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Intelligent Design v Evolution?


Science Education, Intelligent Design and Creationism

Is there a place for Intelligent Design in a school Science Curriculum?

The teaching of evolution is well embedded in the science curriculum in the UK.

The Association for Science Education,  has issued a statement relating to the o­ngoing , often heated, discussion related to Intelligent Design and Science Education ………………

Should Intelligent Design find a place in school science education?

” The rationale for science education involves the stimulation and motivation of young people towards appreciating and understanding some of the key ideas in science.  It aims to engage them in exploring first hand the processes of science through experimentation, investigation, argument, and modelling thereby teaching them how science works in both an historical context and within the social community which is science.  In doing so, science education explores the relationships between evidence and theory whilst appreciating the provisional nature of scientific ‘knowledge’.  Such an education should prepare learners to be confident in engaging with scientific issues and be able to take a critical approach when evaluating claims which are ‘scientific’, thereby making an assessment of what might be seen as ‘good science’ and ‘poor science’.  When set against this rationale it is clear to us that Intelligent Design has no grounds for sharing a platform as a scientific ‘theory’.  It has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations to support it. Furthermore it is not accepted as a competing scientific theory by the international science community nor is it part of the science curriculum. It is not science at all.  Intelligent Design belongs to a different domain and should not be presented to learners as a competing or alternative scientific idea.  As such, Intelligent Design has no place in the science education of young people in school. 

The full statement from the ASE is available here .  Additional statements which are aligned with this ASE position have been made by the Interacademy Panel; a global network of the world’s science academies, and by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).  These can be obtained from  http://www.sciencecouncil.org/content/scientific-opinion-creationism-and-intelligent-design

There is a strong movement in the USA that argues that  Intelligent Design (ID) needs to be discussed alongside evolution in science lessons.  Indeed, President George Bush even entered the ‘forum’, by suggesting that ID should be discussed alongside the theory of evolution.  A report of his statement can be found o­n MSNBC .

The overwhelming majority of  science teachers in the USA argue that there is no place for ID in science, since it cannot be tested scientifically.  Indeed, it is commonly regarded as pseudoscience or junk science by the vast majority of biology teachers.  Furthermore, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences states that intelligent design is not science because it cannot be tested scientifically , by experiment, and it does not give rise to any predictions or provide a hypothesis . William Dembski, who is o­ne of ID’s leading proponents, stated that :

“there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.”

Where is the evidence for ID?  Unlike mainstream science, where evidence is collected by carrying out experiments and data is collected,  the proponents of of  ID look for complexities and mechanisms.  They  then  infer, from the sheer complexity, that they must have been designed.  This ‘evidence’ is often referred to as look for “signs of intelligence”   The proponents look for one or more signs of a design, which are refered to as   irreducible complexityinformation mechanisms, and specified complexity.  They argue that such complexity or mechanism could not have been the result of   mutations and natural selection .  Therefore, it appears to many opponents to ID that in order to classify ID as a ‘science’, the proponents of ID have merely redefined ‘science’, thereby attempting to press a case for discussions with science in schools.

Of course, the signs of a design requires a designer.  Although God is not specifically stated, many opponents argue that it is difficult to imagine  how any entity other than a God could have been the designer.  Intelligent design proponents also suggest that the work could be the result of an alien culture, using the argument that there are many features of the universe which indicate an intelligent designer.   Furthermore,  some proponents of ID have made statements that they believe the designer to be a Christian God, thereby excluding Gods from all other religions.   No wonder that many opponents idenfiy ID with Genesis and Creationism.

Has Intelligent Design appeared in scientific journals, as a science?  Yes.   For established mainstream scientific publications there is often open hostility towards ID.   The main reason is that ID does not satisfy the requirements as a science within the scientific community.  It cannot be validated, or tested, using scientific method. Scientific inquiries require the existence of   hypotheses which can be tested, requiring observable data, and can be backed by empirical evidence. However, there is an increasing number of publications now providing ‘space’ for ID. Michael Behe, for example, has defended his understanding of “irreducible complexity” in the journal Philosophy of Science.   Another journal has a strong focus o­n design theory, Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design.  This publication an large editorial advisory board of over 50 academics from a range of scientific disciplines.

For an atheist’s perspective, the best arguments for the non-existence of a ‘intelligent designer’ surely originates from the ‘gospels’ according to Richard Dawkins!

“Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain.”

“Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading.”

“Thus the creationist’s favourite question “What is the use of half an eye?” Actually, this is a lightweight question, a doddle to answer. Half an eye is just 1 per cent better than 49 per cent of an eye…”

“Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the “know-nothings”, the “know-alls”, and the “no-contests”

“Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don’t know it.”


Further resources for your research …..

Non-Intelligent Design  Perspectives

ID perspectives

Media articles