Posted by jlwile on January 3, 2010
I wasn’t going to blog on this subject until later, but a college instructor (Dr. Christopher O’Brien) posted a rather uninformed review of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design. The review referenced the first part of my review of that same book. I thought I would use Dr. O’Brien’s post for a “teachable moment.”
The blog starts out like most blogs that are uninterested in finding out what science really says about origins. Dr. O’Brien claims that in this blog, I repeat “the same worn out creationist canards throughout his site but obscures them within a cloak of scientific-sounding vocabulary.” This, of course, is nonsense. It is an attempt to sidestep the science and hope that no one notices. It is a common rhetorical technique, typically employed by those who do not have the courage to face opinions that contradict their own.
In any event, I want to mention Dr. O’Brien’s post because it is a classic example of how incorrect assumptions lead to incorrect conclusions. After once again trying to smear creationists rather than honestly address their arguments, the author of the post says:
Wile apparently believes this is sufficient for an instructor like me to start teaching ID in the classroom as a reasonable alternative to evolutionary theory.
This, of course, is also nonsense, and it shows that the author should stop making assumptions and actually start reading what he claims to have read.
You see, I didn’t even address the question of whether or not intelligent design should be taught in school. Indeed, even Dr. Monton’s book sees that as a side issue. He spends the vast majority of the book dealing with the more important question of whether or not intelligent design is science. He says that whether or not intelligent design should be taught in schools raises different issues than the CORE issues that he addresses in the book, but he feels he must “weigh in” in the issue, simply because that’s where others focus the debate.
So…since neither the first part of my review of Dr. Monton’s book nor any earlier post on this blog addresses whether or not intelligent design should be taught in school, how in the world would Dr. O’Brien know what I think on this issue? He simply assumed I thought it should be taught in schools. Well, like most uninformed assumptions, Dr. O’Brien’s assumption is incorrect.
I do not think that intelligent design necessarily should be taught in the classroom. After all, intelligent design is definitely not the scientific dogma of the day, and the average classroom should probably stay focused on the scientific dogma of the day. While I was a university professor, I constantly experienced how poorly most schools educate their charges when it comes to science. Indeed, that’s why I became an advocate of homeschooling – the homeschool graduates in my university courses were significantly superior to the students who came from public and private schools. Since the public and private schools can’t even keep up with untrained parents, it is clear they need to limit their focus to the bare essentials.
Even in introductory-level university courses, it is difficult to “squeeze in” all that is necessary to prepare students for the next stage of their education. Thus, even those courses should have a fairly narrow focus when it comes to what should be taught.
So I don’t want to distract most classrooms with the issue of intelligent design. Also, I understand the burden that most teachers have. The last thing I want is for them to be forced to learn a whole new area just so they can meet some mandate to teach intelligent design.
Now at the same time, I am steadfastly against outlawing the teaching of intelligent design, or creationism for that matter. Obviously both intelligent design and creationism are science. They both make serious predictions about nature, and many of those predictions have been born out by the data. If someone claims that intelligent design or creationism isn’t science, it is that person’s understanding of science that is at fault – not the paradigms of intelligent design or creationism. Thus, if a science teacher wants to teach what is clearly a science-related topic (either to promote it or oppose it), that teacher should be able to do so.
So in my mind, the only sufficient reason for a teacher to teach intelligent design, creationism, or any other topic related to his or her classroom is the teacher’s desire. Teachers should be free to teach whatever their experience and training indicate will make their students better-informed on the subject matter covered in class. After all, that’s what academic freedom is all about.
Of course, many of those who want to forbid the teaching of intelligent design or creationism in schools aren’t interested in academic freedom. They aren’t even interested in strengthening education. They are simply interested in trying to defend an outdated, scientifically inaccurate view by censoring all other ideas. This stand, of course, is both anti-education and anti-science, and it is unfortunate that many who call themselves “science educators” take it. It is yet another reflection of how desperate some people are to believe what they want to believe instead of what the data say.
I have no idea whether or not Dr. O’Brien is one of those people. I can tell you this about him, however: He obviously made assumptions about my position on this issue, and rather than learning by seriously reading the review he claims to have read, he just went with his assumption. Thus, I would not be surprised if his entire view of creationism (or intelligent design for that matter) is based on his own assumptions rather than careful investigation.