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Should Intelligent Design Be Taught Alongside Evolution

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Should Intelligent Design be Taught Alongside Evolution

A trial is currently taking place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania concerning the question of whether a local school district can require students to be told about intelligent design (ID) as an alternative to Darwinian evolution (Holden 1796). This trial, known as Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, could result in the setting of a national precedence. The reason for this is that the losing side is likely to appeal every step of the way, ultimately arriving at the Supreme Court (Johnson 2). In order to formulate an informed opinion as to whether students should be required to be told about intelligent design, it is necessary to examine the history of the debate, take both viewpoints into account, and understand the stakes behind the decision.

The controversy surrounding evolution and how it should be taught in public schools first entered the public eye in 1925 when John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution to Tennessee schoolchildren. The "Monkey Trial" as John Scopes' case was nicknamed, was not really about John Scopes breaking the law, but rather about conflicting social and intellectual values (Linder). William Jennings Bryan claimed that "if evolution wins, Christianity goes" and on the other side, Clarence Darrow warned that banning evolution was "opening the doors for a reign of bigotry equal to anything in the Middle Ages" (Linder). While both of these statements are a bit over the top, they do capture the fears rampant on both sides of the debate. As history tells us, the court found John Scopes guilty of teaching evolution and fined him $100 (the fine was later overturned based on a technicality). The court also stated that while they forbade the teaching of evolution, they "did not require the teaching of any other doctrine, so that it did not benefit any doctrine over the others" (Linder). This case was a giant setback for advocates of evolutionary theory, one that would not be overcome for over forty years.

In 1968 the Supreme Court's decision on Epperson v. Arkansas, reversed its previous ruling and allowed the teaching of evolution in public schools. Their decision was based on an interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that prohibits a state from "requiring that teaching and learning... be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any particular religious sect or doctrine" (Wikipedia). This was a great step forward for evolution supporters, but evolution was still frowned upon by a majority of the public while creation science reigned supreme. Before we can come back to the present day debate there remains one more landmark decision in the history of the conflict between evolution and religion.

That decision was the case of Edwards v. Aguillard, which took place in 1987. The case was over a law requiring creation science to be taught every time that evolution was taught. The Supreme Court found this law to be unconstitutional, but it also stated that "teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction" (Wikipedia). The backlash of this decision was felt a mere two years later when creationists produced the text book Of Pandas and People. Of Pandas and People lays out an assault against evolutionary biology and is the primary text book of intelligent design supporters (Wikipedia). Although intelligent design proponents claim no religious affiliation, their primary textbook was written by individuals in favor of Christian creation theory and was written shortly after creationism lost a landmark trial. Thus the link between intelligent design and Christian creation theory is very strong and the statement that intelligent design is not linked to a particular religion becomes very suspicious.

With the turbulent background of the debate laid out, it is time to delve into the arguments of the opposing sides. The basic premise of intelligent design rests on three main attacks against evolutionary biology:

"(1) evolution's purported violation of physics' Second Law of Thermodynamics; (2) the supposed 'irreducible complexity' of living things; and (3) the claim that 'anthropic coincidences' between cosmic mathematical constants are too precisely attuned to life support to permit of naturalistic explanation" (Kortum 358).

Intelligent design's claim that evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a highly specialized point, but the basic argument is that natural processes cannot increase biological complexity (Pennock). The second assault against biological evolution concerns the irreducible complexity of living things and is often demonstrated through the example of the eye. Darwin's critics claim that the eye is too complex to be the product of accidental mutations. They question how the evolutionary process of gradual improvement could produce "a complex organ that needs all its parts- pinhole, lens, light-sensitive surface- in order to work" (Wallis 30). Finally, intelligent design proponents use statistical evidence to show how unlikely it was that life as we know it could have come into existence by chance alone. They also point out that "world depends on a delicate balance among the precise properties of the universe, such as gravity, electromagnetic radiation, and the forces inside the atom. The slightest change in the fine-tuning of these quantities would make life as we know it impossible" (Boyd). Supported by their three attacks against evolutionary biology, intelligent design makes a very provocative case. They are careful to leave the word God out of their teachings, in an attempt to free themselves from any ties to a particular religion, and present an argument that on the surface agrees with everyday common sense. Who hasn't looked up at the stars or even at a blade of grass and wondered how something so rich in complexity could have come into existence? This basic ignorance of the natural world plays a large role in intelligent design's argument. After all, how many Americans understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics or have even heard of it? Backed by complex scientific claims that the majority of Americans can neither refute nor support, intelligent design appears to make a sound case against evolutionary biology.

From the evolutionary point of view, the majority of mainstream scientists claim that there is no positive scientific evidence supporting design and that their entire case rests on holes in evolutionary theory. The only currently irrefutable evidence that intelligent design has been



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