Why is there such resistance to teaching intelligent design in the public schools?
Recently, there has been more discussion about teaching intelligent design in public schools. For some, this is a step towards equal treatment of beliefs in education. For others, this is seen as a step backwards into superstition. There are many different theories of physics, philosophy, economics, and politics discussed every day in public schools, without much controversy. So long as the school does not force students to uphold one ideal over the other, those who disagree can do so freely. So why is there so much resistance to teaching intelligent design?
Intelligent Design is both a theory and a movement within the scientific community. Basically, the theory of Intelligent Design states that scientific evidence points to the deliberate influence of a self-aware creator in many aspects of the universe. There are slightly different interpretations of this theory within the scientific community, and within the ranks of those who support teaching intelligent design. Yet, the underlying theme within the movement is that the concept of a Designer is a scientifically valid theory that deserves equal treatment in education.
Those who reject teaching intelligent design do so for various reasons. Those who do not believe in God are often uncomfortable with a theory that supports the existence of a higher power. Some say that teaching intelligent design is teaching religion to children, which would violate the so-called "separation of church and state." Some incorrectly believe that there is no scientific basis for intelligent design, and that the movement is a disguised plot to force "religion" onto public schoolchildren. It is worth noting that the religious implications of intelligent design generate far more controversy than the scientific implications.
The concept of "separation of church and state" is derived in part from the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. This clause states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The writers of the constitution intended this to prevent the creation of a national religion. This clause has been expanded to prohibit the government from endorsing any particular religious view or from showing favoritism to any religious view.
Ironically, some believe that teaching intelligent design in the public schools would violate the establishment clause, because the theory presumes the existence of God. Both the Theory of Evolution and the Big Bang, as taught in public schools today, presume the absence of God. When only these theories are taught, there are many who see this as favoring an Atheistic view. The establishment clause was intended to prevent favoritism. Yet many people today mistranslate "freedom of religion" into "freedom from religion," where the State presumes and supports only an atheistic point of view.
The evidence used by those who support teaching intelligent design is similar in quality and scope to the evidence used to support the theories of evolution and natural selection. All of these theories have holes that have yet to be filled, assumptions that must be made, and require some leaps of faith to bring to their conclusions. There are facts and figures (as science currently understands them) that can be used to support one above another, depending on how a person chooses to interpret them. Since science has focused much more strongly on evolution in recent years, there is a greater volume of work regarding this theory than intelligent design.
There are a number of scientists who are uncovering support for intelligent design. There is a growing list of rational top scientists who, whether or not they believe in God, are willing to admit the compelling evidence of an intelligent designer. Yet, those who oppose teaching intelligent design either dismiss evidence that supports it, or incorrectly claim that evolution and the big bang have airtight proof, and are therefore absolute. As the debate over teaching intelligent design in public schools continues, some questions will be answered. Will all possible explanations be considered, or only those that don't offend someone? Will the separation of church and state be warped to promote atheism, or upheld to defend an open and honest system of education?
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