Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Intelligent Design versus Evolution

A good article by James Q. Wilson: Faith In Theory, which looks at why ID is not a theory in the scientific sense, but evolution is.

Some people will disagree with his view, arguing that evolution is a "theory" and intelligent design is a "theory," so students should look at both theories.

But this view confuses the meaning of the word "theory." In science, a theory states a relationship between two or more things (scientists like to call them "variables") that can be tested by factual observations.

The other meaning of theory is the popular and not the scientific one. People use "theory" when they mean a guess, a faith or an idea. A theory in this sense does not state a testable relationship between two or more things. It is a belief that may be true, but its truth cannot be tested by scientific inquiry.
ID is only a theory in the latter, non-scientific meaning of the word. Evolution, on the other hand, is a scientific theory because it can be tested by examining remains or by watching certain types of evolution at work e.g. the varying beak sizes of birds in the Galapagos Islands.

Thus, ID should not be taught in science class. If it is taught in schools (and there is no solid reason why it should not be), it should be taught in religious studies, or some non-scientific discipline. As far as the teaching of evolution is concerned:

What schools should do is teach evolution emphasizing both its successes and its still unexplained limitations. Evolution, like almost every scientific theory, has some problems. But they are not the kinds of problems that can be solved by assuming that an intelligent designer (whom ID advocates will tell you privately is God) created life. There is not a shred of evidence to support this theory, one that has been around since the critics of Darwin began writing in the 19th century.
There should certainly be room for students to learn about competing viewpoints on questions such as the origin and development of life, but their presentation should be honest. Proponents of ID should not clothe it with the mantle of science.


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