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Anything that smacks of religion, in particular, Judeo-Christian religion. They are afraid of absolute values. They see the religion in Intelligent Design and circle the wagons. Never mind that teaching what other sides have to say on an issue will potentially strengthen ones own side since the presentation is under ones control.

Part of the problem also is that by teaching two different approaches to evolution and creation, one must then be prepared to discuss them with the class. Based on my experiences with science teachers in the last ten or fifteen years, that expectation is beyond even Don Quixote. They barely can explain the book.

Of all the religious-backed views of creation, ID has the most going for it, though I don't agree with it. I see nothing wrong in presenting both views with both their strong and weak points and letting it fly in discussion. But then most teachers probably have no idea of what constitutes a proper argument either, which knowledge is necessary to monitor or facilitate a discussion.

To steal a quote, "First, let's close all the public schools."

Peg K

Bill - I wish I could find something with which to argue in your comment.

"Boy, those public schools; they're sure doing a bang-up job!"

Unfortunately ... I agree all too whole heartedly....


"Afraid" is pejorative. 'Concerned' would be more appropriate. What I am concerned about is the dimunition of the value of science, properly applied, to public discourse. Consider: John Edwards made lots of money based on a scientifically unsupported (and now proven to be false) proposition about cerebral palsey. He played to a scientfically illiterate jury. People make life-altering decisions based on astrology, tarot cards, and schlocky TV infomercials. Wholly unsupported conjectures about fetal stem cell research were foisted without question in the past presidential campaign on a gullible public. These are not good things. Scientific literacy is essential to the functioning of modern society. Intelligent Design conjectures are in no way scientific. Including technical nonsense like ID in a science curriculum dilutes and confuses the essential knowledge that should be in the course. Serving nothing but Twinkies and Cheetos in the school cafeteria would be less damaging to the student's physical health that inclusion of non-science in a science course does to their intellectual health.

I note that, rather than meet the criticism of ID being non-science head on with a scientific argument, you have resorted what is effectively an ad hominem falacy; "what are you afraid of".


Wayne, if the purpose of public school is to shove an orthodox set of facts down everyone's throats to be regurgitated on tests and hopefully remembered after graduation, then you would be perfectly correct, presenting ID would dilute the cirriculum. However, if schools are supposed to teach how to think, then the presentation of two conflicting arguments is one of the best ways to develop critical thinking skills.

With respect to your last paragraph, I think you miss the point. Peg is not trying to criticize ID, she is criticizing those who refuse to allow it to be taught. In this case it is not an ad hominum argument, because it does indeed appear that there is a fear of any information other than the prescribed politically correct stuff.

Pure orthodoxy in teaching creates sterile, rigid minds.


Science is not a set of facts. Science is a process, a discipline, a method for determining facts. The facts are the result of science. The development/presentation of ID does not follow any scientific process. It is presented as a set of 'facts' to be accepted as an alternative that is just as good as the facts from the science of evolution. ID supporters are the ones who appear to be trying to "shove an orthodox set of facts down everyone's throats", as you put it.
I have yet to see a defense of ID as a scientific theory put forward here (or anywhere else, for that matter). There is no argument in favor of ID carried on at the technical level, only at the political level (ever hear of Lysenko?). So yes, the categorization of those who oppose the teaching of ID in a science curriculum as being driven by fear is, in fact, ad hominem.
B.t.w., I'm not anti-relgious (I'm aggressively wishing people a 'Merry Christmas' this year instead of 'happy holidays' (what happens when the anti-religious bigots find out that 'holidays' comes from 'holy days'??). I am concerned about the state of scientific literacy. ID, being creationism dressed up in pseudo-scientific garb, belongs in a comparative religions course (which we have too little of in schools), not in a science curriculum.
Can anyone tell me why ID is sound science, not politics?

Peg K

Wayne - facts are absolutely NOT the result of science.

The facts are the facts - just as they would be whether humans existed or not, or whether anyone engaged in scientific discovery or not.

Science is the process of learning about these facts, then applying theory to make sense of what is.

And not all science is verifiable in a lab or a test tube, as you seem to imply.

Here's a little explanation of science that I found on the 'net:

Science is applied or pure. Applied science is a knowledge of facts, events, or phenomena, as explained, accounted for, or produced, by means of powers, causes, or laws. Pure science is the knowledge of these powers,causes, or laws, considered apart, or as pure from all applications. Both these terms have a similar and special signification when applied to the science of quantity; as, the applied and pure mathematics. Exact science is knowledge so systematized that prediction and verification, by measurement, experiment, observation, etc., are possible. The mathematical and physical sciences are called the exact sciences.

Theoretical science, however, deals with that which cannot be verified in the same manner as the exact sciences.

I am not fluent enough in science to tell you why ID is "sound science". I do, however, know from my philosophical studies that there is at least theoretical weight to such arguments, and that they do relate to what can NOT be verified in the so-called "hard" sciences.

If ID is merely a front for some religious beliefs that have no founding in logic nor in empiricism, then those who attempt to teach it will soon get shot down.

I happen to believe that, at the least, there are those who have rational arguments in favor of why ID MAY well be the case.

Thus, even if I think that they ultimately are incorrect - or if there are competing theories that win out - I happen to believe that the ID proponents at least should have the opportunity to argue their case in an educational setting.

There is much in what is today considered the "hard sciences" which was viewed many moons ago as you today view ID.

Thus - I am a proponent of allowing a school to be a marketplace of ideas, with the strongest ultimately winning the minds of the students to which they are being argued.

Fr. Matthew K

If Intelligent Design is not science then neither is Darwinism. The two sets of theories have much in common. Neither one deals with the kind of objects where one can go into a lab and run tests to prove or disprove the latest theory. That is why there is so much confusion and debate over evolution - it's not hard science.


Your first point, "facts are absolutely NOT the result of science" is merely a semantical correction of my post. I should have said that it is our knowledge of the facts that is the result of science. My point was that the teaching of facts is not the same as the teaching of science if they are divorced from the process by which they were obtained. (This was in response to the assertion in a previous post that the teaching of science consisted of cramming facts down student's throats.)

Your claim that theoretical science cannot be verified is simply untrue. General relativity (to take a famous example) was purely theoretical when first postulated by Einstein. In a very clever observational experiment, the bending of the light around the sun by the gravitational field of the sun was observed during a solar eclipse. the observations closely matched the prediction of the theory and showed the predicted large deviation that would have been expected from a non-relativistic theory. In short - the theory was used to make a prediction of a previously unobserved event and the observation was then made and compared to the prediction. If the observation had not agreed with the theoretical prediction, then the theory would have been shown to be false and would be rejected. Thus, we have an exact science (physics) in a theoretical construct being rigorously tested - completely at odds with your categorization of pure, applied, and exact science.

Central to the non-scientific nature of ID is that there are no such predicitions, no such tests that can be made. If there is no way for the 'theory' to fail, then it is not a theory.

Note that the test did not involve a lab or a test tube. Many sciences are observational (my background is in physical oceanography - it's hard to get an ocean in a lab). That does not invalidate them as sciences or eliminate the ability to test theories.

The epistemological problem is that without a way of testing the 'theory', there cannot be a way for it to "be shot down". Darwinian theory is, indeed, testable, although many of the observations will come from the historical record rather than a lab. Predictions have been made on both the short time scales (there are famous observations of moths in England responding to trees being covered by soot and of dandelion heights responding to mowing patterns) and the long time scales (from the fossil record showing the progressive changes in species characteristics).

Evolutionalry biology is thus is a 'hard science' in terms of being falsifiable. ID is not. The confusion cited by Fr. Matthew arises from mischaracterizations of both Darwinian theory and ID.

Peg, you wish for a marketplace of ideas (implying competition). To be scientific, the competition must take place on some basis other than polemics. The only refutations I have encountered to evolutionary theory have been of the type 'I don't see how it could have happened that way' - none have been on a theoretical testing basis. Converesly, the only arguments (neglecting the 'they're afraid of us' whingeing) in favor of ID have been of the nature 'it must have been this way' - again none have been based on tests of theoretical preditions. ID is not a scientific theory. Please prove me wrong, if you can, by positing a testable theoretical prediction.


Wayne, you are working to change the basis of the argument. Instead of answering the question of why ID should not be discussed or taught, you simply try to catagorize it as non-scientific and then exclude it from the teaching of science.

The history of science contains many ideas that were thought to be true that later were found to be not true. But if you want to use the falsifiability test, then evolution does not completely pass. Despite your illustrations of some of the mechanisms of selection being demonstrated, you cannot show that the entire evolutionary chain is falsifiable.

Historically species have seemed to evolve from common ancestors on the basis of a variety of tests, morphological and chemical (DNA comparisons). But the theory of evolution is simply a construct created to account for these observations. Of itself it rests only on the known observations.

The foundation of evolution, that life came from non-living material is much more contentious and so far is not falsifiable. I personally think that it is possible, but I am not so ideologically blind that I think the speculative mechanisms that pre-biotic chemists have found are indeed a demonstration of the validity of this premise.

Let us return to the issue of teaching ID in schools. If all you want is theory in the nature your definition of science to be taught, by all means start a school and teach it. However, I return to my premise that teaching ID is not necessarily a waste of time for many reasons, if nothing else to show that plausibility does not create proof--ironically enough, the same issue that lies at the foundation of evolution theory.

For all the discussion of ID as a science, and what constitutes a science, Peg's original question is not answered. I state that to ignore ID rather than showing it for what you claim it is, is evidence of fear. If ID is not valid science then it should be discussed as such not simply ignored.

Wayne, I am a scientist (PhD, U of Okla, 1969). I was trained as a chemist and have studied all of the quantitative, and many of the descriptive sciences. I am fully aware of science as a process that provides us with knowledge. I have taught jr high and high school students, as a guest lecturer and tutor. However, as science is taught today in schools, it is nothing but a collection of facts that are regurgitated. I would be more impressed if there were more of a discussion of what makes science science and less of a cataloguing of the content of science. As science is taught today, students come away with no idea of how it applies to their world or the world of politics. Because of this they are prey to every fear monger that pops up with a pseudo-scientific argument.

Your belief that only "true science" should be taught simply continues that ignorance.

The burden of proof is not on Peg to demonstrate ID as science, the burden of proof is on someone to show that the refusal to discuss ID is not fear.


I do not believe that your opening statement says what you intend it to. The direct implication of your words is that material that is wholly irrelevant to the course should be taught in science classes (excluding non-science material from a science class seems reasonable to me). Shall we discuss alchemy in chemistry class? Whether a non-scientific topic should be included in a science curriculum is the central point of the argument - I am not changing the basis of it.

Saying that not all aspect of evolutionary biology theory have been tested is not the same as being able to say that it is not testable. General relativity (to use my earlier example) was untested in 1916. However, it was testable (and has since then ben tested satisfactorily). A further point to be made is that relativity theory did not invalidate Newtonian mechanics (F=ma still works great at less than 0.9 c!), but showed that the validity of the earlier theory was bounded. That 'classical' Darwinian theory may have limits does not invalidate the fundaments of the theory. Yes, many technical beliefs have been proven false over the years - that is why testability is an essential element of scientific theories.

Your assertion that evolutionary theory was constructed to account for observations is correct. Most theories are developed exactly that way (cf. Isaac Newton). Your assertion that there have been no predictions made from evolutionary theory that have then been subjected to observational confirmation is false (see just about anything by Richard Dawkins, among others).

You misinterpret me with your assertion that I seek only a theoretical presentation in schools. Factual knowledge is also required in many instances to be actionable. However, the source of the facts, the method by which they were derived, is essential to the understanding of why they should be given credence.

I am in full agreement with your statements about the state of science education today - it is generally wretched. Of course, that is why I am opposed to polluting it further with discussions of non-scientific topics that are irrelevant to an education in science, such as ID. If you insist on labeling that as a "fear", then at least agree that my "fear" is based on a concern that our education system will produces citizens who are unable to identify technical rot. Such a populace is then prey to purveyors of miracle cures, instant weight loss products, astrologers, UFO aliens, etc. You seem to agree that a populace unarmored against pseudo-science is at risk. ID is, at best, a pseudo-science. Inclusion of it as though it were a respectable technical discipline does not help. I would only support the inclusion of ID in the curriculum as a counter-example to show why it should not be given credence. Since such a presentation would not be politically posible, I cannot support its inclusion at all.

Those who argue for the inclusion of ID in a science curriculum have the onus of presenting it as a science. An ad hominem "you're just afraid of it" argument is not a basis for a decision to include it.

You make the proposal that the question of whether ID is a valid science be discussed. It has been. Extensively. I take issue with those who refuse to accept the clear conclusion that it is not a science (as I am doing here). There is no ID theory in a techncially meaningful sense. Unfortunately, the discussion will have to continue as long as enough political agitation to include this non-science in a science curriculum continues.

Still waiting for a technical (i.e., non-political) defense of ID as science, ...


Wayne, the issue may be framed as follows:

1. Science classes should teach only "true" sciences as defined by the scientific method and falsifiability.
2. ID is not a "true" science and is not falsifiable.
3. ID should not be taught.

You ask for a negation of 2 as being the only way to falsify 3. For the record, 2. is a valid statement. but that does not necessarily mean 3. is valid. I am saying that 1. may not be true and therefore 3. should not be true. Further, I am saying that teaching something does not mean for approval and acceptance but rather for presentation and understanding.

If we are arguing the validity of 1., you have already assumed it, and then spend your energy asking for a denial of that which you know to be objectively true. What Peg and I, and originally Ally are saying, is that the presentation of ideas that have either in the past been shown to be non-scientific but once were believed to be, and presenting modern ideas that are non-scientific but need to be shown to be, is valid and perhaps a very good method of presenting science. By showing why some things are not valid science, one teaches how science is done, by invalidating what went before. In the case of things presented as scientific that are invalid, showing how they are not is good training for how to spot and invalidate other theories. From my viewpoint, it is more important to provide some means and method of judgment than to provide a great compendium of facts and current theory, that sometime in the future will be outdated.

You may continue to wait for a defense of ID as science; you won't get it. You will continue to get arguments for ID being included in science classes, if for no other reason than it presents an excellent counter-example of valid science that is plausible because of its selective use of findings from valid science.


Thank you for the agreement that ID is not and should not be considered to be a science. Your presumption of my premise that science classes should include only actual science is correct, but your postulate #3 is incorrect, insofar as my line of argument is concerned Go ahead and present ID in schools (along with mythologies from other religions - I've always liked the elephants on the back of the turtle one). Just don't do it in a science class where it might be perceived as a valid scientific theory. Since it isn't one, that would, at best, confuse the students and is more likely to lead to false understandings of both science and of reality.

Should Oliver Stone or Michael Moore films be shown in history class? If any of their productions were to be presented in a forum in which the recipients might be erroneously led into believing that the films present an honest view of the historical events, then the education of the populace would have been compromised. Similarly, non-science should not be presented in a forum where it could be mistaken for valid technical information.

The suggestion in your final paragraph of using ID in science class as a counterexample could be regarded as a stalking horse to get ID into the science curriculum. Having succeeded in doing that, certain backers of ID would certainly insist that is be given equal stature w.r.t. validity as evolutionary theory. I'll not accuse you of such duplicity, but surely you can think of more than a few folks who would. Just think of those who denegrate evlutionary theory as 'just a theory', thereby demonstrating a clear lack of understanding of science, and a hearty politcal bias.

To avoid such an unfortunate pollution of the science curriculum, we have an excellent alternative in the theories of Lysenko, which were driven by political considerations as much as ID is (although from the left rather than the right), but has the added advantage of at least having been posed as actual scientific theories. (And in physics class, we have phlogiston theory.)

I conclude that the only purpose of including ID into a school science curriculum is neither technical nor epistemological, but rather political. Perhaps it should be placed in the social science curriculum as an example of political manipulations of the educational system?

Archly yours,


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