Paul Hanle of the Biotechnology Institute argues that the push to marginalize evolution and teach "intelligent design" in the classroom is threatens real-world consequences, and not just in the classroom.
Proponents of "intelligent design" in the United States are waging a war against teaching science as scientists understand it. Over the past year alone, efforts to incorporate creationist language or undermine evolution in science classrooms at public schools have emerged in at least 15 states, according to the National Center for Science Education. And an independent education foundation has concluded that science-teaching standards in 10 states fail to address evolution in a scientifically sound way. Through changes in standards and curriculum, these efforts urge students to doubt evolution -- the cornerstone principle of biology, one on which there is no serious scientific debate.
Hanle makes the case that the attack on evolution has real consequences for student achievement in science.
Thirty-seven percent of the high school Advanced Placement biology examination tests knowledge of evolution, evolutionary biology and heredity, according to the College Board. Students who do not thoroughly understand evolution cannot hope to succeed on this exam; they will be handicapped in competitive science courses in college and the careers that may follow.
But, Hanle stresses, the issue is not one of "religion" versus "science" -- but ideologically motivated non-science versus science.
This is not a war of religion against science. The two have thrived together for centuries. Nor is it a struggle of believers against godless materialists; many believers practice science and find inspiration for it from their faith. It is a battle between religious dogma cloaked as science and open inquiry that leads to new knowledge and understanding of the natural world.
The notion of intelligent design is clever; it has a certain philosophical appeal. The evolution of a human eye from a series of random mutations, for example, is indeed difficult to understand; the notion of an intelligent creator solves such problems, and feeds our spiritual needs. But it distracts us from learning what is scientifically testable and reduces students' will to probe the natural world. . . .
Non-scientific viewpoints deserve respect. But to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, bio-warfare and pandemic diseases, to discover lifesaving cures and life-improving breakthroughs, tomorrow's biologists must be equipped with scientifically based knowledge today.
Nations that value open inquiry and use scientific criteria in education, research and industry will outperform those that do not. If we are to continue to be leaders in the global economy, we must teach science, not religion, in the science classroom.
I would urge commenters to resist the urge to re-open the "is Intelligent Design science" debate, and instead focus on the question whether the teching of ID and/or exclusion of evolution has an negative impact on scientific literacy, student achievement in science, and (by extension) the scientific research and discovery in the nation as a whole.