By Alan Eder
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
More than 500 years ago, Copernicus postulated a "crazy" idea - that the Earth rotated around the sun and not vice versa. Religious scholars opposed this theory, clinging to the long-held view that the Earth was at the center of the universe.
It was not until after his death that Copernicus' heliocentric theory was finally published and until many years of dispute later that it was finally accepted as a scientific fact. This debate struck right at the heart between science and faith, pitting scientific inquiry against philosophical and religious views that held otherwise.
Currently, a parallel debate involves the never-ending discussion between evolution and faith.
Just last week, 38 Nobel Prize laureates asked the Kansas Board of Education to reject standards regarding evolution as a seriously questionable theory (the move intended to expose students to more criticism of the theory), claiming that the measure is intended by proponents of intelligent design to "politicize scientific inquiry."
Intelligent design is a relatively new theory that, in contrast to evolution, posits that life is too complicated and too beautiful to be explained.
According to www.intelligentdesignnetwork.com, intelligent design "holds that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection."
In other words, the creation and development of life needs the guiding hand of a supernatural being. Proponents argue that this strain of thought should be taught as science in the classroom, in competition with evolution.
However, there is danger in teaching intelligent design as a science, considering it lacks a clear methodology and is untestable. As George Will, a writer for Newsweek, puts it: "The problem with intelligent-design theory is not that it is false, but that it is not falsifiable: Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis. Hence it is not a scientific, but a creedal tenet - a matter of faith, unsuited to a public school's science curriculum."
Intelligent design boils itself down to a simple phrase: God did it. Consequently, intelligent design is nothing more than a form of repackaged creationism. Rather than contribute to further scientific study of our world, unfortunately intelligent design is now being used as a guise to teach religion, specifically creationism, in schools.
While intelligent design operates under the premise of science, it simply tries too hard to discredit and degrade evolutionism. In doing so, it does a disservice to itself - taking potshots at natural selection does little to justify a separate branch of methodological thought.
By constituting itself more as a response to evolutionism rather than as a distinct theory that stands alone, it fails to justify itself as a credible theory. Thus, it merely operates as a new buzzword to once again politicize the education of religion and morals in public schools.
While there is value in teaching competing theories to evolution, intelligent design should be taught in the context of the humanities and philosophy, rather than the sciences. The UA offers science and theology courses, and science and religion are not necessarily in two different universes of discourse, but intelligent design, in its current form, does not belong in the same realm as evolution.
While evolution is also a theory, it offers tangible, compelling evidence, not evidence based on faith. Herein lies the distinction: If intelligent design is to be taught as a science, it must focus on its own processes of scientific inquiry rather than simply attacking the methodology of evolution.
In response to the laureates' claims, Board of Education Chairman Steve Abrams, a conservative Republican who supports the proposed standards, contends that nothing should be taught as dogma. In this case, under the same logic, should Copernicus' heliocentric theory be regarded as questionable?
Copernicus arrived at his conclusion through a verifiable scientific and mathematic process, not faith. Would it now be dogma to state that the Earth revolves around the sun?
Eighty years after the Tennessee v. John Scopes "Monkey Trial," which opened up the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools, the debate refuses to end over evolution's role in
America is currently challenged with how to balance evolution, its faith and the First Amendment. In this case, there is nothing wrong with approaching the origin and development of life in both scientific and spiritual inquiries, but the two pursuits should remain separate in light of the above distinctions.
Alan Eder is a senior majoring in Spanish and political science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org