I first posted this on November 16, 2005 on my old blog and then re-posted it on last May (May 13, 2008). In that time, I have discovered that certain links do not work (a fact that I am trying to correct). I have updated some of the links and added some additional information.
The issue of “intelligent design” in the science curriculum may turn out to be as divisive an issue as any other issue that church and community face. It is clear that there is very little common ground on this topic. Part of the problem is, in my view, that we cannot see that there is a place for science and faith in our lives. This is due, in part, to the fact that science and faith are mutually exclusive and I don’t think that many people realize this.
We have already heard what Pat Robertson thinks about the people of Dover, PA and their decision to remove the local school board. A link to the PBS NOVA broadcast “Intelligent Design on Trial” can be found at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/ . The ruling in the actual case, “Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover School District, et al.” is at http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf.
We know that the Kansas Board of Education has changed the definition of science in their new science curriculum. As noted in The New York Times, 15 November 2005,
On Tuesday, fueled by the popular opposition to the Darwinian theory of evolution, the Kansas State Board of Education stepped into this fraught philosophical territory. In the course of revising the state’s science standards to include criticism of evolution, the board promulgated a new definition of science itself.
The changes in the official state definition are subtle and lawyerly, and involve mainly the removal of two words: “natural explanations.” But they are a red flag to scientists, who say the changes obliterate the distinction between the natural and the supernatural that goes back to Galileo and the foundations of science.
The old definition reads in part, “Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.” The new one calls science “a systematic method of continuing investigation that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”
Adrian Melott, a physics professor at the University of Kansas who has long been fighting Darwin’s opponents, said, “The only reason to take out ‘natural explanations’ is if you want to open the door to supernatural explanations.”
Gerald Holton, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, said removing those two words and the framework they set means “anything goes.”
The authors of these changes say that presuming the laws of science can explain all natural phenomena promotes materialism, secular humanism, atheism and leads to the idea that life is accidental. Indeed, they say in material online at kansasscience2005.com (as of 31 January 2009 this link does not work), it may even be unconstitutional to promulgate that attitude in a classroom because it is not ideologically “neutral.”
But many scientists say that characterization is an overstatement of the claims of science. The scientist’s job description, said Steven Weinberg, a physicist and Nobel laureate at the University of Texas, is to search for natural explanations, just as a mechanic looks for mechanical reasons why a car won’t run.
“This doesn’t mean that they commit themselves to the view that this is all there is,” Dr. Weinberg wrote in an e-mail message. “Many scientists (including me) think that this is the case, but other scientists are religious, and believe that what is observed in nature is at least in part a result of God’s will.”
I have published my views on this topic on this site before and may add some more thoughts in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I encourage people to look at the following sites. The recent issue of American Scientist contains a three-page article on the topic entitled “Being Stalked By Intelligent Design” (used by permission)
Another person whose opinion I value in this debate is Stephen Gould. One might look at “Evolution as Fact and Theory” for additional information.
The journal Science & Theology News contained a number of links to this topic; unfortunately, Science & Theology News is no longer published and the links that I had found do not work (I am hoping to recover those links in the next few days or so).
I hope to add some more thoughts to this topic in the coming week. In the meantime, I hope that you will examine some of these links.