Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Intelligent teaching of intelligent design

A perceptive article in today's Higher Education supplement of The Australian newspaper (not online, sorry) brings me to dip my nervous toe into the ID debate. Should the Intelligent Design approach (summary: that irreducible complexity in biological systems is best explained by a Designer) be taught in high schools—either alongside evolution or on its own?
Without being able to comment on the science, my feeling is yes—but only if the teachers have a grasp of both evolutionary theory, creationism and ID. It is rare to find teachers (wonderful people) who have had the time or inclination to stay up to date with scientific developments, let alone new ideas such as ID. These are not simple, static facts that are being passed on to students—they are profound and complex ideas about life's origins and development.
What is needed is a decent ongoing education option for teachers and syllabus directors where they can step back and consider the content of the material. Is it science? Can the theory be explained to high school students or shoudl it be left for uni? Does it require worldview commitments of students and teachers?
In my part of the world, CASE, along with specialised science and religion groups such as ISCAST will need to step up to this challenge.

Send CASE an email


Lara said...

Whether or not to teach ID is indeed a tricky issue. Here's my $0.02!

Even if ID is not science, there is no need for schools or scientists to shy away from it. It is part of a controversy within the scientific community, and school kids should be exposed to such things.

This is part of the reason that I think the history, philosophy and sociology should be more widely taught. Science is not the accumulation of uncontested facts. Science is a process whereby knowledge claims are put forward, tested and accepted - temporarily, at least, until a better theory is developed.

There is no consensus on the nature of science itself, so it is unlikely that the content of science will ever be firmly settled. Teaching students about these kinds of issues will allow them to make more informed judgments - not only about ID and evolution, but about all sorts of interactions between science and wider society.

Greg Clarke said...

Yes, we need perhaps less teaching of facts and more teaching of how to think. As an Arts bloke, I'd love to see something like the two-year US liberal arts program (what they usually call 'College') here.

Drew said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Drew said...

Okay, don't mind me... just reposting my post.... I disagreed with me.

Thanks for the ISCAST link - it's quite useful.

Now, I'm certainly not saying I agree with IDers, but I can understand what they are trying to do. I feel their frustration when scientists, or more often people attempting to syphon scientific research into the public view, use scientific findings to make metaphysical propositions. And so they have come up with an approach which enables them to make metaphysical propositions of their own.

Either approach is unscientific.

But it ain't new. As you have pointed out, this kind of shoddy thinking is rampant - Historians, or again rather, those wishing to syphon history for their own purposes, soap boxes etc. often use history to make their own metaphysical conclusions. If you want examples I can list 'em, but I'm sure you know of plenty already.

However, these kinds of debates do allow us to a) defend our beliefs as Christians as not unreasonable or hostile to science, b) they do tend to put a highlight on the limits of science and reason (precisely because another approach has had to be employed) and therefore c) address what is important about Christianity.

When you get down to it, you don't want to add bits to Christ - to do so would be to corrupt the good news of what he has done.