Friday, February 17, 2012

Not so Intelligent in their Design

This is going to be a little off the beaten path for me, but actions by some of my New Hampshire legislators have really started to annoy me. There are two bills in committee at the moment HB 1148 and HB 1457 that are going to redefine science education in this state. Foregoing for the moment the libertarian argument over the utility of public education, I want to examine these bills both as a father with school age children, and as an intelligent, free American concerned about these bills and the wider movement they represent across the nation.

The text of HB 1148 is as follows:
Theory of Evolution. Require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.
And the text of 1457 reads as:
Scientific Inquiry. Require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.
Seem reasonable? Reading it quickly, glossing over the atheism thing, maybe you say “yeah, isn’t that science?” For those of us who are not morons, the idea of evolution being taught as a theory is just fine, so long as we agree it is being taught as an established “scientific theory” under the scientific method with all the accompanying meaning. There is, however, a very real attempt in all of these endeavors to redefine the concept of the a scientific theory and the scientific method. You constantly hear it over and over “it is the THEORY of evolution not a fact” in an attempt to replace the meaning with definition one from the dictionary of the word theory, which is essentially a guess. Don’t believe me, check out the Cadillac of these bills from Missouri (here). In the bill it actually redefines the term “theory” when discussing evolution to mean hypothesis. This is so intellectually dishonest and just down right despicable. Change the definition of scientific theory to “guess”, tell children evolution is just a “theory” under the new guidelines and theories need to be doubted and questioned. For our New Hampshire residents we will then need to discuss if the person who hypothesized and tested his way to the theory was a dirty atheist with an evil secular agenda, for that can be the only reading of bill 1148. Our poor cousins in Missouri will have to be given the equal time treatment of “Intelligent Design”, that we just couldn’t have evolved here over the course of hundreds of millions of years (another concept they seem to be questioning in their bill) but there has to be a designer. Mind you a designer we can not see, prove, experiment on, or even come up with a general hypothesis to it’s motives, but just there. My question has to be to all of this: To what end? This enriches the lives of our school age children in some way? Teaching them that science and the scientific method are not really all that important, for we can just change the definitions and mold the world to what we want instead of what we can observe? If we get people believing there is an intelligent designer, which once again can’t be proven or tested in any way, what then? Is there a purpose here? We denied Darwin, yeah! Do we use this to outlaw Atheism? Here is a notion, if there is an intelligent designer, billions of years old as he were, do we then get to ignore and replace all the world’s faiths with universal acceptance and acknowledgment of the benevolent I.D. who obviously wanted nothing from us since he left no indication of his existence? Would the sponsors of all of these bills, who usually seem to be social conservatives, support that plan?

The motives of these people should be pretty transparent. They say biological evolution can’t answer all the questions, and hasn’t found all the pieces, can’t get around the “irreducibly complex” issue (go here to see most all complaints refuted pretty well), so we have to change the system. I am sure you have heard of a Tyrannosaurus, a large theropod dinosaur that lived 65 million years ago. Have you ever heard of an Allosaurus? It was another theropod dinosaur, it lived 150 million years ago. Go back and read those three sentences again. Notice it yet? The time between the Allosaurus and the appearance of the Tyrannosaurus is longer than the time between Tyrannosaurus and you reading this today. That first interval is more than 20 times longer than our whole branch on the evolutionary tree. Let that roll around your mind for a moment the next time you want to consider your place in the universe. Thousand of species of animals have risen and fallen over the course of hundreds of millions of years, time on a scale we can barely comprehend.  Biologist can’t connect all the dots? We have been working on this for only 150 years and we may never have every single piece of the puzzle. Does that mean we deny the whole process? We should then teach children to ignore the basics? Einstein’s Special Relativity is a theory, a scientific theory, does that mean we should teach some alternative to astrophysics in school? The attempt here is to move the ball forward on being able to have some inherently religious expression in public school. If you look at the players, the language and the game plan, you can hypothesize that the end game is to have a state sanctioned acknowledgment of a religious, if not outwardly Christian, world view. If you want to see how far and wide this is becoming a problem then read this story about Muslim medical students in England leaving class every time evolution is mentioned. Would you like it if this was your doctor in this country, who skipped out on class as a matter of religious conscience?

As a libertarian I believe in freedom of conscience, and if you want to raise your children to not believe in evolution, I suppose that is your prerogative (let’s hope they don’t want a science/medical career). In terms of the proper role of the state, given public education today, I would also say that any of these efforts need to be quashed, for there is no discernable purpose as it relates to education. If this is allowed to stand in terms of evolution, do they then get to come into history class and start to question things that contradict someone else’s world view? We talk about the future of this country and our economy, and how difficult it is going to be for our children to compete in the world market. In terms of science, we should be giving our children all the tools they need for success, not hampering their ability. The idea of an invisible force guiding the universe, creating an ultimate destiny for the human race, may be tempting to satisfy the spiritual or psychological needs of the individual, but it is not going to cure Parkinson’s Disease or Cancer. Science, properly practiced, might though, and we should encourage that as a nation and parents.


  1. I'm thinking that if an invisible force is guiding the whole of existence from the big bang 8,000 years ago to show its presence NOW to the people at the center of the universe by allowing our "leaders" to retard the limits of common sense and dumb down the education of our children...the conservatives should be pretty happy that HE is here to guide them.

    For anyone else who read this post by ptwalker and shook your head in disagreement preferring that Intelligent Design be taught in public schools...then SHAME on you. Pull your kids out and send 'em to one of those mega-church right wing neo-con schools and indoctrinate them on YOUR dollar. They'll get all the training they need to ignore the world around them and simply go through life muttering about god and praising Jesus or Muhammad or Budda and handling snakes to show how pious they are. When they realize that the real world is in front of them and are lacking the tools and knowledge to interface with it, one of two things may happen:1. They will run to you and thank you for protecting them from the LIES of science and progressive thinking. or 2. They will wake up, see your stupidity (albeit well intentioned -right?-), move on with their lives playing catch up to the educated.

    I'm just sayin'...

    1. If there was no intelligent design than how do you explain Obama? He is our God-King!