Putting ID in Religion Classes -- Not Only Not Clever, It's Just Plain Wrong

From Britain boosts intelligent-design debate:

British teenagers may soon be debating creationism and intelligent design in religion classes that give equal time to the Darwinists and atheists who reject these views of the world's origins.

Newly published school guidelines reflect the growing influence of a bitter battle over evolution being waged on the other side of the Atlantic, by conservative American Christians who want to put God back into the secular state school system.

The guidelines, issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, place the issue firmly in religious education class, rather than the science classes where American intelligent-design proponents want it to be handled.

By placing creationist views with those of their critics in religion classes, the curriculum authority could head off the divisive debates that have pitted religion against science in the United States.

"This is a clever way of defusing the issue," Clifford Longley, a religious affairs commentator, told Reuters.

This sort of article makes me want to rip my clothing, dress is sackcloth, pour ashes on my head aweepeap for society. While I welcome the idea that Britain is apparently recognizing that intelligent design is a growing force that needs to be addressed in schools, it is doing so exactly the wrong way. By putting the discussion in religion classes, it is saying that ID isn't a science. But that's what the debate's about, isn't it?

The article assumes that ID is merely religion with a white lab coat when it says, "Newly published school guidelines reflect the growing influence of a bitter battle over evolution being waged on the other side of the Atlantic, by conservative American Christians who want to put God back into the secular state school system." No, no, no! As one who thinks that ID is a scientific endeavor, I reject that characterization of ID or my personal goals. In all honesty, I don't want to see creationism taught in the public schools, but that's because there is a huge divide between creationism and ID. For those new to the debate, let me clarify the divide. Creationism starts with a religions text (the Bible) and searches for evidence to support that text. ID starts with the evidence and reasons that some things in nature are too complex to arise by purely naturalistic means and so, by process of elimination, says that they must be designed. It examines the world to try to determine what the characteristics are of things that arise naturally and things that are designed -- a process already implicitly employed in such areas as anthropology and archaeology. By analogizing between how we can identify the difference between man-made items and items created through known natural processes, ID tries to determine whether any of the items that we see in nature carry with them evidence of design.

ID does not make a claim about God in any way. It is not a religious belief. It does not say who or what may have been the designer behind the design that can be gleaned from a close study of nature. All it says when evidence for design is seen in an item or organism is "this bears evidence of design" and no more. The fact that people may deduce from this observation that the designer may be God or a god or gods is not part of ID but part of speculation that is outside of the discipline.

By putting ID into a religious class, the people in authority in Britain have chosen sides in this debate. They are saying that ID is creationism, but I continue to maintain that that is a highly inaccurate view of what ID is all about. Thus, this is not a "clever way of defusing the issue" unless you consider giving in to the Darwinist position a way of defusing the issue. Surrender is never the middle ground.


James said…
I think the idea of putting ID into RE classes is a good one. Clearly, ID is too controversial and a minority position to have in the already overstretched science curriculum. That's the case even if it's pure science (and I have some sympathy for it having a scientific element). But I'd like to have kids debating it, so RE classes are the best place for it to go.

Once ID theory has a couple of Nobels to its name, then it will be mainstream enough and important enough to be squeezed into science classes. Remember, British kids will spend hardly a week or two on evolution. I can't remember being taught it at all! So adding ID as well is more than the timetable could take.

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