Phil Paper: Should Intelligent Design be taught?

This is my Philosophy Paper about Intelligent Design being taught. I cut out the title page and formal argument, I figured no one would want to read that, this is just the body of the paper, and the Works Cited, if anyone wants to double check my facts. The post follows the structure of a introduction, terms defined, three premises, and a conclusion. Enjoy 😁👍

Introduction

From the late 1800s people have been debating whether Intelligent Design (ID) or Evolution should be taught in public schools, and since the 1960s, the debate has veered in favor of Evolution. Intelligent Design has been entirely eliminated from most public school curriculum.  Though not considered scientific by the majority of people, Intelligent Design is widely believed as an alternative to Evolution, and I will argue that it should be taught, and at the very least explained to students.

There are valid reasons to teach Intelligent Design. First, I will argue that teachers and school districts have the right to choose their own curriculum. Second, I will argue that many of the parents of children in the public school system do not want their children to be taught to believe Evolution. Thirdly, I will argue that since Evolution is not scientifically verified, teaching it is no different than teaching a religious perspective.

I will now begin by defining a few terms.

Terms Defined

Intelligent Design: the theory that the universe and living things were designed and created by the purposeful action of an intelligent agent. Abbreviation: ID (dictionary.com)

 Evolution: Has 6 meanings, all of which relate to my subject

 Cosmic evolution: the origin of time, space, and matter from nothing in the “big bang”

Chemical evolution: all elements “evolved” from hydrogen

Stellar evolution: stars and planets formed from gas clouds

Organic evolution: life begins from inanimate matter

Macroevolution: animals and plants change from one type into another

Microevolution: variations form within the “kind” (Creationtoday.com)

Creationism: the doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed (dictionary.com)

Natural Law: a body of law or a specific principle held to be derived from nature (Merriam-webster.com)

Now that I have defined some of the key terms in my paper, I will proceed to argue that Educators have the freedom to choose their curriculum.

Teachers and School Districts have the Freedom to Choose Their Curriculum

         The right to free speech, or Freedom of Expression, is one of the founding principles of America as a society, and is meant to extend to all its areas of politics, education, religion, etc.  It is simply not constitutional to demand that many teachers, professors, principals, and other educators, teach as truth an opinion they do not believe in. It is in effect making them lie to their students, and denying them their right to free speech.

  Some might be skeptical that teachers really are required to teach evolution and not ID. It is true that teaching Creationism has been outlawed by the Supreme court since 1987 (Wapshott 36-37). ID has not been prohibited by the Supreme Court. However, because many people claim that ID is just Creationism repackaged, it is coming under the same scrutiny. Whether the ruling against Creationism makes it also illegal to teach ID is a subject of great debate, but it is easy to imagine how it might intimidate any teacher who does wish to present it as an alternative. 

  The problem is not in telling students that Evolution, the alternative to ID, is considered the scientific explanation for how things came to be. The problem is in refusing to allow teachers and schools to freely admit they do not accept the theory, or present any counterarguments to the theory that they may find worthy of consideration. I as a student, can freely express disagreement with evolution, but my professors are not supposed to, at least during class time, teach an alternative perspective even if they believe it.

  While a teacher may not get fired for speaking against Evolution, it can be easier to simply not risk it, and even if the head of the school might not have a personal problem with ID, they may enforce the rule anyway, sometimes because parents insist on it. I found one case that went to a federal court in Pennsylvania over the issue: “Dover’s school board ordered that a short statement be read at the beginning of biology classes, which pointed to ‘gaps’ in Darwin’s theory of evolution and endorsed intelligent design as an alternative. Eleven parents filed suit against the district, claiming that the statement violates the required separation of church and state in lessons” (Brumfiel,  607; Sparr, 719-720).  Though this is only one incident, the fact that it went to federal court meant the outcome set up a precedent for the middle district of Pennsylvania. I looked up the case results, and the judge ruled in favor of not teaching ID, which will apply to the whole middle district of Pennsylvania (Sparr 719-720). 

I found out more about this case, “By analyzing the arguments of one of the most prominent and respected ID supporters in the country, the Kitzmiller court’s opinion went to the heart of the ID movement and created an analytical roadmap for other courts to follow” (ibid). In other words, since this case was decided, it has been referred to by educators as a reason not to present ID. What’s interesting is that the Dover School District’s statement did not actually say ID was true.  “Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence… Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind” (Sparr 719-720). The school also left an option for parents to sign a release for their child to not have to read the statement if they did not want them to (ibid).

I am not arguing that parents should not get to object, but in this case their reason for doing so is weak. I will address the separation of church and state more in my counter argument section, but for now, I want to point out that acknowledging gaps in Darwin’s theory and supporting ID as an alternative was not bringing any one religion into the school district, but simply being honest with the students about possible problems with the curriculum and offering them a possible solution. Furthermore, it was an option, not a requirement. Encouraging the students to keep an open mind and making an alternative perspective available would be fulfilling the right to Freedom of Expression.

Now that I have defended a teacher or district’s right to choose their own curriculum, or at least express disagreement with the school’s openly, I will argue that the current curriculum does not reflect the beliefs of many of the parents.

Public Education about Evolution does not Reflect What Many Parents Want Their Children to be Taught to Believe.

I already mentioned that parents got involved in the case I detailed before, but what is notable is that only eleven parents were involved in the issue (Brumfiel  607). This case ended up in the federal court because of eleven parent’s objections, not to the curriculum, but to the disclaimer. However, is it right to assume that their opinion, in one school district and one area, represented the general wishes of parents in the state of Pennsylvania, or the rest of the country? I would say that there are some good statistics that would say otherwise. 

According to the 2014 Gallup Poll, the percentage of people nationally who believe in Evolution is now at 47%. While the percentage of people who believe in Creationism (which falls under the ID category) is at 40-47% (Bradshaw).  Also according to the poll 79% of Americans who believed in Evolution reported being familiar with Evolution, familiarity with Creationism at 76%. The results for this Gallup poll were based on telephone interviews conducted May 8-11, 2014, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. The landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday. The samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to correspond to the national demographics of gender, age, race. 

If we infer that these percentages represent the country with some accuracy, then it is clear that a sizable chunk of the adults (meaning parents) in this country do not accept Evolution as truth. Their beliefs are not reflected in the public school curriculum. I am not arguing that we treat truth democratically, that is what I am arguing against. We are split almost 50-50 currently in what we accept. Yet the state gets to decide what curriculum is approved for its public schools and that decision can be in the hands of a single judge, or a council. I argue that with something as important as a worldview, the state should not be deciding by itself or by majority rule what to instill in our children. This goes against the First Amendment, which is supposed to keep the state from establishing any one worldview. I would argue that the right to Freedom of Expression also means the right to not have your children be taught something you do not believe in, at least until they are old enough to be expected to think critically.

I argue that the better solution would be to do what the Dover district attempted to do, and present both perspectives. It would represent the wishes of more parents, though I think they should be allowed to exempt their children if they do not wish them to be taught both sides. Parents can opt their child out of gym for approved reasons, why not extend that to other classes? I would even go a step further, and argue that the Origin of Life would be better left out of grade school curriculum entirely. If students could wait until College to pursue the topic, they could choose which perspective to learn about.  However, I do not think that this solution is likely to be adopted, so I am proposing at least teaching a more balanced view that would better serve the needs of all the parents, not just the ones who believe in Evolution.

Now that I have argued that an exclusively evolution based curriculum does not reflect the wishes of many parents, I will proceed to argue my last point, that Evolution is not proven, so teaching it is no different than teaching ID.

Evolution is not Scientifically Proven so Teaching it is on the Same Level as Teaching Intelligent Design

 There are some guidelines that have to be met for a theory to be considered scientific, I found them in the book Are Creationism-Intelligent Design Writings Scientific? “Overton defined science as such: ‘1. It is guided by natural law; 2. It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; 3. It is testable against the empirical world; 4. Its conclusions are tentative; 5. It is falsifiable’ ” (Overton quoted in White’s, 318). 

However, Evolution is not a proven theory by these standards, it has been tested to a small extent. For example, the creation of a few amino acids (which are the building blocks of proteins in your DNA) under highly controlled conditions that would not be found anywhere in Nature, where Organic Evolution allegedly took place (gwu). These tests did not explain how Organic Evolution could happen without those extremely controlled conditions. In the end the article concluded that Earth must have had different conditions, like no oxygen, when life originated. That is a hypothesis that has not been proven, as all testing of the air from crystallized amber reveals that there was more oxygen in the past few thousand years, and the size of the animal and plant skeletons we find also suggests a richer environment in the past (Livina 97–106) . That does not disprove Organic Evolution, but the fact remains that it is still a hypothesis. 

The only Evolution that can be proven to be guided by natural law is Microevolution; all the others are purely theoretical. To be clear, my argument is not that Evolution should not be taught; I already argued that Teachers are allowed to teach what they believe is the best explanation, and many believe Evolution makes sense. The reason I have laid this out is because Evolution is claimed to be scientifically proven, while ID is claimed to be a religious worldview ( Brumfiel, 607; Furigay; Manis). However, the evidence for ID is on par with the evidence for Evolution. That is, it is interpreting the observable things in the natural world as coming from an unobservable cause that cannot be proven, because we were not there. I define proof, in this case, as being able to demonstrate something happening in today’s conditions that would not require Man intervening in order to make it work. 

For clarity, I will give one example of the way in which Evolution and ID are equal. The foundation for Evolution is the Big Bang Theory, the theory that the matter in the universe came from a central location, exploded, and then expanded (see Terms Defined) into what we see today. The foundation for ID is that this was set in place be a designer, or designers, if you are a polytheist. Some intelligent life form, on consciousness. For many people, of course, it is God. The similarity between these two theories is this: No one knows the cause. 

If we take the Evolution perspective, we do not know where the matter came from, or what set off the explosion, or what made the laws of physics take effect. If we take the ID perspective, we do not know where the Designer came from, or why they chose to make our universe, and why they made it the way they did. All either of us have is the observable facts, and our theories. The evidence for both depends purely on interpretation of the facts. This is only one of many examples, but I am not arguing the pros and cons of the theories.

 Now that I have argued for ID being equal to Evolution in terms of proof, I will address two counter arguments to my claims.

Counter Arguments:

Counter argument #1: Intelligent Design is just Creationism repackaged, making it a religious worldview. It is unconstitutional for  government funded schools to teach a religious viewpoint. It violates the principles of freedom of religion, that there should be a  “Separation of Church and State” (Furigay; Manis).

Refutation: The words “Separation of Church and State” are not in the constitution, but in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association. What the constitution says is the government should not establish a State Religion. The government should not insist that any one viewpoint be taught in every public school, or rule that presenting an alternative viewpoint is unconstitutional. ID is not a single religion. It is a summary of what all religions usually claim, except for the humanist ones, such as Evolution, or Existentialism. Therefore, instructors endorsing ID cannot be endorsing a state religion, because it is not one. Within the broad category of ID you can believe in anything from Greek Mythology to Aliens visiting the planet, and it is all technically intelligent design. While it is true that many ID endorsers are Creationists, they are not all one religion. Islam is a Creationist religion, so is Hinduism, so are any number of tribal religions. ID is an inclusive worldview, while evolution is exclusive.

Counter Argument #2: ID does not represent the population as a whole so it should not be taught to the public (Manis).

Refutation: Truth is not democratic. Public opinion is not a reliable source for what is and is not right. This is an example of the fallacy known as ad populum. This is also a weak argument because plenty of subjects that are taught in public school are not necessarily representative of the majority’s opinion/knowledge, such as higher math, yet they are still accepted as accurate. Evolution was not accepted widely for hundreds of years, and statistics vary as to whether it is the most popular opinion even now. Moreover, ID is a far less exclusive view than Evolution, because ID includes any and all religions that believe in God or in gods, as part of the category, and Evolution does not. To represent the population as a whole is impossible. The only truly fair option would be to remove any explanation of the origin of the universe at all from public education.

 Conclusion

In summary, instructors have the right to present ID if they want to do so, parents have the right to choose what their children learn, and Evolution and ID are both unproven and should be presented as equally valid theories. Therefore, we should be allowed to teach Intelligent Design as an alternative to Evolution.

            

                                                                    Works Cited

Bradshaw, William S. “A Longitudinal Study of Attitudes Toward Evolution among Undergraduates Who are Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” PLoS One, vol. 13, no. 11, 2018. ProQuest

Brumfiel, Geoff. “School Board in Court Over Bid to Teach Intelligent Design.” Nature, vol. 437, no. 7059, 2005, pp. 607. ProQuest.

Furigay, Jane. “Pence in 2002: Intelligent Design should be Taught as Science in Public Schools.”   Targeted News Service, Aug 05, 2016. ProQuest.

Manis, Karalee. “Karalee: Should Intelligent Design be Taught in Public Schools?” University Wire,  Jan 02, 2020. ProQuest.

Martin, Daniel; McKenna, Helen; Livina, Valerie. “The human physiological impact of global deoxygenation Journal of  Physiological Science. 67(1): 97–106. 2017. Online. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Simon, Neal G. “Freedom to Express Unscientific Ideas.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol.   52, no. 9, 2005, pp. A63. ProQuest.

Smith, G. M. “Creation and Evolution.” Choice, vol. 48, no. 4, 2010, pp. 700. ProQuest.

Sparr, Phillip.  “Special ‘Effects’: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005), and the Fate of Intelligent Design in Our Public Schools.” pg 719-720.   2007. Online. digitalcommons.unl.edu 

Unknown Author. “The Origin of Life.” Not Dated. https://www2.gwu.edu

Wapshott, Nicholas. “A NEW AGE OF UNREASON.” New Statesman, vol. 18, no. 881, Oct 17, 2005, pp. 36-37. ProQuest.

White, David J. “Are Creationism-Intelligent Design Writings Scientific? A Content Analysis of Popular Evolution, Creation, and Intelligent Design Texts.” University of South Dakota,       Ann Arbor, 2011. ProQuest.

Thanks for reading–Natasha.

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