Darwin and Design in U.S. Public Schools

October 2, 2008 | | Comments Off on Darwin and Design in U.S. Public Schools

Intelligent design in school curriculum is a familiar topic for most of us after the media coverage of 2005’s Kitzmiller v. Dover Supreme Court case.  Dover dealt with a Pennsylvania public school board’s requirement that science teachers read a statement in biology class explaining evolution as “just a theory” and “intelligent design” as an option worth considering.  The United States Supreme Court decided that this requirement inserted religious theory into public education, and found it to be an unconstitutional practice.  After laying relatively low for a few years, this controversial issue resurfaced in recent months when one of the U.S. vice presidential nominees was reported to support the inclusion of intelligent design theory in public school curriculum.

This topic grabs my attention because at first glance it appears to be such a constitutional no-brainer.  Teaching religious theory in public school science classes is never cool, right?  This black and white line of thinking, however, gets a bit cloudier when dealing with intelligent design.  This isn’t God-made-the-world Creationism being introduced into schools, but it is close.  While the intelligent design theory asserts that the complexities of life on earth must have been created by a higher power, it doesn’t get specific.  The “intelligent designer” is not God, or any other named deity.  This is the (weak) leg that intelligent design proponents stand on, while the theory’s critics call it nothing more than repackaged Creationism.  If its supporters are correct, intelligent design is as valid a theory as evolution and, since non-religious in nature, could be constitutionally allowed in public schools.  If the critics and the United States Supreme Court are correct, the theory is inherently religious and has rightly been kept out of the public classroom.

Regardless of where you land on the issue, intelligent design is worth knowing about, as it’s likely to rear its controversial head again and again.  To bone up on where and how it’s been attempted, check out University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor Doug Linder’s web site.  Or, for an intense dose of information from intelligent design’s biggest fans, visit the Discovery Institute’s web site.  Convincing or not, it will undoubtedly be good reading.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user dave_mcmt.

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