(This article was originally posted on blogger.com on Aug 4, 2005)
What has gone wrong? How has one of the great themes in the history of science – that of evolution – become so disreputable?
Here, I’m talking about the fact that many people (even scientists) suggest that the “theory” of so-called Intelligent Design (ID) and/or Creationism should be taught in american schools, alongside with neo-Darwinism evolution. This is, but not particularly, embarrassing (since a lot of scientists believe in crackpot ideas), however, that President Bush promotes teaching Intelligent Design in schools is really worrisome.
The story is the following. Last Monday President Bush talked about promoting ID in public schools. The article in Chicago Tribune tells it all:
President Bush said Monday that he thinks schools should discuss “intelligent design” alongside evolution when teaching students about creation.
During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to detail his views on the origin of the universe. But he said students should learn about both theories.
“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”
The theory of intelligent design says life on Earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.
Christian conservatives have pushed for the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. Scientists generally have rejected the theory as an attempt to force religion into education.
This is, in fact, the whole article. Just one whole sentence on the scientific opinion of this “scientific” topic. I would like to add some comments about this.
In principle, I agree with the President, that students should be exposed to different ideas about a specific subject.
However, that does not imply that one should include teaching them religious ideas under the guise of teaching them science. Creationism and ID is not a part of science, but rather a part of pseudo-science. ID and Creationism (which should be considered a subgroup of ID) are simply not scientific theories: ID does not make any new predictions, which cannot be explained by evolution, it is not falsifiable in any way and violates Occam’s Razor. Supporters of ID claim, that they have published quite a few papers about the subject in peer-reviewed scientific journals. I don’t think this is true, but even if it is, then the editors of these journals are obviously not experts on evolutionary biology, and have accepted papers for publication despite the absence of any material or logical support for the idea of ID.
Evolution have been established with thousands of cases of evidence, and the work of hundreds of thousands of researchers. This idea is based on material evidence and repeated experiments, extensively documented in the scientific literature. It flatly contradicts literal religious accounts.
The idea of teaching student about different views on a specific subject is an admirable on, however, that does not include teaching science as if it was as much of a “he said this, and she said that”” enterprise, just like journalism or politics for that matter. In the end, this would imply that e.g. astrology should be taught together with psychology, homoeopathy (the idea to treat a disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease) together with pharmacology, phrenology together with neuro-biology (or psychology) and so on. This would be a horribly poor idea.
(The title of this post was inspired by an excellent paper on “giant gravitons” by McGreevy, Susskind and Toumbas. But that is a completely different story).