Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Show Me

I can't seem to think of a good or clever way to start this post.

So, I'll just start it:

Is teaching Intelligent Design in a high school biology class fair?

Maybe (just maybe) Intelligent Design should be mentioned in a history class or philosophy class.

But, in my opinion, Intelligent Design should not come up in a science class.

At least, no one should be forced to teach ID as a scientific theory.

I don't mean to belittle history of philosophy with my previous statements. These subjects have a different emphasis that may warrant discussing a topic such as Intelligent Design.

But within the subject of science, Intelligent Design has no place-- especially if introduced as a scientific theory.

You know, an equivalent alternative to the theory of evolution.

Let me explain my point of view in a nutshell:

Science says, "show me"; religion says, "only believe".

Now, here's the long version of my point of view:

The word science has Latin roots which mean to know or knowledge.

Science sets out to learn what we don't yet know. Good science attempts this quest for knowledge while still realizing we don't (and probably won't) know everything. Also, science attempts to gather knowledge with the realization that we make mistakes and sometimes misinterpret our findings during our knowledge quest.

So then, a hypothesis should be thoroughly examined and supported by a wide range of facts before members of the scientific community accept it as a scientific theory.

And even after becoming a scientific theory, the idea should remain subject to scrutiny, modification, and even deletion should new facts come along.

But scientific theories are usually supported by a lot of intellectual substance. A hypothesis already has trouble becoming a theory. So, overturning a theory won't come so easily, either.

And, I will admit here that bias can interfere with this process.

However, the error-correcting mechanism that I alluded to beforehand is the overall goal of science.

And when the scientific world finally accepts an idea as knowledge or as a scientific theory, the proponents of such findings tend to stick to their claims.

At least, until better information comes along.

Such tenacity from scientists can sometimes be mistaken as dogmatism.

And I will also admit here, that sometimes it is dogmatism. But not always. Otherwise, we wouldn't enjoy the advances of technology that we have today.

The followers of religion tend to place faith within a scripture text whose interpretations and meanings can be quite subjective. Also, faith is often placed in a tradition with is passed along from parents towards their children or from proselytizing efforts towards a non-believer. The congregants of faith tend to share in the same traditions and teach new disciples how to follow the rules of faith. Yet these rules of faith, like scripture, are often subjective based upon the interpretations of believers and non-believers alike.

And some people are bold enough to forge their own religious faith from within their hearts. I admire this very much and find that a bravery goes along with doing such. But even here, such religious notions are subjected to the interpretations of the lone disciple.

For many religious people, the adherence to a religious belief becomes a source of knowledge. The belief itself becomes the evidence of an assertion or claim. And while one has a right to opinions and beliefs, this does not necessitate that such opinions or beliefs are actually right.

Or wrong, for that matter . . .

The tenacity that one has for his or her religious beliefs can often be admirable.

But when religious belief is treated as an absolute truth that everyone must follow (rather than an opinion or personal preference), such tenacity often changes from admirable faithfulness to religious dogmatism.

Now, don't get me wrong: you don't have to believe that life formed out of a soup of hot water and chemicals to accept evolution. And not everyone who believes in an Intelligent Designer rejects evolution. Many religious people with a deep sense of faith accept evolution. Evolution doesn't answer the questions about the origin of life-- only the origin of species. Evidence showing that life could have formed in a hot soupy mix is growing. But that notion still remains a hypothesis, unlike in the theory of evolution where one species slowly gives rise to another.

And since evolution is a scientific theory with a series of facts supporting it, teaching evolution in a science class (such as biology) is quite appropriate.

But what tangible evidence merits teaching Intelligent Design as a scientific theory in a science class alongside evolution?

The proponents of Intelligent Design theory often accuse evolutionists of dogmatism. They claim that evolutionists are biased towards Darwinism and only teach the theory because evolutionists constantly ignore the "other valid theories".

Like the Intelligent Design "theory", for example.

However, evolution has a wide range of testable, verifiable evidence whereas Intelligent Design has no evidence of any scientific sort.

Faith does not count as evidence in science.

I don't look down on anyone who believes that God created the universe. I don't look down on anyone who believes life originated through an Intelligent Designer. You can find good scientists who personally believe this way.

But to ask the students, teachers, and practitioners of science to treat Intelligent Design as a scientific theory is no more appropriate than asking religious followers to allow Darwinism into their Sunday School classes and pulpits as a "valid" explanation for the Genesis account.

Often, believers reject evolution theory on the grounds of their religious belief. As a result, many believers fail to see the evidence that supports evolution. And worse, too many believers (but not all) fail to see the difference between tenaciously supporting a scientific theory in lieu of a so called Intelligent Design theory.

Science will not accept Intelligent Design as a theory without some solid evidence.

While individual scientists may personally believe in a Designer or Creator, the discipline of science remains reluctant to simply believe.

The scientific method will always pose this same unwavering challenge:

Show me.
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