religious schools, well, that is one of the costs of democracy. But state schools are another matter. In 1981, I went down to the State of Arkansas as an expert witness (in the philosophy of science) to aid the ACLU in a successful attempt to beat back a creationism-friendly law. I would do the same today to beat back an ID-friendly law.

Why do I say this? Why should my beliefs--my evolutionary beliefs--be given unique status in biology classes? First, because teaching an essentially religious theory like ID--outside of the "comparative religions" scenario I've described--is illegal. ID is religion carefully disguised as science to get around the Constitution--that is why ID supporters rarely talk explicitly of God--but it is religion nevertheless. If the Supreme Court rules otherwise, then that will not be the first time that the Supreme Court has been wrong.

The case against "teaching the issues"

_Related Features
  • Humans Are Better Than Monkeys
  • FAQ: What Is Intelligent Design?
  • The Problem with Intelligent Design
  • Continued on page 3: »

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