Friday, August 08, 2003

To every Hervé Villechaize-sized wiggle forward comes an André the Giant-sized leap backward

As my better readers may have learned from Paul, the Michigan legislature may soon vote on a bill that would make "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator" part of an accepted and encouraged middle and high school science cirriculum. And as my better readers may have learned from their middle and high school social science cirruculums, "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." I see a conflict of interests.

Part of the bill provides for the assurance that kids would be taught that creationism is just as valid a theory as evolution. In this instance, though no religion would be formally established by the state, certain tenents of a certain religion would be incorporated into the classroom, and most certainly any student who did not believe in creationism but was still forced to accept it in an academic setting would be having the free excercise of his religion (or lack of religion) prohibited by the state. That's a Constitutional faux pas, by my estimation.

Its not as if all values of Judeo-Christianity should be excluded from public teaching, just the ones that are unique to it. For example, the Good Book tells us not to steal, or murder, or sodomize; these rules are also very often in enforced in public schools, but because following such rules contributes to an efficient, safe learning environment (oh, yeah, and they're illegal, too), not because Moses told us so. Incorporating creationism into public school cirriculum, however, serves no purpose but to impose or at the very least inaccurately present as factual ideas that are exclusive to religious thought.

More conservative conceptions of creationism (those that preclude evolution as a viable scientific theory) are supported by little (practically zero) scientific evidence, and thus like any theory lacking substantial evidence should be omitted from public school classrooms. The concept of "intelligent design," however, seems more innocuous because it takes into account the existing scientific evidence supporting evolution, then simply attributes the evolutionary processes that led to contemporary life to a "purposeful" "Creator." In other words, if evolution did in fact manage to transform ancient primordial goo into our fantastic modern human civilization in *just* 3.5 billion years, it could have only happened with the divine influence of a god (note little "g") who had the eventuality of homo sapiens in mind the whole time.

The intelligent design theory cannot be disproven: God is an invisble force, and your faith in His ability to invent evolution in such a way that it would necessarily result in beings that were made in His image cannot be decisively put down. That's the definition of FAITH, of course!!! If God did have an intelligent design all along, there's no way to point to any scientific evidence proving such. Pretty clever, God.

But that's exactly why the theory of intelligent design has no place in public schools. That it cannot be proven or disproven is immaterial; most theories are subject to such ambiguity. But, even in contestable scientific theories, there is some physical evidence that can be pointed to in order to argue for or against it. Whether or not intelligent design is a real force in our universe absolutely cannot be supported by physical evidence. Making Junior read about evolution in school is not a breach of separation of church and state for the sole reason that there exists physical, scientifically obtained indications of its influence. Making Junior read that a Creator might have been responsible for his existence does not enjoy such scientific protection, and it in fact is introducing religious beliefs into what the Constitution demands be a secular environment. We might as well be teaching astrology.

Maybe I'm still peeved that my crevaced, clogged-artery-ridden AP Calculus teacher Mr. Henderson tried to tell me that I had to stand while the Pledge of Allegiance was recited over the PA system. After class I explained that (a) I didn't believe in God, and as such I felt no obligation to recite a pledge that included His name, and (b) that I furthermore felt no obligation to verbally devote myself to a nation with whose policies I often disagreed. He seemed from that day to do everything in his power to prevent me from getting an A in that class, including not letting me take an important make-up test after I was out sick for a week because there was only a seven-day make-up period. And I'm supposed to believe that I'm not being persecuted for my religious beliefs. He suffered from a non-fatal heart attack the following November. Coincidence? You be the judge.


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