Part Two: Intelligent Design vs. Evolution
On or about April 21, 1925, John Scopes, a biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, discussed with his biology students the section on evolution in the text book, Hunter’s Civic Biology. I say on or about because even the date of the incident is in dispute. That’s how contentious the issue is. The date of course, is irrelevant, but the incident itself resonates to this day. You see, this humble teacher, tasked with broadening the minds of his charges, began teaching from the state-approved textbook, but taught a principle that was illegal in the state of Tennessee at the time.
Now I won’t get into exactly how this relatively innocuous incident drew national headlines, but will say that for the most part, the whole incident was contrived by town leaders to generate as much press as possible in an effort to draw national attention to Dayton and fill the town’s coffers with money. That aside, the debate between evolution and creation finally had a national audience and pitted two of the nation’s most able orators against one another: Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. So mighty was their argument, that you can see a dramatization based on their deliberation in the form of the movie, Inherit the Wind, starring Spencer Tracey and a relatively unknown Dick York (of Bewitched fame).
Today, that debate is once again drawing American media attention that rivals what it received in 1925. At issue is whether evolution, a "theory," should be taught as "scientific fact," and whether not an opposing view (creationism, or as it is now being spun, intelligent design) should also be presented to students. No matter what you read or hear, those who support intelligent design are masters of "spin," or the art of presenting an old idea in a new way. Lest we forget, intelligent design is simply creationism presented as scientific supposition. In order to make inroads into the American Mindset, creationists needed a shiny new wrapper to try tired old ideas. The idea of intelligent design, unlike naked creationism, tries to present religion as science, albeit a science based on God’s omnipotence. There has yet to be any real scientific proof to support the idea of intelligent design. For the most part, the real argument being made is whether or not the idea of intelligent design should be taught ALONGSIDE of evolution… in order to allow for "reasonable" minds to make an educated decision about which is the truth and which is just a myth perpetuated by godless heathens to undermine the sanctity of Christianity… er, or something.
Before we even get too deeply into the debate, we should define the word "theory" as it is used in a scientific context. A scientific theory, such as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, is the most logical explanation of why things work the way they do. A theory is a former hypothesis that has been tested with repeated experiments and observations and found always to work. Theories may be redefined as new hypotheses are tested. Examples of theories: Newton’s Theory of Gravitation, Mendel’s theory of Inheritance, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. These theories are widely accepted as fact. There is scientific data culled from testing and physical evidence that supports the theory, hence it is accepted as fact.
I wanted to define this particular word because it is among the major points of contention for proponents of Intelligent Design. The word "theory" is the focal point for many of these creationists because to them, a theory is an unproven guess. But as I showed above, as the word applies to the scientific community, a theory isn’t a guess or wish, but a substantiated position on a given area of investigation through trial and research.
That aside, the debate over creationism vs evolution is filled with many agenda-driven exclamations on both sides. On one side you have supernatural passion and on the other rational elitism. It could be argued, at least at this point, that both of these positions are religions unto themselves. I mean, both sides have passionate support for their belief and little information is actually being shared as much as it is being dropped like bombs on Nagasaki in the hopes of obliterating the enemy.
I’ve considered what it is that Creationists are looking for when they present the idea that intelligent design should be taught in schools. I can’t seem to get away from the thought that their desire is based in fear. A fear that science is quickly demystifying our existence. That through the scientific method, we’re systematically destroying everything they hold dear, including the omnipotence of their god. Yes, it really is that simple… These people are simply afraid that science will one day prove there is no god. And for their part, scientists are perfectly willing to debunk the last great frontier of charlatans… our faith… A faith in that which cannot be, nor need be, proved. So long as it remains unprovable, they can believe they are not ultimately responsible for their lives. So long as it remains unprovable, they can rest easy knowing someone else has a plan for them even if they themselves have no clue what to do from one moment to the next. They are afraid that everything they believe in is bullshit. If it was me, I guess I’d fight it tooth and nail too.
The real question about whether or not intelligent design should be taught in public schools isn’t about whether there is a god or not, but whether or not a public institution, one that is paid for by my tax dollars, should push a religious ideology. The separation of church and state is guaranteed by the constitution of the United States and here we’re having a debate about how a religious position should be taught in a government sponsored institution. I’m not agnostic and I’m not atheist, but I do believe that there is a time and place for religion and at no point is that time and place within the walls of a tax-payer funded institution.
Part Three: Coming Soon.