Problem that the Dover ruling won’t solve
Pharyngula, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Unscrewing The Inscrutable, ***Dave, Orac, Buridan, and The Revealer have all written excellent analysis about the Dover ruling, in which it was found that ‘Intelligent Design’ is just religious creationism dressed-up in science-y sounding language (not to be confused with actual science). Some of them have multiple entries covering different angles of the case, so I won’t try to duplicate their work.
Instead, I’m putting on my psychic fortune-teller hat and peering into the future to see what will happen next:
- The Discovery Institute will try to say this is ‘a necessary step’ in a long battle. They will probably also renege on their promise to cover the Dover school district’s legal expenses.
- Pat Robertson (and possibly James Dobson) will whine that it is evidence of activist secular judges leading our nation away from God’s blessing, or some such, thereby proving that even they know ID is a religious concept that doesn’t belong in a classroom
- Thousands of letters will be written to editors of hundreds of newspapers, complaining about how Christianity is persecuted and just can’t get fair treatment at the hands of those awful secularists. (An ‘activist judge’, by the way, is any judge who ruled in a way you don’t like)
- Many school districts will misunderstand the ruling and actually prevent any mention of Intelligent Design in any context, even to discuss what science actually IS and what it is NOT
That last point is the downside. Many school principals and district superintendents have misinterpreted rulings against state-sponsored religion to mean that no one, not even students, can pray in school or read the Bible. (Not true) The same thing will happen to discussions of science and religion, which is a shame.
I would like science classes and religion classes to devote more time to the respective theory of those disciplines. What is science, after all? And what is religion? What kinds of questions does each attempt to answer?
Although many scientists (being human) have opinions on the existence of God one way or the other, science itself does not intrude into that question because it is not testable or falsifiable. Yet religion does make some scientific claims, such as; “The Earth is 6,000 years old.” It is a testable, falsifiable statement of fact that can be addressed by science, and since it has been tested and falsified, it does not belong in science class.
Another collision between science and religion is where religion wants religious claims taught as science. ‘Intelligent Design’ is such a claim; it is inspired by religion (as the judge clearly found), and there is no way to test it or falsify it. To believe in Intelligent Design, as with creationism itself, is an act of faith, and outside the realm of science.
Ask 100 adults what science is, and you will learn just how badly our educational institutions have failed to lay the groundwork. The same is probably true of religion – you will be given examples of each, rather than hear a fundamental understanding; “Uh, science is like, laboratories, and computers, and dissecting frogs, and physics and stuff.”
They might say something similar about religion: “Uh, religion is like, Christianity, and Judaism, and Islam and stuff.”
The operative word in both cases is: “Uh…”
I’m awfully glad for the court ruling but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem.