Intelligent Design and the Future of Science Education by mirit35


									                    Intelligent Design and the Future of Science Education

The central purposes of science are easily stated – cata-     require special creation without evolution is
loging, describing, and explaining the majestic complex-      non-scientific. Science demands that an idea be
ity of nature. As such, the scientific process was            subjectable to tests of falsification. Intelligent Design is
established as a way to bring organization and reliability    not science, no matter how much window dressing is ap-
to those very human activities of observation and inter-      plied – there is no way to test the notion, nor is it clear
pretation. Without question, science has proven to be the     what the falsification result would be. The concept must
most successful philosophical and intellectual system         not, therefore, be referred to as a scientific theory – it is, if
ever created. The origins of this success reside in the way   anything, a postulate – a “just-so” story, something
in which the scientific process occurs – errors, mistakes,    taken as self-evident or assumed without proof as a basis
and logical gaps are essential to the growth of knowl-        for further reasoning. In this case, Intelligent Design is
edge. The boundaries of our understanding are defined         the cornerstone upon which a larger illogical and
by the magnitude of our ignorance. As scientists we do        anti-scientific structure is created.
not like to be wrong, yet, nei-
ther do we retreat from the                                                       Wherein lie the dangers associ-
complexity of nature. By using                                                    ated with Intelligent Design?
the scientific process we ex-                                                     Surely, the concept represents
plore our world and expand                                                        little more than the product of a
our understanding. There is no                                                    small sect of people working at
phenomenon of nature that is                                                      the fringe of science. Perhaps in
too complex for our consider-                                                     terms of the impact of Intelligent
ation. There is no structure or                                                   Design upon the scientific com-
process that defies our ability                                                   munita assessment is
to address through the formal                                                     correct. As science educators,
structure of science. Nature is                                                   however, it is essential we give
complex. New knowledge is                                                         this movement more serious
gained only with great effort.                                                    consideration. Our educational
Yet, nature does not defy us.                                                     mission is two fold: first, de-
                                                                                  velop the next generation of
There exists, however, a small                                                    geoscientists; second, serve as
but vocal cadre of credentialed                                                   an essential source of informa-
professional scientists who                                                       tion for decision makers and the
question the accessibility of na- Geometric complexity of Silurian chain coral general public. It is in our sec-
ture’s complexity to the consid-  colony-evidence of the power of evolution or of ond role that we must address
eration of our science. These     divine construction?                            the issues raised by the propo-
individuals are proponents of a                                                   nents of Intelligent Design.
notion, typically and inaccu-
rately, referred to as Intelligent Design Theory. This no-    The greatest philosophical problem associated with Intelli-
tion holds that the complexity of nature cannot be            gent Design resides in how it treats uncertainty - how it ad-
explained by the incremental evolutionary changes pos-        dresses our incomplete understanding of nature. The
tulated by Darwinian Evolution. Pointing to so-called         concept of irreducible complexity has two major flaws.
units of irreducible complexity, the champions of Intelli-    First, because there does not exist living examples of the
gent Design suggest that there are elements of nature         vast number of evolutionary steps needed for the develop-
that are too perfect, too complex, to be anything other       ment of a human eye or the flagellum of a bacteria does not
than the product of special creation by a divine intelli-     necessitate that there were never such intermediate forms.
gence.                                                        Second, the logical sequence that demands that because
                                                              modern science does not fully understand the origins of
Irrespective of one’s theological sentiments, Intelligent     such complex systems, the only possible process of forma-
Design represents a significant challenge to the future of    tion is divine design turns the essential and necessary driv-
science education. Cloaking their arguments in the lan-       ing force of ignorance against science. Holding such a view
guage of science, supporters of Intelligent Design            of a complex structure is an intellectual “give-up.” Such
strengthen and undergird their notions while at the           have always been the arguments of those who would slow
same time undermining the public’s perception of the          science’s progress, “we can’t know, therefore we shouldn’t
validity and utility of scientific inquiry. One need go no    ask.” One of the most significant contributions we can
further than the inappropriate application of the term        make as science educators is to proclaim notions such as In-
“theory” to the concept of Intelligent Design to under-       telligent Design to be the nonsense they so clearly are.
stand the fundamental dangers at work. Clearly, the
idea that aspects of nature are sufficiently complex as to                                      Carl N. Drummond, Editor

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