"God Bless America" and Intelligent Design

Yesterday, while cleaning the kitchen, my eldest daughter was belting out "God bless America" as she assisted me. I would not have thought too much about it, except that she knew ALL of the words, so I knew immediately that she did not pick it up from me.

Well, much to my surprise, she had been taught this song IN SCHOOL! And "worse" yet, they sang it for a bunch of visiting veterans, who attended a (pre) Veteran's Day rally at the school. I have to admit, I was dumbfounded...God and Veterans???? Huh.

Much to my further surprise, neither Chomsky nor Zinn came to speak, but the cynic in me assumes that they may be because the bake sale didn't raise enough money to cover their fees and the veterans were willing to come for free.

In a similar vein of thought, there is a good deal of controversy in various places around the US today with regards to folks trying to get "Intelligent Design" inserted into the science curriculum of public schools. Now, of course to some degree I believe in "intelligent design", but this does not make me a literal "7 day creationist"...however, wouldn't it be nice if the schools weren't effectively teaching atheism? The base assumption in much of what is presently being taught is that science can explain EVERYTHING and stands utterly independent and unassailable.

Wouldn't it be nice if a student (or God forbid a TEXT) actually raises the issue of irreducible complexity, and the teacher is willing to say: Gee, we really don't know exactly how that works. (Flashback to that mythical future atheist asking the Sunday School teacher the omnipotent God lifting an impossibly heavy rock question). I don't know if "intelligent design" should be taught in schools as such, but I certainly know that science needs to STOP being taught as a religion.

If Richard Dawkins, with his unbelievably sweeping assumptions, most of which have no scientific evidence whatsoever, can be taught, then the likes of Dr. Michael Behe should be heard as well. (as a side, Dr. Behe has tenure at Lehigh University and is thus a VERY VERY rare example of a conservative thorn in the flesh of leftist academia).

And as this blogger wisely asks: who is trying to stop debate and open inquiry in all of this?

Why not have debates between Behe and Dawkins (or like minded "experts") in public schools? [GASP! But James, that would cause kids to start questioning science?] Ah, yes, science...the new oppressive church of 21st century: do not question, trust and obey, trust and obey for there's no other way to be happy in society, than to trust and obey


Anonymous said…
Shouldn't they just teach science in science class? The essence of science is a falsifiable hypothesis. I would love to hear such a hypothesis with respect to either randomness or Intelligent Design. The reality is that neither is science. It would be wonderful if they philosophy classes so both sides could design their arguments more intelligently!

fdj said…
That's a good point Rick. Science, as it is popularly understood and "practiced" today (at least by journalists and professors and thus by default the general populace) has definately spilled over the classic definition you provide.

I'm all for philosophy and logic being taught in schools, though. Science should only provide tools for such forums...little more.

Sadly, much of evoltuionary thought proceeds from the base need to show that "this stuff all around us" could have happened without God.
Whew...thank God for that.
Anonymous said…
When people say that "viewpoints" are being stifled, it makes me wonder if they took individual classes in school. In an English Literature class, the discussion of Physics or Chemistry isn't expected. The same here, if Biology is the topic, religious beliefs (anyone's) are not oon the agenda. And ID *is* Creationism in a Tweed jacket. Part of the annoyance people feel is the attempt to mask this. Trying to sneak the Bible past people with cute titles like "THe Book" a few years ago might be another example.
For Creationists, I still suggest they explain the "science" behind Genesis 30, where Jacob does some very impressive animal husbandry, with no reference whatever to miraculous intervention to acieve it. If that experiment can be reproduced, I will become a Creationist. None of the Bible, not one sentance, was written to teach ANY science. In the meantime, get used to reality: Evolution happenned, and happens. I also can be an Orthodox Christian and know that God made everything. Atheists can understand evolution happens and not believe God made everything. Since they usually have the floor, they can also be *jerks* a good deal of the time, and tell believers that evolution happens and the believers are idiots. THAT is the part that is so frequently inseparable from the teaching of this part of biolgy that makes people mad, and should. If the atheists who are biologists could avoid being a**holes along with teaching the science, teaching biology without a sneer, alot fewer court cases would be heard on these topics. Hearing an atheist who knows biology try to talk about anything theological is almost as embarrassing as hearing Pat Robertson talk biochemistry, but again, the biologist is usually given more airtime for his in-expertise (if that's a word).
---- Bob K.
Anonymous said…
Hmmm...Bob, you seem to be very passionate about this, but I admit I may be misreading you. But I believe your characterization of what those behind the ID agenda is a bit skewed. But before I address that, I'd like to makes it clear,...ahem...."I BELIEVE THAT EVOLUTION IS TENABLE, AND SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN SCHOOL, AND I AM NOT OPPOSED TO IT."

You are right to note that religion should not be taught in a biology class. Religion is not science, per se, and you are right to note that the Holy Scriptures were never intended to communicate science, per se. And those who desire to teach a literal seven day bible based (note I said based, which does not mean proven or credible)creationism in public school biology classes are misguided. The creation account in Genesis is not science.

That being said, to characterize the ID movement as the former "in a tweed suit" is equally misguided and unfair, and shows a lack of understanding of what ID is. Strictly speaking, one could be an athiest AND A PROPONENT OF ID. ID does in no way intend to teach who or what the designer is. It doesn't even necessitate that it be a supernatural cause.

What it DOES argue for, however, is strictly scientific, and belongs in any credible discussion of origins. It is merely a movement that says that the known evidence of the universe as we know it, not only leaves room for the possibility, but many credible and well respected scientists even believe points towards an intelligent designer, without specifying in any way who or what it was. It says, "Here's the evidence, and intentional design is AT LEAST as possible an explanation of ORIGIN as those proposed by atheistic evolutionists."

Note that I make a distinction of atheistic evolutionists. I myself am not opposed to holding a THEISTIC evolutionary view. And again, it's possible an athiest could posit that the intelligent designer could be a yet unknown strictly natural one. They could then be an "atheistic evolutionary ID" proponent. There are many possibilities left here, and one need never bring up ANY SPECIFIC CREATOR, and as I said, evolution does happen. But as the sole explanation of origin, I believe evolution falls far flat.

So...if one wants to leave the question of origin out of biology classes, then feel free to teach evolution as science. But as soon as the origin can of worms is opened, it would in fact be BAD SCIENCE to not discuss all strongly evidential hypotheses.

fdj said…
ID is the conclusion made by some in answer to some really GREAT questions posed to the theory of evolution. Questions that, as I said, can ponly be answered with: we don't know.

The issue, as I see it, is whether or not the evolutionary theory is up for the same debate that ALL other theories are. Naturally we cannot test evolution in a lab, rather we are forced to make inferences based on evidence and - we must admit - presuppositions.

The problem is that scientists like Behe who dare to take a closer look at evolution are immediately dissed as being just another stupid creationist. But the fact is, Behe and a few others make some really good points that I have never heard adaquately answered.

For most of science, evolution is a foregone conclusion (as you note and apparently believe Bob) and thus the likes of Dawkins can make sweeping faith-based statements while standing at the pulpit of natural selection, and no one raises an eyebrow. But Behe suggests evolution needs something more than randomness and then goes on to suggest God...well, thank God for tenure in THIS unusual case.

Frankly, I am MUCH more concerned about science spilling beyond its borders (which it has) than religion spilling beyond its. The latter simply ain't going to be allowed to happen anymore and the former is already digging its new trenches.

I don't have a doubt that evolution happens, but boy are their problems with the issue of complexity - especially when you get into molecular biology. The notion that such complex system could evolve ("naturally") in tiny mutating incremental steps (each step of which requires that it give the recipient some important reproductive advantage) and then eventually arriving at some vastly complex mechanism that obviously gives some advatage. Sorry boys, I gotta say that some faith is required here.

But if you deny the existance of God...well you sorta have to believe this don't you?
Hilarius said…
Having studied Evolutionary Biology, Quantitative Genetics, and Population Biology (among other subjects in getting a biology degree) in college, I think one of the key problems in the debate is simply definition of what we mean by 'evolution.'

Evolutionary biology deals with the origin of species and micro-evolution, or the selective and mutative forces acting on a population, but does not necessarily deal with the root origins of how a bunch of chemicals organized (or were organized by Someone) into 'life.' Nor can any of this science (and sometimes creative story telling) really define what 'life' is much better than the Supreme Court can define obscenity - we know it when we see it, right?

But there is also a certain 'cosmological evolution' that people sometimes link with evolutionary biology theories, that really is about something quite different - the origins of the universe, particle physics, etc. These are very different things to talk about, have different concerns, and different challenges with respect to the testing of hypotheses.

With respect to evolutionary biology, micro-evolution happens, sure. We can test for it, we can show the effects of selection, and farmers and breeders have been manipulating selective pressures and hybridization techniques for centuries without understanding fully the molecular basis to create all sorts of diverse variations on species.

What I do not think has been demonstrated, as far as I know, is a bona fide speciation event. That this happens is assumed based upon some pretty modeling, but it still = hypothesis, and assumes all sorts of complexity (genetic isolation, mutation rates, etc.). In fact, at least 7-8 years ago there were a multiplicity of models for how this might happen.

As to how life arose, unless there's some startling new discovery which I missed, that's still a big unknown if you don't subscribe to explanations based upon faith.

My opinion, FWIW, is that kids up through high school should be taught basic genetics, chemistry, physics, and that sort of old school biology which involves simply observing the world (i.e., being a naturalist), and they should deal with these more difficult speculations, hypotheses, and philosophies at college.

And for the record, I personally do believe in the God revealed in history to us, the Father Almighty, the creator of the universe, and in the Word made flesh, Jesus, his only-begotten, and in the Spirit who proceeds from the Father. I do believe that God made man in his image and likeness.

fdj said…
well said Hilarius...perhaps you might offer some further insight for me... becuase I have NEVER heard an adequate explanation for how certain exceptionally complex mechanism could evolve by means of simple random genetic mutations which of course = slight changes in protein structure and function...a few million years later and you have the Bombadier Beetle able to spew toxic chemicals from its body where it could not do so before?

This seems to me to be a stretch in reason to explain how something like this could evolve slowly and in tiny little minute increments (on a molecular level as it must be) each of which MUST give the overall organism a significant reproductive advantage. Help me out with this?
Hilarius said…
James -

Herein lies a problem, indeed. The theorists like to put forward all sorts of models - like Gould and his Punctuated Equilibrium model.

What I think is important here is to understand the hypothetical nature of evolutionary biology - and by this I mean good science. Big Hypothesis: life evolved. Questions to answer scientifically: What are the mechanisms?

Or to pare it down - speciation occurs. Question to answer scientifically: what are the mechanisms?

Now if science goes on with the hypothesis that speciation occurs, but never can figure out how it works, maybe the scientists eventually say 'wrong hypothesis' and start trying to figure out something else.

I don't think testing that hypothesis is fundamentally bad. Using the idea as an assumption has allowed us to investigate and understand a great many things by assuming common origins in certain genetic makeups, seeing similarities, etc.

Vaulting the hypothesis to the point of 'fact' (here I speak of macroevolution) is where I get off the boat. That is not to say it could not occur, but one is in the realm of faith as to whether it did/does, or not.

Visit this link to a Brown University class lecture note on speciation issues. The first paragraph is illuminating on the actual problem of asserting the 'fact' of speciation. It is as much 'fact' (or less so, since we have no eyewitnesses?) as the death and resurrection of Christ.


Note that most models of speciation, particularly in higher animals, require a great deal of time, or some postulated mechanism for dramatic events.

But now off to more engaging pursuits - Advent! May you have a blessed season of preparation for the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior.

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