Controversial Origins

    In God we trust. The phrase is fine on pennies, dollar bills and other things where its presence will have no effect on the future of the United States, but not when it comes to the American educational system. Kansas earned the United States international ridicule when it instituted science education guidelines that questioned evolution and taught intelligent design.

    Jennifer Hsu/Guardian

    The assault on the scientific method is not limited to Kansas. Last year, the Calvary Chapel Christian School sued the University of California because the UC system does not accept courses using materials that question evolution as a means of fulfilling the university system’s science admissions requirement. Under the guise that the UC system was oppressing students of the Christian faith, the lawsuit sought to force the UC system to accept the teaching of religious concepts in high school science courses.

    Fortunately for the future of American education, the Kansas school board abandoned its anti-evolution science curriculum. According to a Feb. 13 Associated Press story, the Kansas school board removed language in the guidelines that suggested evolution is wrong. In response, fundamentalists attacked the ruling as an insidious attempt to promote atheism as well as undermining ethics and morals.

    The key flaw in the Bible thumpers’ arguments is that intelligent design fails to stand up as a scientific theory. Unlike the theory of evolution, intelligent design does not pass any of the benchmarks of a scientific theory. For example, while scientists can test evolution through the observation of species – as Darwin famously did with finches on the Galapagos Islands – it is impossible to scientifically test or observe the existence of God.

    Even some supporters of intelligent design admit that there is no scientific evidence to support the theory, as professor Michael Behne of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania did in testimony to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

    Intelligent design assumes that the world is so complex, that it is so statistically unlikely for humans to have formed, that God or some other higher power must have designed it. Even assuming that the two ideas are equally valid explanations of the world, evolution does not require the additional belief, a massive leap of faith, in a mystical higher power in its explanation. However, intelligent design suffers from an utter lack of positive evidence in its favor and thus is as valid of a scientific theory as the notion that a Flying Spaghetti Monster, the subject of a well-known satire of intelligent design, created the world.

    While religious private schools should have the freedom to teach whichever religion they wish in their classrooms, it is the prerogative and responsibility of the state to ensure a minimum level of proper education. The UC system, in addition to denying the use of the biased science classes at Calvary Chapel Christian School, blocked religiously influenced history and English classes as well. That decision deserves debate as culture and religion directly shape our views of history and language.

    However, religion simply has no place in the science classroom. Blind faith and ignorance of evidence is anathema to every ideal of rational thought and logical analysis for which science stands. If public institutions allow religion to be passed off as science in their educational systems, the United States will lose its scientific edge and become vulnerable to nations that do not compromise public education by allowing religion to infest their scientific curricula.

    Even presenting intelligent design as an alternative to evolution is undermining the scientific education of America’s future. Evolution is a 150-year-old scientific theory with overwhelming evidence in its favor; intelligent design is a dressed-up version of creationism with a significant amount of pseudoscientific techno-babble intended to befuddle ill-educated politicians in an attempt to infiltrate modern school curricula.

    The problem with teaching intelligent design in a science classroom is not that it stems from creationism, but that it lacks scientific reasoning. Intelligent design would be an acceptable topic of discussion in a philosophy class, but teaching it in a science class would be akin to teaching students to just think the solution to a derivative is whatever they believe it is, or a different version of the English language – it is factually incorrect material.

    However, intelligent design is not merely a factually incorrect theory; it is part of a broader effort to drastically change the social and cultural fabric of the United States. Propaganda efforts on the part of intelligent design advocates, such as the “”Teach the Controversy”” campaign that aims to produce the illusion of scientific doubt where there is none, attempts to discredit scientific thought. The chief advocates of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, even state in their “”Wedge Strategy”” pamphlet that their goal is to make science “”consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”” and to “”affirm the reality of God.””

    These efforts, if successful, would destroy the United States as the world leader in scientific advances. Ensuring that students are properly educated in scientific theory and arming them with an understanding of science based on fact is vital to preventing the spread of this fundamentalist scourge.

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