By popular demand (OK, one person asked), this is the essay I wrote for my Philosophy 2306 - Ethics, class. The first draft was about 50 percent longer, and I had to leave out some good material to get down to five pages double spaced. Writing a 20-page essay would have been easier.
Teaching Intelligent Design (ID) in high school biology classes is unethical. ID is not science. ID proponents deceive people about the origins of ID and misrepresent other scientists’ work. Additionally, after the Kitzmiller et al v Dover Area School District decision in 2005, teaching Intelligent Design in public schools is illegal.
ID proposes an unnamed agent created everything we see, including the universe and life on earth. ID grew out of creationism after the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited teaching creationism in public schools (Edwards v Aguillard, 1987). In 1989 Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon published “Of Pandas and People,” intending it as a high school level textbook for teaching ID. The majority of the scientific community regards ID as pseudoscience because it invokes supernatural causes, makes no predictions and cannot be falsified experimentally.
ID proponents’ often denigrate the Theory of Evolution as being a mere “theory.” In public vernacular “theory” means something that sounds plausible but may not be true. In science, a theory is a falsifiable hypothesis based on observations, supported by evidence, verified by independent experiments that could have proven the theory false, and accepted as the current most valid explanation for observed events.
Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is one of the most successful scientific theories of all time. Not only does it explain how and why species have evolved over billions of years, scientists have used the theory to predict where to search for specific fossils. Myriad fossils unearthed since Darwin’s time provide evidence supporting his theory. Geneticists using DNA sequencing have provided evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution.
During the Kitzmiller trial the plaintiffs’ attorneys introduced evidence proving conclusively that in an early draft “Of Pandas and People” contained language referring to a creator. A subsequent draft, after the Supreme Court ruling in Edwards v Aguillard, changed the term “Creation” to “Intelligent design.” ID proponents left further evidence in the manuscripts. Plaintiffs’ attorneys found instances were the word “creationists” had been replaced with “Cdesign proponentsists,” which Nick Matzke of the plaintiffs’ team characterized as the missing link between creationism and intelligent design. “You’ve got the direct physical evidence there for a transitional fossil.” (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007)
Judge John Jones, who presided over the Dover trial, came down harshly on the ID proponents in his court ruling. Finding for the plaintiffs, he wrote “The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” (Jones, 2005)
Another tactic of ID proponents’ is to misrepresent the work of scientists. While testifying for the defendants in Kitzmiller v Dover, biochemist Michael Behe stated other scientists had published peer-reviewed papers supporting his idea of irreducible complexity, and gave Dr. David Derosier of Brandeis University as an example. Behe’s irreducible complexity is an argument that some observed natural phenomena are too complex to have evolved, and if any portion of the wholes is removed the system will collapse and serve no evolutionary purpose. Behe cited the bacterial flagellum as an example of irreducible complexity. Behe argued that if any portion of the flagellum were missing, the flagellum would not function, and therefore had to be designed rather than evolved. Behe showed a slide quoting Derosier stating, “More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human.” (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007)
Derosier, in the film, said his article stated something completely different than what Behe claimed. “What I wrote was, ‘This is a machine that looks like it was designed by a human.’ But that doesn’t mean that it was designed, that is the product of intelligent design. Indeed, this, more, has all the earmarks of something that arose by evolution.” (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007) Derosier went on to explain the bacterial flagellum does have a less complex counterpart from which it could have evolved. The bacteria that cause the Bubonic plague have a similar flagellum that does not rotate, but acts as a syringe. “So the virulence factors that are made inside the cell, which is down here, can be exported, pushed up into this hole and exported out through this long, kind of, needle, perhaps into a cell in your body or mine, and thereby create misery,” Derosier said. (Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, 2007)
Judge Jones, in his court ruling, excoriated not only the ID proponents’ misuse of science, but also their dishonesty. Throughout the trial ID proponents proclaimed purely secular purposes for promoting Intelligent Design. Their lack of scientific rigor, misrepresentation of scientific assent, and religious roots of Intelligent Design led Judge Jones to find the defendants were deceptively attempting to introduce religion into science classrooms: “Accordingly, we find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause.” (Jones, 2005)
Behe’s actions misrepresenting other scientists’ works in the Kitzmiller trial were nothing new for ID proponents. In 1981 Stephen J. Gould decried creationists misquoting his words and using them to promote religion. Gould and his colleague Niles Eldridge proposed, in 1972, a theory they called punctuated equilibrium, in which evolution moves in jerky, episodic changes, not smooth transitions. This theory explains the apparent geologic suddenness of new species appearing, followed by long periods of stasis, wherein species remain relatively stable. Creationists used Gould’s and Eldridge’s theory as evidence against evolution, which angered Gould.
Gould wrote “Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.” (Gould, 1981)
Twenty-eight years later, Don McLeroy, then interim chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, misquoted Gould in the Austin American Statesman. “Stephen Jay Gould stated: ‘The great majority of species do not show any appreciable evolutionary change at all. [This is called ‘stasis.’] These species appear ... without obvious ancestors in the underlying beds, are stable once established and disappear higher up without leaving any descendants’.” (McLeroy, 2009)
On May 28, 2009, the Texas State Senate voted along party lines and did not confirm McLeroy’s permanent appointment as chairman of the State Board of Education. Opponents cited his refusal to listen to scientists and educators while drafting science curriculum standards. McLeroy’s editorial in the Statesman makes his views clear. He said the difficulty in writing science standards for Texas classrooms centered on a culture war over evolution. “The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom.” (McLeroy, 2009)
Despite the transgressions of ID proponents being a matter of settled case law in this country, the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education went on record stating scientists are to blame for the controversy over teaching Intelligent Design. This is a continuation of the duplicity creationists have practiced since the 1970s. Judge Jones wrote in his legal opinion that although the Dover school board consistently asserted secular purposes for injecting ID into science classes, their actions belied their words. “The Board consulted no scientific materials. The Board contacted no scientists or scientific organizations. The Board failed to consider the views of the District’s science teachers. The Board relied solely on legal advice from two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute and the (Thomas Moore Law Center).” (Jones, 2005)
Given the overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution, and the overwhelming evidence Intelligent Design is not science, its proponents hiding the religious origins of ID and misrepresenting scientists’ work, one can only conclude teaching Intelligent Design in science classes is unethical. Given Judge Jones’ ruling in Kitzmiller v Dover, teaching ID in biology classes is illegal as well.