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Bush Remarks On 'Intelligent Design' Theory Fuel Debate

Bush Remarks On ‘Intelligent Design’ Theory Fuel Debate: “Bush Remarks On ‘Intelligent Design’ Theory Fuel DebateBefore wading into the details of this article, praise is in order. This is a far better piece than would have been written about “creationism” ten years ago. It seeks to give both sides of the issue. It mostly avoids loaded language. It goes to good spokespeople on both sides. There is no lazy search for extremists to represent the right.Most Americans are theists. Most thoughtful Americans are theists. Americans pay for government schools. They have a right to expect that their schools will present their ideas in all but extraordinary cases.Some secularists seem to think mentioning that an idea is “Christian” or supports a religion is enough to taint it. Notice that in the old days religious freedom was properly understood to mean that I was not forced to follow your religion or practice it. Now it seems to be (for some of the folk on the left) the “right” to never hear any religious idea at all. Does this include the Declaration of Independence? Extremist Christians are wrong when they try to control the marketplace of ideas that way, so are radical secularists.No atheist will die if forced to hear a careful argument against naturalism and for design.Theism is an intellectually respectable position with first rate philosophers (such as Al Plantinga) offering support to it. At the most basic level Americans do not want philosophic naturalism enshrined as our state religion. The idea that nature is all there is may be true, but it is not self-evident. Perhaps only “natural” causes should be considered in science, but that idea is not self-evident as it begs the question of what a personal cause is. Are human persons for example only matter and energy in mindless motions? Are there souls? If so, then Intelligent Design (ID) is seen every day in the works of humans!My thoughts on the story below are as usual in italics.By Peter Baker and Peter SlevinWashington Post Staff WritersWednesday, August 3, 2005; Page A01President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about ‘intelligent design,’ a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.This is not a great definition. However, we must be fair to a reporter! Blogging has taught me great definitions do not get read! This definition seems good enough. It seems broadly accurate and is not couched in the sort of “devil words” that make the reader hate ID before the article really begins.Note the Phillip E. Johnson inspired language in it that ID “challenges established scientific thinking.” Johnson has been more than vindicated in his desire to broaden the terms of debate and argue for a libertarian marketplace of ideas in all levels of education. Freedom is a good thing. It works. Although he said that curriculum decisions should be made by school districts rather than the federal government, Bush told Texas newspaper reporters in a group interview at the White House on Monday that he believes that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories.’Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about,’ he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: ‘Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.’Take a deep breath and read what Bush said.There is a debate. Who can doubt it?The “establishment” keeps telling us there is no debate, but it goes on in academic meetings, journals, and publications. Theism is growing in philosophy. More and more scientists are willing to risk their careers by speaking out. What is wrong with giving the points of view of both sides?Kids care. They know about the debate. Must we just ignore it or give only one side?These comments drew sharp criticism yesterday from opponents of the theory, who said there is no scientific evidence to support it and no educational basis for teaching it.Notice how brittle the comments of the opponents are. They will not concede any scientific evidence for design. This is more than Darwin would say or Dawkins in his honest moments.Nature shouts “design” both concede.The beauty of Darwinism, and it is a powerful idea, is that it tries to explain that what appears designed actually is not. But after all what if (contrary to Darwin) nature is what it appears to be? Surely that can never be a stupid idea!Science was born in design and many scientists still use it in their work. Can’t their voice be heard?These comments also assume that “philosophy” has no place in schools. Of course that itself is a philosophy of education. Call it the philosophy that “science does not deal with any issues, ever, that fall outside of our narrow definition of science.” That seems self-evidently false to me, but there you have it. I disagree with the establishment.The difference is that I am not trying to impose my own philosophy of education on goverment schools and the other side is.The “evolutionism/creation” debate is not just about science, because “science” is not just some pure set of facts and untainted-by-philosophy theories. Science is constrained (as it must be) by the world-views of those that hold it. Isn’t it possible that a different world-view would see the facts differently?As a result of an educational philosophy being imposed on us by the establishment, naturalism and reductionism are taught (both philosophical views) without any attempt to mention that many philosophers think both ideas applied to science are wrong headed. Much of the scientific establishment says that intelligent design is not a tested scientific theory but a cleverly marketed effort to introduce religious — especially Christian — thinking to students. Opponents say that church groups and other interest groups are pursuing political channels instead of first building support through traditional scientific review.This is an excellent paragraph. First, it is true. Much of the establishment does say this. This goes a long way to explain why people who do not agree with the establishment keep their mouth shut. To agree with the establishment leads to praise. Dissent leads to hyper-scrutiny. Who wants that?Second, note the terror that is supposed to result in our minds from the radical notion that students would be exposed to Christian thinking. “By the dog, expose those students to Aquinas and the next thing you know there will be riots in the street!”Third, the idea that parents would want a say in how their children are taught is now made to sound frightening. Pursuing “political channels” used to be called “democracy.”Now, if non-secularists do it, we are supposed to worry about being one step from the Taliban. Here is a good idea: when my kids are exposed to atheist views (as they are) in the marketplace of ideas (especially in the media), I will not scream that we are about to enter Stalin’s Russia, if secularists will not see the Taliban behind civil discourse about religious ideas.Yes?Don’t hold your breath. These folk do not want any ideas that disagree with their deeply held secularism taught. The White House said yesterday that Bush’s comments were in keeping with positions dating to his Texas governorship, but aides say they could not recall him addressing
the issue before as president. His remarks heartened conservatives who have been asking school boards and legislatures to teach students that there are gaps in evolutionary theory and explain that life’s complexity is evidence of a guiding hand.“Conservatives” are not the only ones who favor ID. Ask the African-American community. Check out the position of the new pope (no “conservative” in the modern American political sense). “With the president endorsing it, at the very least it makes Americans who have that position more respectable, for lack of a better phrase,” said Gary L. Bauer, a Christian conservative leader who ran for president against Bush in the 2000 Republican primaries. “It’s not some backwater view. It’s a view held by the majority of Americans.”This is one of the few weird sources in the article. Why Bauer? How many votes did he get? Is he an expert on this issue? Why not call an African American congressperson and ask their views on ID? I bet it would not be hard to find a Democrat who supports ID.If you must talk to a Republican (it seems to fit the slant of the story) then why Bauer? I would have started with Rick Santorum, the sponsor of the Santorum Amendment on teaching intelligent design. He has national ambitions and is more like the mainstream of the ID movement.John G. West, an executive with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank supporting intelligent design, issued a written statement welcoming Bush’s remarks. “President Bush is to be commended for defending free speech on evolution, and supporting the right of students to hear about different scientific views about evolution,” he said.Opponents of intelligent design, which a Kansas professor once called “creationism in a cheap tuxedo,” say there is no legitimate debate. They see the case increasingly as a political battle that threatens to weaken science teaching in a nation whose students already are lagging.Translation: we are already doing a bad job teaching your kids science. Please trust us to know how to best teach them science.One good thing about the article is that it rightly measures the level of debate. Most foes of ID do little more than think of clever shots to throw at their foes. Why?When they engage the ID crowd in a serious way (as published books from University presses are already doing) they lend iron-clad proof that there is a real academic debate.For example, the world-class philosopher Al Plantinga has attacked the naturalism in “evolution.” His paper has drawn respectful criticism. Plantinga has responded. The debate continues in philosophy. Why not tell kids, most of them from ID friendly homes, that is true? Why not spend a day or two reading the papers from these leading thinkers?Students would be interested.It would spark debate in classes.What is the other side afraid of?“It is, of course, further indication that a fundamentalist right has really taken over much of the Republican Party,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a leading liberal lawmaker. Noting Bush’s Ivy League education, Frank said, “People might cite George Bush as proof that you can be totally impervious to the effects of Harvard and Yale education.”Check out the number of liberals who voted for the Santorum Amendment. Look it up!When did Barney Frank become mainstream? Google him.If the notion that God had something to do with creation is “fundamentalism” then almost all Americans are “fundamentalists.”Note again that when pressed foes of ID can only insult the intelligence of those who disagree with them. Many fine philosophers do not think ID is sound. They argue strongly against it. (One thinks of Michael Ruse.) No ID person thinks anti-ID people are idiots since most of us earned our doctorates under the tutelage of very bright members of the establisment!We just do not agree.Why must the “other side” assume the worst of all their foes?Bush’s comments were “irresponsible,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He said the president, by suggesting that students hear two viewpoints, “doesn’t understand that one is a religious viewpoint and one is a scientific viewpoint.” Lynn said Bush showed a “low level of understanding of science,” adding that he worries that Bush’s comments could be followed by a directive to the Justice Department to support legal efforts to change curricula.Barry Lynn does not think “religious view points” should be heard. Schools must not even present the POINT OF VIEW of religious people. Most folk think “separation of church and state” means the government will not make them go to church or practice a religion, but Lynn does not want religious ideas heard. Period.Notice that “science” and “religion” are treated by Lynn as if they existed in two air tight compartments. What happened to the unity of truth? What happened to the beauty of “inter-disciplinary” study? If it were not “religious” ideas, then Lynn would support talking about where two disciplines touch and inter-mingle.Science is not an air tight compartment. It touches on ethics. It touches on religion.Teach the controversy.Bush gave no sign that he intended to wade that far into the debate. The issue came up only when a reporter from the Knight Ridder news service asked him about it; participants said the president did not seem especially eager to be asked. “Very interesting question,” he told the reporter playfully.”At a morning briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush was simply restating long-standing views. “He has said that going back to his days as governor,” McClellan said. “I think he also said in those remarks that local school districts should make the decisions about their curriculum. But it’s long been his belief that students ought to be exposed to different ideas, and so that’s what he was reiterating yesterday.”But it’s long been his belief that students ought to be exposed to different ideas, and so that’s what he was reiterating yesterday.Oh the horror! The President wants students to be exposed to different ideas! That Socrates must die! He will fill the youth of the city with his fiendish ideas and undermine the scientific establishment!In comments published last year in Science magazine, Bush said that the federal government should not tell states or school boards what to teach but that “scientific critiques of any theory should be a normal part of the science curriculum.” The president’s latest remarks came less than two months after Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna and an influential Roman Catholic theologian, said evolution as “an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” is not true.”Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science,” Schonborn wrote in the New York Times. He said he wanted to correct the idea that neo-Darwinism is compatible with Christian faith.This is a lovely citation. Schonborn is a very serious thinker. He is a blue-blood European and fits no ones notion of an “American fundamentalist.” The fact that Schonborn even exists denies most of the lies told about ID by the other side. He is: not an American, not a fundamentalist Christian, not badly educated, and understands the issues.Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, warned this year in a “Dear Colleagues” letter of “increasingly strident attempts to limit the teaching of evolution.”Alberts manages to spin his call to ban ID into the other side wanting to “limit teaching evolution.” Here is a deal my ID friends would accept

Mr. Alberts:1. Let us expand the teaching of evolution in American schools.2. Let us also include 3 days exploring the philosophical arguments advanced by Plantinga and his critics regarding mainstream science as a way of showing where science impacts other disciplines.O.K.?Of course, he will not agree because the science establishment cannot stand even one mention of non-naturalism in the class. Ask yourself why?What harm would it do for students to be exposed to this high level philosophical debate?The most prominent debate is underway in Kansas, where the conservative state board of education is expected to require the teaching of doubts about evolution to public high school students. A challenge to the teaching of intelligent design is scheduled for trial in Dover, Pa., while a federal court in Georgia said textbook stickers questioning evolution were unconstitutional.

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