Winning Against Intelligent Design

The New York Times had a nice editorial (registration required) on the recent victory of scientific knowledge over religious ignorance in Dover, PA.

The judge found that intelligent design violated the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking supernatural causation and by making assertions that could not be tested or proved wrong. Moreover, intelligent design has not gained acceptance in the scientific community, has not been supported by peer-reviewed research, and has not generated a research and testing program of its own. The core argument for intelligent design - the supposedly irreducible complexity of key biological systems - has clear theological overtones. As long ago as the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas argued that because nature is complex, it must have a designer.

NPR also had extensive coverage. An important characteristic of the debate was well-articulated by Stan Cox for AlterNet. He says proponents of intelligent design

claim to be fighting for nothing more than the right to open inquiry in public schools. Meanwhile, scientists are depicted as a self-appointed priesthood banning all but their own view of life.

Our own President has, under this claim, supported the teaching of intelligent design. This makes it difficult to argue against intelligent design without appearing opposed to that most fundamental of American values: free speech.

The question is whether the public schools are a forum for the exercise of free speech. If so, then shouldn’t “open inquiry” be allowed into all kinds of beliefs? As Bobby Henderson says, why not discuss evidence that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster? Large numbers of crackpots have promoted not just intelligent design but theories

If one good thing comes out of the debate, it will be an acknowledgement that public schools are not forums for free speech. They are not forums for the development of destructive and paranoid delusions. They are for the communication of truth, knowledge, and skill. If another good thing comes out of the debate, it will be a clarification of how truth should be determined and what constitutes knowledge.

Tags: Philosophy, Politics, Religion

Updated at: 24 December 2005 12:12 AM