Friday, November 07, 2008

29% of teachers say Intelligent Design should be taught in science lessons

As indicated by this article in the Guardian, this debate seems to have transversed the Atlantic and is gaining momentum in British society.

Whether evolutionary theory is the only legitimate scientific explanation for the existence of life begs the question, 'What is science?' For, if science classes in schools covers that which falls under the remit of science, then creationism and intelligent design must first fulfil the criteria to be a considered science. Otherwise, their place is within religious studies or the general humanities.

Advocates of intelligence design might argue that the problem lies with our education system that delineates so severely between different subjects as if they were self contained entities. The very fact that we place such emphasis on science as a subject that tells us how the world 'really is' assumes that there is something particularly special about its methods and results. Religious studies in contrast, is usually reduced to a minor (and 'easy') subject.

This debate highlights limitations with our education system and the gravitas we give to particular subjects without studying the foundational assumptions upon which they rest. Where, in the national curriculum, is there any real discussion about what is science, and whether scientific methods are better than any other ways of understanding the world? This seems fundamental to the whole argument.

I have no truck with those that believe in intelligent design nor creationism but I do sympathise with their efforts to question the whole system of science education in schools. I would not advocate that either theory gets taught as part of the science curriculum, for they are not sciences, but I do think there should be a place for students to discuss the underpinning assumptions about science.

22 comments:

  1. student2:21 pm

    i agree!

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  2. If the students are challenging the hows and whys behind the scientific theories then they should be encouraged to evaluate the intelligent design theory alongside the current theorires in science lessons. However the current education sytem is covering all of the theories, in different lessons granted, and so the students are not missing out in any way. Re-branding the creation story as intelligent design is a good idea though as it adds more weight to it as an alternative.

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  3. Emily4:53 pm

    From what I know of Creationism and Intelligent Design, because of its roots of Christianity, then it should be taught within RE lessons, and not Science, as it is a religious interpretation of Science. It should be taught, as it is a worldview, and it is important for those who don't understand these theories to have a knowledge of them, similar to being taught about other religions. Like evolution, however, it is a personal choice to believe, so those pupils should also have the opportunity to exercise their freedom of opinion, and not be condemned for it.

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  4. Charlie4:54 pm

    I think that there has been a misinterpretation about creationism. I think that this could be taught in science lessons along with evolution as a way of presenting the different views that people have on the world, like when we talk about differing religious views in Religious Studies. But the creationism that would be taught, especially to the younger children, I think has to be a very basic understanding of the concept & perhaps getting more developed at the children get older.
    I also think we need to change the way we think about some of the subjects in the school curriculum i.e. the assumption that RS is a 'soft subject' and science as a harder subject because I believe that they require different thought processes in order to understand the subject, so we can't separate these subjects into these particular categories.

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  5. Personally, I think that students should be taught, or at least have the option to study philosophy from the same age they are taught science. While science is helpful in that it helps establish widely-accepted 'truths' which make the world seem slightly less confusing, it still consists solely of theories, just like philosophy. Teaching creationism in religious studies makes perfect sense, teaching it in science feels somehwat counterproductive, but giving students the chance to discuss, support and criticise both theories in philosophy seems to me the most reasonable way to go about it.

    A problem with this, however, would be that i suppose whoever is teaching philosophy to these children or teenagers is going to be pretty unpopular when science teachers suddenly have to put up with the students questioning the validity of everything they're trying to teach them is fact.

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  6. Jess - are scientific theories of the same nature as philosophical ones? Wondered if they are the same type of thing..
    DW

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  7. I don't think scientific theories are necessarily of the same nature as philosophical ones, but I do think they're dependent on them.

    If we're going to assume any scientific theory to be true if it has what we consider proof, then we will have already assumed certain philosophical theories to be true, perhaps naive realism, as well as others concerning our perceptiom of reality, the nature of cause and effect etc.

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  8. During my GSCE science lessons on evolution, my school (which was deemed a 'specialist scence school' if that makes a difference)made it compulsory to be offered creationism alongside as an alternative. At the time I found this surprising, since, like Emily said, the humanities were seen as an 'easy' subject which could be glossed over.
    If students are questioning creationism it needs to be addressed regardless of where in the curriculum it occurs - Religious Studies does not gloss over historic events because they occur in a different subject - surely the same can be said here.

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  9. Dave M10:28 am

    I see it like this, no scientist would ever claim that evolutionary theory is fact (or for that matter that any theory is fact). Science only tries to achieve a best guess based on the information available. Creationism and intelligent design disregard evidence which hinders their theory. A good science teacher will not teach science as fact but as our best understanding, but will encourage pupils to base their beliefs on evidence rather than faith. Also, while we have a secular education system i find it inappropriate to teach creationism etc alongside science. It should be left in the domain of R.S teachers. If R.S is seen as a soft subject then this is an issue with the way it's presented and we should work to change that rather than shift ideas to subjects where they don't belong.

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  10. Rebecca11:30 am

    i agree with both helen and jess who comented that creationism and intelegent design should both be taught as alternatives in the religious studies curriculem. they may have a scientific basis but they offer an oppurtunity to compare the creation story which we all know so well to alternatives and would therefore make religious studies a 'harder' subject as well as a more interesting one.

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  11. Kayleigh12:33 pm

    I think it is important to be given an alternative explanation and viewpoint to traditional science. There are problems in the method of science itself (induction) and more people these days seem to be looking elsewhere for explanations.
    Although religion itself doesnt have as popular and trusted reputation as science due to the leap of faith that is needed to follow such an approach it appears that science is being used towards the history of religion. For this reason i do believe that the intelligent design theory should also be provided to students to do as they please with as such.
    I am also concerned with the fact that science is taught in schools as the be all and end all, "matter of fact" explanation of the world. To me this seems to limit the diversity that is beyond traditional science. I am not trying to question the usefulness of science but suggesting that adding further knowledge to a child's education may also be useful.
    I think what Jess said about Philosophy was a very good point and I too believe that Philosophy should be offered at a much earlier time in school. Offering broader subjects would encourage much thought into the world and all aspects of the world.

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  12. isn't it other problem? if teaching of any religion became compulsory, the choice of only one will evoke opposition of all others left.

    I believe in Intelligent Design. Flying Spaghetti Monster did it! And Invisible Pink Unicorn helped him.
    If the intelligent design is taught as an alternative to biological evolution, creation by Flying Spaghetti Monster has to be taught too!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

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  13. Tim Brooker2:30 pm

    I have a mixed view about this, most of the time i do question what they teach in schools, there is a lot left out because people would rather avoid certain topics because they are perhaps rather 'sensitive'. From my understanding this is more obvious in American rather than England but i still think there is a problem there. Children are not able to get the freedom of learning that they desire, they are taugh strict and straight and lose the ability to truely grasp knowledge. As for the difference between the creation stories and science cannot it not be said they they both relate to each other. Science may be empirical and the creation stories..say from the bible...may just be accounts however everypart of life is science. I believe that they are all linked regardless of what the subject is. We could argue that the creation stories should be taught in history as they are apart of history. In that sense this problem would get bounced and bounced until the arguement is meaningless...which it is in that sense. Religion and Philosophy are a science..it may not be a science in the sense that physics is...or chemistry is..however i think that it is still a science none the less. Why can't it be. It may not be based on solid fact, it may not be proven through experiment, induction or deduction. But still in my view the creation was still a scientific breakthrough. Imagine if we managed to create a world...would we call it science or would we proclaim ourselves as Gods, to most they would say science...although with man kind slowly slipping to greed and ignorence and sure that the creators would actually believe themselves to be Gods in their own right. But on the hole it is my opinion that science and religion will always be to links of a larger chain. They are different but they will always be linked. So be it explored through science or religion or philosophy (or history) proving it is dicussed without fear and without doubt then religious studies will always be alive. We cannot just drop it because it has competition. Providing there is religion there will always be room for religious studies.And providing there is an argument there will always be philosophy until the day that man becomes so monsterous that we will be forced to think and believe like those who concider superior to us common folk. But even then religion will always rebel.

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  14. “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” Albert Einstein.

    Firstly, the ‘theory’ of evolution is exactly that - a theory. There are still many scientifically unanswered questions concerning evolution - yet within our school system today, evolution as a whole is taught as absolute fact.

    The purpose and history of science is according to Stephen Hawking the “gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manor, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.’ Science exists to enable us to understand the world/cosmos in which we exist. We make conclusions from science like that in a courtroom scenario, we look at facts (especially repeatable facts) and draw conclusions.

    With regard to the statement that creation/ID must fulfill the criteria that falls under science, if recent scientific evidence comes to light that presents new information with regard to our world and cosmos, and creation/ID - surely it should be studied in science. Science or more importantly scientists are the very people that have through intensive research and study have brought these new findings to light.

    One example of this is DNA. “Show me a language that does not come from a mind?”
    The science bit! DNA was discovered by science. DNA is the most densely packed and intricately detailed assembly of information in the known universe. DNA is a language, a set of coded instructions for life that when broken down are shown to contain the 4 aspects that every language must contain - alphabet, grammar, meaning and intent. However, instructions and language do not randomly appear.

    The religious bit! Who then authored DNA - the code necessary for life?

    Antony Flew (Professor of Philosophy, former atheist, author and debater is quoted as saying “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided material for new and enormously powerful argument to design.” Again this recent research gives credence to the study and debate of creation/ID belonging firmly within the realms of science and therefore should be taught within science lessons in our schools.

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  15. Since creationism is more of a religious theory and not a scientific theory, it should not be included in science curriculum for students. The idea of splitting the time equally between the theory of evolution and the theory of creationism is not needed. However, if a student raises a question in class, then it should be the role of the teacher to be prepared to face these questions, provide alternative theories relating to creationism, and not humiliate the student. I am a biology major and I attend a Christian College back home. They begin our first biology course by presenting us with the different theories of creationism, such as the Framework theory, Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory, and the literal 24-hour theory. During that same time, we were also learning about the theory of evolution. At first we were not quite sure what to think. But that’s the thing, it made us think. And so, part of learning, and part of an education system, should be to provide students with all sorts of information so that they can process it and learn to think for themselves, even if that means creationism has to be discussed in a classroom.

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  16. Alicia4:42 pm

    It is interesting that everyone seems to agree that Intelligent Design should be placed mainly in the realm of philosophy or religious studies, while Darwin's theories of evolution should be placed under the category of science, and I would agree that a definition of science is vital to any progress in this debate. In one sense, I would argue that neither theory should be strictly included as science, at least in its attempt to explain the beginnings of the universe or the start of life. These things are not testable or repeatable, and therefore fall outside the realm of proper science.
    In another sense, however, I would say that aspects of both "creation science" and evolutionary science should be qualified as science, in that there are serious scientists using the scientific method to acquire physical, chemical, and biological evidence for both of the theories. Evolution as a mechanism for adaptation to new environments has been observed and tested, and certainly has a place in the science classroom. Likewise, those who would debate the theory of neo-Darwinian evolution, especially those who have no prior agenda in religion, should also be included as a thought-provoking minority opinion, rather than stifled for the sake of convenience. One of the most important qualities in a scientist is that of curiosity, and it would be a shame to discourage students,especially in higher levels of schooling, from exploring the possibilities and evaluating the evidence for themselves.

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  17. I came from a Catholic school and as suggested I did have time to consider the 'Intelligent' Design argument and evolution. This was within Philosophy for A level. The Catholic teacher who ran the biology class spoke openly about evolution as a positive theory. There are many scientists who are Christians (I'm avoiding the term christian scientist!) who believe in evolution. Francis Collins who has debated on a number of occasions with Richard Dawkins. Alister McGrath, a very intelligent man, who is a Christian and acceptor of evolution. Evolution is theory but a very strong one with growing evidence, DNA has really been the landmark discovery for me.

    Certainly keep ID separate from science. Although it is possible to teach (outside of science) that creationism does not have to be 6 day (7th was the rest).

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  18. in my opinion there is no way that intelligent design should be taught as a science, or creationism. for a start they are just theories and explanations from religious view and shouldnt be compared to evolutionary theory. fair enough it is still a theory but it is a widely agreed upon theory with a process that actually works and has been tested (natural selection).
    this is not to say that that there is no place for intelligent design etc, there place belongs in the humanities section of education not science. i feel that there should always be a line between matters of science and matters of religion.

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  19. Rozy J2:17 pm

    If creationism can be seperated within the curriculum from its religious ideals and extended forms (ie christianity or any other religion) and be kept as an alternate theory to the nature of our universe as shown by evidence within scientific grounds then the evidence for it should be taught along side the evidence for evolution. Whether we are created or evolved doesnt link, im my opinioin, to the religious views of various cultures, and it is that which should be taught within religious studies classes, religious documents and practices have no place within sacience, but that is not creationism. As a a form of biological/chemical/physical evidence, with design as a possile explanation for the things we observe in the world, the prospect of intelligene design has the same standing as Evolutionist theories. Its the religions themselves that we need to keep away from science.

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  20. Rozy J2:17 pm

    If creationism can be seperated within the curriculum from its religious ideals and extended forms (ie christianity or any other religion) and be kept as an alternate theory to the nature of our universe as shown by evidence within scientific grounds then the evidence for it should be taught along side the evidence for evolution. Whether we are created or evolved doesnt link, im my opinioin, to the religious views of various cultures, and it is that which should be taught within religious studies classes, religious documents and practices have no place within sacience, but that is not creationism. As a a form of biological/chemical/physical evidence, with design as a possile explanation for the things we observe in the world, the prospect of intelligene design has the same standing as Evolutionist theories. Its the religions themselves that we need to keep away from science.

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  21. today on lecture i had feeling that I'm the only one person who thinks that school should be free from any religions. it is a private matter. there is place for that at home, church, variety of societies, but not at school!
    I don't believe in god, but still (surprisingly) I can do some mathematical calculation or understand cellular respiration. this kind of knowledge should be taught at school.
    creationism in science classes? yeah - but only with the theory of intelligent design by mentioned above Flying Spaghetti Monster.

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  22. I have argued that young scientists should be taught examples of mistaken theories (e.g. the ptolemaic theory, the phlogiston theory, and intelligent design theory) in order to learn how to identify and criticise mistaken theories, including their own. See

    http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs/id

    It is worth noting that theists often repeat quotations from Einstein without bothering to find out what he really thought, said and wrote about religion. For more on this see

    http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/einstein-religion.html

    and

    http://www.einsteinandreligion.com/

    Aaron
    http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs/

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