Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Evolution in PA, Intelligent Design in KS

Yesterday, voters in Dover, PA threw out an entire school board which had introduced a brief statement on Intelligent Design in 9th grade science classes. Dover was the site of a federal suit by parents opposed to the board's decision.

And once again, the Kansas Board of education is in the news. They've recently approved standards for teaching science that allows for criticism of evolutionary theory:

The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.
The second sentence is particularly interesting and opens up a larger debate about the nature and limits of science. Americans are clearly conflicted about evolution, creation, and how science is taught. And scientists are concerned that Americans aren't sufficiently on board with scientific naturalism.

But if science is limited to purely material explanations, then how can scientists presume to make metaphysical claims? In other words, if your worldview presupposes that "The Cosmos is all there ever was or ever will be" that's a pretty clear indication of where the results of your science are going to lead you. Part of the problem is conflating a process (scientific investigation) with a worldview (atheistic materialism). Scientific educators themselves have created the problem by injecting teaching of origins and worldview into science classes.

Two possible solutions: 1) Teach science in science classes and leave out discussions of origins and worldviews; 2) Teach evolutionary theory while recognizing its strengths and weaknesses and addressing challenges to the model.

Is it fair to open up a discussion of origins -- grounded in a particular worldview not held by most Americans -- and limit the presentation to only one view? Is that what science classes should be about?

Assume you're going to a training class on Microsoft Word. In addition to the training you also get a diatribe from the instructor that experience with MS forces you to conclude objectively that all Microsoft products are bloatware and Bill Gates has a malicious plan to destroy all competition. How would you react?

1 comment:

Laura said...

I completely agree with your statements here. I've been frustrated myself with the assumptions that science makes while claiming that it is a completely objective and fact-based discipline. As a Christian and a scientist I find myself telling friends who do not realize that science could not go anywhere if certain assumptions had not been made in the beginning. I understand the need to start somewhere, it is only when we then try to deny our initial assumptions that science begins to move away from its stated purpose of "knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method and concerned with the physical world and its phenomena" (from dictionary.com).


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