Disembling Dover, et al

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A few weeks ago I was catching up on a PBS television show I particularly enjoy: Nova. I had missed the original airing of this particular show in November, 2007 but I settled in for 50 minutes of enlightenment to watch: Judgment Day Intelligent Design on Trial.  What I discovered was that education, once wholly a subset of enlightenment, had become barely an intersecting form. From the Nova program description:

"In 2004, the Dover school board ordered science teachers to read a statement to high school biology students suggesting that there is an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution called intelligent design—the idea that life is too complex to have evolved naturally and therefore must have been designed by an intelligent agent. The teachers refused to comply. (For more on this, see Board vs. Teachers.) Later, parents opposed to intelligent design filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the school board of violating the constitutional separation of church and state."

As the program progressed, the arguments and positions of the main characters were examined in detail: Bill Buckingham, an advocate and contributor to the Intelligent Design approach and in charge of the school board's curriculum committee: the plaintiff's lawyers for Tammy Kitzmiller et al (school district parents), and the presiding Judge, John Jones, III.  After much testimony and lawyering, the case was decided in favor of the plaintiffs with the judge  finding that Intelligent Design ""cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."  The implication of the decision was that Intelligent Design was a backdoor method to have Creationism, disguised as science,  taught in the classroom.


The trial, itself, was conducted in 2005 and the result is well known.  I wasn't impressed by the pro and con arguments or the merits of the case, but  I was shocked at the ignorance of the entire undertaking.


Is it too much to ask that education establish that Science as a discipline is a system of explanation and not a system of belief or faith?  Those with a grounding in science have no more standing to disparage Creationism than creationists have standing to declaim science (and Natural Selection) as atheistic. Biblical creation, the Orphic creation myths, Hesiod's Theogony, the Upanishads (and many more), belong in the realm of Religion and Philosophy.  While science has had some standing in philosophy --Aristotle was a Natural Philosopher--  since late 5th/early 4th century Greece, science has been refined as a systematic approach to the explanation of phenomena in the natural world.  There is no default disconnect for a person who believes in Creationism, but understands the scientific explanation of natural selection just as there is no default disconnect for a person who doesn't believe in Creationism  but accepts the explanations of evolution.


The persons who claim to believe in evolution demonstrate their ignorance; you can't believe in a system of explanation. The persons who claims to accept creationism and use science to support their belief are equally ignorant (see this search).  Belief and Explanation are 2 separate  paradigms; they do not merge, they do not offer support to each other: and they have been, and always will be, apart.

The underlying failure in Kitzmiller v. Dover was not the argument for or against the petitioners.  The failure was the lack of recognition of the empirical difference between belief and explanation, and that is the fundamental failure of their education.

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