by Alonzo Fyfe
Atheist Ethicist Blog
I think that some battles should be kept out of the courts.
In California, advocates of "intelligent design" are pushing a new way get into the public schools and preach their gospel while pretending to teach science. They have created a "Philosophy of Design" class (L.A. Times
). Allegedly, its purpose is to teach the philosophical issues surrounding design theory. In fact, all but one video set for the class favors intelligent design, and one speaker assigned to defend evolution died in 2004.
So, a number of parents in the school district have filed a lawsuit, saying that the class is unconstitutional.
I see lawsuits as a waste of time.
People should react to this class the same way that would react to news that the school was having Nazi Party members teach a class saying that the Holocaust did not exist. The class is a farce, designed to promote ignorance and to attract members into the "teacher's" political group.
The Problem with 'Intelligent Design'
Here are three major pillars of "intelligent design".
(1) Irreducibly complex things must be designed.
(2) The ultimate designer is irreducibly complex
(3) The ultimate designer was not designed.
This is a flat contradiction -- a piece of incoherent nonsense.
Will this "teachers" point this out to their students?
I suspect not. This is because their goal is not to teach, but to indoctrinate. They are going to hide the contradiction behind a smoke screen of confusion and scientific-sounding jargon.
If they do acknowledge this problem, I suspect that they will try to cover it up with some ad-hoc adjustments, such as
(1) Irreducibly complex things must be designed, except the ultimate designer.
Question: Why tack on this ad-hoc exception?
The intelligent design advocate under a truth serum would have to say, Because it is the only way to cover up the contradiction.
Question: Why 'except the ultimate designer'? Why not 'except life'?
Again, a dose of truth serum would force the intelligent design advocate to answer, Because I am trying to create an argument for the existence of God, and this is the only way to get the results I want.
The Cost of Intelligent Design
We cannot afford to have our public schools dedicated to the task of promoting ignorance. We need smart people with a sufficient grasp of reality to find real-world answers to our real-world problems.
We are under the threat of a pandemic and we need people to understand how living things work to best figure out how to protect us from this threat. Diseases are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Promoting ignorance at this time will disarm us against these diseases, resulting in suffering and death.
We need people who are smart enough to keep America competitive in the global economy. If we promote ignorance in our schools, while other countries teach their children to understand the real world, those other nations will catch up to and pass the United States, ultimately leaving us in their economic dust. Companies will want employees who can think and reason, not employees whose minds have been clouded and confused in ways necessary to hide the contradictions inherent in 'intelligent design'.
In addition to bad science and bad reasoning skills, intelligent design theorists are teaching poor moral lessons as well. They are teaching these lessons by example.
They are teaching backwards reasoning. The lesson plan says, "Grab some arbitrary conclusion that you like. Now, if somebody says something that supports your conclusion, assume that it is true. If somebody else says something that contradicts your conclusion, reject it."
This is exactly the type of thinking that got us into this Iraq war. "If somebody says something that suggests Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, assume they are right and praise them as a patriot. If somebody shows us evidence that there are no such weapons, call them a traitor to humanity and disregard what he says."
The Problem with the Courts
Raising a generation of kids who cannot reason their way past a simple contradiction does not help anybody. For a nation to survive, it needs an educated population.
The problem with fighting the issue in courts is that, even when the good guys win, the people themselves are left just as ignorant. The only way to end this investation is to take the campaign to the people, and educate them to the point that they recognize and reject incoherent and self-contradictory views like 'intelligent design.'