Thursday, October 27, 2005
Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong in Science Class
By Winthrop Quigley
Journal Staff Writer
MONEY & MEDICINE: Intelligent design has no long-run future in America's science curricula because the dominant philosophy of the United States is not evangelical Christianity, it is capitalism.
American business simply will not tolerate the further dumbing down of its future workforce's science education with metaphysical speculation masquerading as biology. It cannot afford to.
For readers who have been on Jupiter for the past year, intelligent design is the proposition I choose that word carefully that there are complexities found in nature that cannot be accounted for by the theory of evolution, which perforce suggests some sort of intelligent designer must be responsible for guiding the biological development of life on this planet. ID proponents want their proposition taught, or at least mentioned, in biology classes.
The Rio Rancho school board has decided to allow what it calls discussion of alternatives to Darwinian evolution in its science curriculum. Parents in Dover, Pa., have sued their school board for requiring students to be told that intelligent design is an alternative to evolution.
The reason ID should be taught in science class, according to George W. Bush, is that people should hear both sides of a controversy.
Except there is no scientific controversy, because ID does not satisfy a definition of science. The proposition cannot be tested. It cannot be verified. It is about the supernatural, so it can't be reduced to a scientific hypothesis. It is useless as a tool to reveal the workings of nature because all it does is define any problem away: We can't explain why some feature of an insect exists, so it must be that the designer wanted it that way for reasons that are beyond our knowing.
The controversy is political and societal, not scientific. So if one wanted to put an ID component into a theology, philosophy or, perhaps, political science curriculum, a case could be made. But science? Forget it.
I must confess some personal sympathy for the conundrum ID attempts to address. I am a believing, card-carrying, dues-paying, church-attending Episcopalian. The fundamental requirement of Darwinian evolutionary theory, at least in its most orthodox form, is that one embrace the idea that our march from a single cell to humanity was a matter of chance. Reconciling an acceptance of what Stephen Jay Gould characterized as a Darwinian crap shoot with the Christian God of love, mercy and intention is no easy task.
Regardless of any spiritual angst one might feel, the fact remains that ID is bad for business.
Corporate America, especially its technology companies, is very worried about losing its competitive advantage over India, China and other Asian countries because of a poorly educated workforce.
AeA, a trade association of American technology companies, this year published a 32-page report called "Losing the Competitive Advantage?" Among its conclusions: "A highly skilled workforce is the lifeblood of any successful company, industry or national economy. Regrettably, the American K-12 system is failing to provide the math and science skills necessary for kids to compete in the 21st century workforce. ... U.S. high school seniors rank at or near the bottom in comparable math and science scores worldwide."
The report quotes MIT president Susan Hockfield as saying, "The science and math scores for our high school graduates are disastrous. ... This is a problem for our economy, and we have to think about where we want to be 20 to 40 years from now."
Thomas L. Friedman in his book "The World Is Flat" said every major company he interviewed for the book "is investing significantly in research and development abroad. It is not 'follow the money.' It is 'follow the brains.' ''
While Rio Rancho schools are working to put non-science into their science program, a kid in India is preparing to take our kids' technology jobs. I promise you, the Indian kid is not wasting his time studying ID.
The Rio Rancho schools are not going to solve their neighbor Intel's problem when their graduates haven't been trained to recognize the difference between scientific theory and metaphysical speculation. Intel will make a strictly business decision, not a theological decision. It will build its new plants where the workforce is properly trained.
When that happens in enough communities, watch ID quietly leave the science classroom
Winthrop Quigley covers health care and insurance news for the Journal. You can reach him at 823-3896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.