"Is evolution education important?"
by Casey Luskin
This is a great statement on the part of the ACLU--and it would seem that major ID proponents and the authors of Pandas would agree completely. In fact, when ACLU affirms the importance of teaching evolution, it also follow in the footsteps of ID proponents Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe, and Phillip Johnson:
“Teach Darwin's elegant theory. But also discuss where it has real problems accounting for the data, where data are severely limited….” (Michael Behe, Teach Evolution and Ask Hard Questions, New York Times A21, August 13, 1999)
"What educators in Kansas and elsewhere should be doing is to 'teach the controversy.' Of course students should learn the orthodox Darwinian theory and the evidence that supports it, but they should also learn why so many are skeptical, and they should hear the skeptical arguments in their strongest form rather than in a caricature intended to make them look as silly as possible." (Phillip Johnson, The Wedge of Truth (InterVarsity Press 1999)
It should be noted that some of the organizations cited by the ACLU here are not exactly themselves unbiased sources. In 1996, the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) adopted a statement that evolution means that higher forms of life (including humans) arose via an “unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process.” This language exposed the materialistic bias behind many evolutionists--who want to see our origins as an a blind, random, "unsupervised" and "impersonal" process. Some Darwinists immediately went on damage control because 1) this language offends the religious beliefs of many people and would be unconstitutional to teach as such and 2) such language too clearly exposed the materialistic bias inherent in Darwinism. In other words, this type of language is dangerous because it makes creationists like Phillip Johnson look like they are right!
So, the language was eventually removed--but Giberson and Yerxa recount that the NABT board was very reluctant to remove the theologically charged language. (Giberson & Yerxa, Species of Origins America’s Search for a Creation Story (Rowman & Littlefield 2002) pg. 6-7.) Why would the NABT have been so reluctant to remove the language? Probably because many evolutionists really do see evolution as "unsupervised" and "impersonal"--and to remove such language might let a divine foot in the door! It is evident from the way that evolution is taught and investigated, that there is an implicit assumption that there is no direct influence of any intelligent agents, and that the process really did operate in an unsupervised and impersonal manner. To remove language stating as such might imply that there was direct intelligent intervention. Despite the fact that the contentious language was removed, as William Corben observes, “[t]he problem is that ‘unsupervised and impersonal’ describes what many evolutionary biologists believe about the universe and they take this as a granted part of science.” William Corben, “The Nature of Science and the Role of Belief,” 9 Science and Education 219-246 (2000). One may be able to believe in God and evolution, but with incidents like this happening, there is no doubt that evolution has specific religious implications.
Finally, it is likely that Charles Darwin himself would agree with ID proponents as to the best policy for public education as he wrote that “[a] fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question." (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, ed. J. W. Burrow (London: Penguin Group, 1985), (1859), 66.)
The implication here is that teaching intelligent design out of Pandas "undermine[s]" science education. The previous statement in this FAQ 7 stated that it is important to teach evolution. Yet by using Pandas, students are still learning about evolution! In fact, Pandas teaches students about major concepts and themes in evolutionary biology such as natural selection, mutations, genetic inheritance, microevolution, macroevolution, the Hardy-Weinberg law, genetic drift, founder effect, bottlenecks, speciation, reproductive isolation, homology (both at the morphological and genetic levels), the molecular clock, punctuated equilibrium, vestigial organs, as well as important concepts in biology unrelated to Darwin's theory but underlying modern theories about the chemical origin of life. It is arguable that students learn a very wide range of important topics in evolutionary biology from reading Pandas. By presenting the views both in favor and against evolution, it is also arguable that Pandas does not teach students less about evolution, but more about evolution.
Thankfully, the ACLU doesn't ultimately decide what is "educationally responsible." It is not the job of courts to decide the wisdom of educational policies, but rather to decide if they establish religion. Hopefully, this discussion shows that the way the ACLU has represented intelligent design theory is far from accurate. As for the verdict, we'll all just have to sit back and see what the courts say.
I hope you enjoy this response. I would like to thank my fellow IDEA Center staff members Ryan Huxley and Eddie Colanter for their advice and feedback during preparation of this commentary. I would also like to thank Peter MacIlvaine for his help with editing.
Back to the ACLU ID FAQ Response Main Navigation Menu
Note and Update
Original note with corrected URLs: This musing is merely a commentary on the "ACLU's 'Intelligent Design' FAQ" as found on the ACLU website. While I am a lawyer, and this response to the ACLU ID FAQ mentions the case over teaching intelligent design theory in Dover, Pennsylvania, this commentary is not intended to be legal advice for anyone. This is simply my thoughts about the claims made by the ACLU in its ID FAQ on their website. Some of their claims, and thus some of my commentary relates to case law, but much of this discussion is also completely unrelated to legal issues. A full legal discussion about whether or not it is constitutional to teach intelligent design would go into much more depth than the commentary made here. This is not intended to fully or adequately discuss the general question of whether or not it is constitutional to teach intelligent design theory. My purpose here is simply to respond to the various sorts of claims made by the ACLU in its ID FAQ. If readers have further questions about the author's opinion, they are invited to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update [10-26-05]: Also, these response pages were originally posted on February 11, 2005. I just learned today that as of September 16, 2005, the ACLU had published an updated ID FAQ at the same URL where the original FAQ was located. Thus, I apologize if there has been any confusion as this response was written months before the new FAQ replaced the old one. Thus, this response here is in response to the original ACLU ID FAQ which is still available at http://www.aclupa.org/downloads/doverfaq.pdf. I have tried to change links to the ACLU's ID FAQ throughout my response to reflect the change in their URLs. I would also like to thank the ACLU for making me aware of the changes in the URLs and their FAQ.
[Addendum added 2/22/06: I realized today that this FAQ had previously stated that I was not a lawyer. That is because I wrote this before I was admitted to the California bar. I am now an attorney and have updated this page accordingly today.]
Other Portions of this Response: