Monday, October 10, 2005

St James Ethics Centre Poll

The current St James Ethics Centre Poll asks:

"Do you think the theory of Intelligent Design should be taught in schools alongside the theory of evolution?"

There is a discussion taking place here, but - given the feelings of various contributors here abouts - Dialectic might provide a better forum.


MH said...

The first issue that needs to be settled is what constitutes 'alongside'. Yeah this is pedantic hair splitting, but it is important. If 'alongside' constitutes teach ID theory in science alongside evolution, then it is a different problem to 'alongside' where (drawing from my experience) there was a period when I had a period on evolution (in Science) and then had a period on creation myths, especially the 'Genesis' versions,in Studies of Religion.

Samuel Douglas said...

The 'alongside' issue is an important one, as how this is treated is indicative of what is the goal of introducing this theory into schools.

Most people would assume that I'm againt the teaching of ID in schools. But that is not completely true. I am very much for encouraging philosophical thought in younger people. If the move to teach Intelligent Design was structured to that end, I would be for it.

Paul Feyeranbend said (paraphrased) that if evolutionary theory couldn't compete with creationism as a theory, then it needed some work. I am all for rigorous elentic testing of theories, and evolution is no exception to this.

But these two examples are not how Intelligent design would be taught. There are already private schools where evolution is taught alongside religous instruction with little or no detrimental effect on the academic performance of these students. But there are also private schools that won't even offer HSC biology due to the 'evolution' component of that course. I am worried that it will be the latter of these attitudes that will attempt to influence and inform how ID would be taught in schools.

So my short answer: If Intelligent Design is taught in a way to encourage philosophical enquiry, then I would cautiously support it. But I doubt that is how it will be taught. As a ideological sleight of hand to help give scientific legitimacy to a particular worldveiw, I condem it.

Samuel Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Samuel Douglas said...

For example, would teachers acknowledge the limitations of this argument? Any flaws within the ID argument aside (and there are plenty) it is a very big step, an leap of un-reason even, from:

1. "There is an Intelligent Designer"
2. "There is an Intelligent Designer and they are God(Our God, not yours)"

Number 2 is how some people would like to, and already do teach ID. That is their choice. But the 'science' of ID ends at number 1. Anything further than that is based in faith, and should not be dressed up as something that it is not.

For an entertaining illustration of the shortcomings of Intelligent Design I recommend the Flying Spaghetti Monster page.

My post on the FSM also has some points worth considering. (Apologies for the shameless self promotion).

David said...

I doubt if the "science" of Intelligent Design can be said meaningfully to extend even to a statement of the type "Does the world show an intelligent design?"

Someone would have to come up with a criterion distinguishing between "the world as we are able to understand it" and "the world as it is." Good luck with that. The former is going to be ID by definition, since ID is by definition what we mean by understanding. I.e. everything looks intelligently designed to us because it's filtered through our brains, which can do no other.

A better tack is to evaluate theories in terms of explanatory power. Materialism can explain every tenet held by the ID folks, but ID cannot explain every tenet of materialism.

Samuel Douglas said...

Since I can't work out how to edit my comment, you will just have to suspend disbelief and pretend that I actually wrote "Feyerabend", rather than "Feyeranbend".