Evolution and ID - Sociological Notes

Under the Constitution does religion have the right to shove a supernatural theory of origins down the inherently naturalistic throat of science?  Like the evolution versus creation science controversy before, the constitutional admissibility of peddling intelligent design (ID) "theory" in the high school science classes will be fought out where ever the ID movement attempts to lodge itself. In the final analysis the issue is not about two competing scientific theories, because ID simply does not qualify as scientific.  The subject area of science is the natural physical world and of testable and thus verifiable hypotheses.  By definition, all legitimate scientific theories are natural theories. In contrast, ID is both supernatural and un-testable.  The ID movement's intent is to change the meaning of science and of scientific theory to suit fundamentalist religion.  The constitutional issue therefore turns on where the legal line resides between religion and supernaturalism versus the naturalistic integrity of science. (article)   

More specifically, the issue turns on whether religion has the right to impose an unscientific "theory" of origins on the public school science curricula.  The correct answer aught to be self-evident to anyone of reasonable sense.  Religion, no matter how well disguised, does not have the right. The ID proponents will likely vigorously deny that ID is a religious notion, but they cannot escape either its supernaturalism or its un-testability.  If allowed to indulge in legalistic hair splitting between religious and nonreligious "theories" of the supernatural, then what justification is there for not also allowing astrology, wigi boards, and taro card reading into the high school science curricula?   They may even attempt to deny that ID is supernatural, but what about ID's complete failure to substantiate even one sighting or otherwise produce even one specimen (fossilized or otherwise) of their so-called intelligent designer?  Equally as critical, is their complete failure to specify the means their alleged designer allegedly used to design and create biological life.   Without answering the mail on both issues in a scientifically palatable manner, ID boils down to nothing more than theistic supposition.  (Fifteenth Century Science)

The Sixth Article of the Constitution states, "No religious test will ever be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust under the United States".  The litigation that actually makes it to court will likely always be focused on the issue of First Amendment establishment clause violations.  Still, the religious test factor will have definite sociological impact if the current "compromise" resolutions of the ID-prone school boards remain standing.  The controversy in Ohio is a salient case in point.       

Recently, the Ohio Board of Education unanimously approved new science standards that mandate "teaching the controversy" about biological origins.  The schools in Ohio will now be required to teach the scientific controversies surrounding evolutionary theory. The new science standards also allow the state's school districts to decide for themselves whether to teach scientific alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution.  The insidious problem, however, pertains to who decides what alternatives are scientific and which are not, and then what criteria they will use to make the decision.

The Discovery Institute, the lead propagandist for ID, could not be happier about the Ohio school board's action.  It gives their wedge strategy the decisive foot in the door.  Although the school board's standards do not specifically mention ID, they do emphasize that each school district is at liberty to teach ID if they so choose. The resolution comes supported by a new definition of science, one that effectively dethrones naturalistic explanations as the fundamental and exclusive subject matter of science.

"Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, based on observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, and theory building, which leads to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena."

This wording seems benign enough when looked at in isolation, but it replaces a more specific definition that stated, "Scientific knowledge is limited to natural explanations for natural phenomena."   

Additional wording in the new Ohio standards are as follows:

"The new benchmark/indicator dealing with the investigation and critical analysis of aspects of evolutionary theory is also consistent with the teach-the-controversy approach. Among the aspects to be considered would be evidence for and against biological evolution (the theory of common descent). The 'scientists' referred to in this benchmark/indicator would include mainstream evolutionists as well as dissenters. The new language is also consistent with the teach-the-controversy principle that discussion of alternative theories (such as intelligent design) should be permitted, but not mandated, in biological origins instruction......Also, we would prefer that more explicit protection be given to educators who choose to discuss alternatives to the theory of common descent." (Reference)

How might a religious test factor be involved?  Consider the following predictive scenario. The wording in Ohio's new educational standard specifies that the choice between teaching or not teaching ID rest on the shoulders of the individual teachers themselves. The choice factor sets the conditions of a religious test.  In the absence of any timely judgment from the courts, we can hope that the vast majority of Ohio's teachers would elect not to teach ID, thus limiting class time to scientifically legitimate issues within biology.   Still, with the predatory nature of right wing religion and the vicissitudes of PTA type politics, the expectation is very likely overly optimistic.  In the present Ohio scenario, those willing to teach ID become easily distinguishable for those not willing.  In turn, those willing to teach ID as if it were "scientific" are distinguishable from those who discuss ID but expose its blatant fallacies. With this kind of tangible behavioral information readily at hand, the stage is perfectly set for the politics of coercion and discrimination to set in.  

Those teachers not getting on the ID bandwagon are stereotyped as the "atheists" among the teaching staff.  After all, anyone not willing to support a supernatural theory of biological origins as if it were science must be an atheist.  Right?  Depending on the dominant alignment of the staff and the local PTA, any teacher refusing to play the ID game is set up for harassment, social and occupational discrimination, and eventually outright blackballing.  Notice that the Ohio standards only mention special protection for those willing to teach ID, but not for the unwilling.  In time, all dissention against ID is purged from the teacher core.  A parallel scenario is sure to come into play for the science textbooks as well.  Those textbooks not presenting the "controversy" "properly" are not considered for purchase, thereby forcing the publishers to knuckle under or get pushed out of the market.  The ultimate result is escalating damage to the integrity of the high school science curricula and to the life science IQ of the students taught under the pro ID syndrome.  In turn, as the anti-science, anti-evolutionary virus spreads to other states, it degrades the already struggling science and engineering competency of the Nation as a whole.   

Is such a scenario possible? Its fulfillment is virtually inevitable if corrupted educational standards like Ohio’s are allowed to remain embedded in the system.  No matter how well disguised the fundamentalist types think ID to be, the imposition on the schools is a blatant act of religious tampering with the educational public trust and the fundamental integrity of the science curricula within.  Of course, all this is completely okay as far as the hard-core faithful are concerned.  After all, they don't want no stinking atheists teaching theirs or anybody else's kids, so help their biblical god.  Right?  

We can only harbor the optimism that the majority opinion among the Nation's courts will be enlightened enough about the defining properties of science and scientific theory to bring down ID's anti-evolution, anti-science game.  In the course of those deliberations, it seems evident that the courts will have the crucial intervening task of establishing what a legitimate scientific theory is versus what is not (article).  Quite obviously, the decision cannot be left to the Nation's elected school boards, or to the individual districts under them. (Religion-Evolution Controversy), (Harvard Review), (Litigation)  (Federal Mandate) (Evolution and the Law)


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