In Favor of Barring Intelligent Design from the Classroom
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Among the scientists applauding today's decision is Lawrence Krauss. He's the director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University. In his opinion, the new ruling is the best possible outcome in the case.
Parents and students around the entire country are well-served by a judge's decision today that teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in a Dover, Pennsylvania, high school science classroom violates the establishment clause of the Constitution. In a remarkable 139-page decision, the judge cut through confusions that have permeated much of the national debate thus far. Nationwide an invented scientific controversy regarding evolution is being used by those who inappropriately fear science on religious grounds as a rationale for attacking science itself.
You see, science is based on falsifiable ideas that are subject to experimental tests. It is independent of questions of divine purpose. This does not make science immoral; it simply makes it different from religion. Neither encompasses all facets of the human experience, and confusing this issue does a disservice to both science and theology, as theologians from St. Augustine onward have stressed.
As a scientist, the legal issue in Dover was perhaps less important to me than the question of truth. The school board was requiring teachers to lie to students about the nature of science. To thrive in a modern technological society, we owe it to our children to provide them the best scientific education we can. If a significant fraction of the public has doubts about evolution, we simply have to do a better job teaching about it. The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it.
For example, recent studies have shown that 50 percent of the American public does not know the Earth orbits the sun and takes a year to do it. But if that's the case, does that mean we should teach the Earth-centric view of the solar system along with the correct view, the fact that the sun is the center? At the same time, a significant fraction of the American public apparently believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, taking what appears to be a literal view of the Bible. Does that mean we shouldn't teach astronomy or any of the other myriad bits of evidence that the Earth is, in fact, billions of years old? Obviously not.
The judge in Pennsylvania concluded with the statement that, quote, "The students, parents and teachers of the Dover area school district deserve better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom." That may be true, but by doing so, they have provided Judge Jones an opportunity to help the rest of the country move forward, not backward. For that, I thank them.
NORRIS: Lawrence Krauss teaches physics at Case Western Reserve University. Tomorrow, another view of science and intelligent design.