In Favor of Barring Intelligent Design from the Classroom

Among the scientists applauding Tuesday's decision against intelligent design is commentator Lawrence Krauss. He's director of Case Western Reserve University's Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics. In his opinion, this new ruling is the best possible outcome in this case.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

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.

LAWRENCE KRAUSS:

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.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.