I have been vaguely following the Intelligent Design court case in the US. It should be noted that in 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that teaching creationism in public-school science classes was an unconstitutional blurring of church and state. But the current issue centers on this:
Last year, the school board in Dover, a small rural school district near Harrisburg, mandated a brief disclaimer before pupils are taught about evolution. They are to be told that âThe theory [of evolution] is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence.â? And that if they wish to investigate the alternative theory of âintelligent designâ?, they should consult a book called âOf Pandas and Peopleâ? in the school library.
Eleven parents, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, two lobby groups, are suing to have the disclaimer dropped. Intelligent design, they say, is merely a clever repackaging of creationism, and as such belongs in a sermon, not a science class.
In my view that is exactly what intelligent design is – cleverly repackaged creationism.
Kenneth Miller, the author of a popular biology textbook and the plaintiffs’ first witness, said that, to his knowledge, every major American scientific organisation with a view on the subject supported the theory of evolution and dismissed the notion of intelligent design. As for âOf Pandas and Peopleâ?, he pronounced that the book was âinaccurate and downright false in every sectionâ?.
And on the subject of tea:
To illustrate the difference between scientific and religious âlevels of understandingâ?, Mr Haught asked a simple question. What causes a kettle to boil? One could answer, he said, that it is the rapid vibration of water molecules. Or that it is because one has asked one’s spouse to switch on the stove. Or that it is âbecause I want a cup of tea.â? None of these explanations conflicts with the others. In the same way, belief in evolution is compatible with religious faith: an omnipotent God could have created a universe in which life subsequently evolved.
It makes no sense, argued the professor, to confuse the study of molecular movements by bringing in the âI want teaâ? explanation. That, he argued, is what the proponents of intelligent design are trying to do when they seek to air their theoryâwhich he called âappalling theologyâ?âin science classes.