In which I horrify just about everyone

Petey blogs about the evolution vs. intelligent design case being fought in the courts right now (and by right now I don't mean 1925). Now, I consider myself a scientist (in the same way that Batman is a scientist), and I certainly don't think intelligent design is valid science or support it being taught alongside evolution in schools. But I have a hard time getting my dander up about intelligent design in particular (as opposed to the dismay I feel about the religious right's agenda creeping into secular matters in general).

Teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools is a disservice to students. But things like the lack of proper grammar and writing instruction, or a standardized technology curriculum, or a strong math curriculum, or even mandatory physical education are more of a disservice to students than teaching intelligent design. What's going to be more important for a high school student in ten years: knowing that life evolved through natural selection, or knowing how to write a cogent email? Or understanding fractions? I can't advocate teaching anything unscientific in a science class, but it's worth putting things in perspective. All the energy on both sides of the issue would be put to a more productive use if the priority were to do what was best for students rather than wage ideological wars.

On a related topic, how many people out there somehow believe that their brains are capable of non-deterministic decisions despite what biochemistry, neurology, and physics would say to the contrary? I'd like to see physical determinism added to biology curricula; if nothing else, the resulting uproar would bring together the Left, Right and Center in a unified attack against hard science.


  1. The Fantasy News

    Because it's funny

  2. I take your point, but you have to consider the externalities here, and one of them is precedent, legal and otherwise. If we let Creationsim through I'm afraid that the long-term consequences will include the death of pluralism in America. If we're lucky, this debate will focus more attention on the very issues you're talking about, preferably resulting in our public school system being razed to the ground and built up anew.

  3. That gets to the heart of the issue: the court case in Dover is a proxy for the larger battle between those interested in a secular, pluralistic society and the religious Right. The bad science is effectively incidental, but it's been in both sides' interests to focus the discourse on the merits or stupidity of intelligent design rather than openly discussing the merits (or stupidity, I guess) of a secular society. Mike made the specific point in his post of pointing out that you were a scientist, but the salient fact is that you're a secularist.

    You didn't answer the free will-y question, I notice.

  4. Has anyone else picked up on the pattern (evidence of determinism perhaps) of Jeffy discussing determinism on the web around the time of Yom Kippur? Somebody doesn't feel like atoning.....


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