January 4, 2006
Find a Place for Intelligent Design in Public Schools
By Mark Davis
A memo to all who are embroiled in the ruckus over intelligent design: Let's have everybody climb down from the high horses, and we might actually do right by our kids.
It seems the only people who can be found for comment are atheists who seethe at the notion of faith arising in any fashion in a public school course and evangelicals getting their licks in after 40-plus years of school-prayer frustration.
This is driving the rest of us nuts. There are millions of Americans of faith who are willing to have evolution taught as what it is – a theory. Conversely, there are staunch believers in evolution who have no quarrel with a school curriculum that finds room for the discussion of whether all of creation is a happy accident or the plan of a supreme being.
The battle is over where that subject comes up.
Religious people have had it up to their eyeballs with the clumsy overreach of school districts that have perverted their responsibility for religious neutrality by exercising genuine religious hostility.
They want the notion of intelligent design taught in science class, right alongside Darwinism, and let Madalyn Murray O'Hair whine all she likes in whatever dark corner of the afterlife she occupies.
But there's a problem: Intelligent design is not science.
It is the job of science to have no comment about that which is objectively unobservable, and God is at the top of that list.
That means science has no basis for arguing for God's existence, but should not argue against it either. There's that pesky neutrality obligation again.
But is a child fully educated if he is never asked to consider something most of the world believes?
Putting specific faith completely aside, isn't the notion of our creation one of the most compelling philosophical issues of any lifetime?
Borrowing nothing from my Christianity, I would say as a pure matter of logic that an omniscient creation is far more plausible than the belief that we are all here just by chance.
Others may disagree. Let them, and please let it be within earshot of kids in school. A philosophy course, social studies, whatever anyone wants to call it – but let's not be hamstrung by the phony argument that this amounts to religious instruction.
I remember a high school course that taught the religious creation theories of the ancient Norse cultures, the Egyptians and a host of other societies. Why not our own?
Kids may believe what they wish, and such teaching would not prod them toward or away from any belief. It would simply tell them what those beliefs are.
Would that science academicians exercised such restraint when anyone looks askance at the holy grail of evolution.
Science advocates don't want science classes diverted into areas beyond science's purview. That's fine.
But any advocate of a culturally literate student body should also hope that kids get an earful of what most in America and the rest of Western culture believe on a variety of issues, some of them spiritual.
Science's version of how we all got here enjoys its proper place in our schoolbooks. If room is not made in some other class for a more ethereal view on that subject, our kids lose out.
The shame in this whole debate is that it has been hijacked by hard-liners on both sides with no room to give an inch.
A teacher once told me, "I could learn tomorrow that every speck of the theory of evolution is true, and I would be in no less awe of God, because I would know it was his plan."
In today's bare-knuckle atmosphere, that teacher gets fired. But it showed me that all the competing ideas about such lofty things as creation need not be mutually exclusive.
We will not know the answers to these matters in our time on Earth. So let's work together to find a way to bring the scientific, philosophical and even religious teachings into schools – not to compete in a loser-leaves-town brawl, but to blend onto the plate of a thorough education.
Mark Davis is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News. The Mark Davis Show is heard weekdays nationwide on the ABC Radio Network. His e-mail address is email@example.com.