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Who’s causing “division” in public schools? Assessing Kevin Trowel’s arguments against intelligent design

Casey Luskin

Darwinists sometimes make a highly suspect argument along the lines of, “don’t change evolution education because you’ll divide the community.” Most school districts presently teach only the scientific evidence which supports Darwinian evolution and nothing more on this topic. Does that satisfy the public or divide them? In fact, polls consistently show that Americans want more than just the pro-evolution side of the story taught in schools. A 2005 Harris poll found that 82% of Americans want alternatives to evolution taught. A 2006 Zogby poll corroborated that statistic, finding that a supermajority of Ohio adults want both scientific evidence for and against evolution taught, and 75% of Americans want intelligent design taught alongside evolution. In both polls, under 20% wanted only the evidence for evolution taught. It appears that the status quo goes against what the vast majority of Americans want. This seems like a likely candidate for what is causing community division. Ironically, a recent law review student note in Georgetown Law Journal suggests that the intelligent design be outlawed because it is “deeply divisive”:

“This Note has attempted to analyze recent intelligent design controversies in their broader social context. In so doing, this Note has shown the deeply divisive nature of intelligent design proposals. The divisiveness of intelligent design policies points to a dangerous trend in which certain communities may be actively turning away from the wider culture, exacerbating existing divisions, and creating new ones.”

(Kevin Trowel, “Divided by Design: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Intelligent Design, and Civic Education,” 95 Georgetown Law Journal 855, 894 (March, 2007).)

Discovery Institute does not advocate mandating intelligent design in schools. But in fact, Discovery Institute’s preferred policy for education is founded upon finding “a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on”:

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to mandate or require the teaching the theory of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Recognizing the potential for sharp conflict in this area, Discovery Institute believes that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.

(David K. DeWolf and Seth L. Cooper, “Teaching About Evolution in the Public Schools: A Short Summary of the Law“)

Other Problems:
Mr. Trowel claims, “Intelligent design theory, however, rejects the idea that science and religion can coexist.” This turns the reality on its head. Sure, many Darwinists do contend that evolution and religion are compatible. But many don’t, and they oppose religion in a divisive way (ever heard of leading, highly influential Darwinists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett?).

Moreover, many ID-proponents most certainly find evolution and religion compatible. For example, pro-ID Dover-expert witness Michael Behe was a completely satisfied Roman Catholic and a Darwinist before the data persuaded him that intelligent design was the better answer. For Behe, this has nothing to do with rejecting a scientific viewpoint to salvage a religious viewpoint. Contra Trowel, I have never heard of a single ID-proponent who claims to “rejec[t] the idea that science and religion can coexist.” (For another error, Mr. Trowel relies on Ken Miller and Judge Jones to assert, “Instead, intelligent design offers only a ‘negative argument against evolution’,” which is another false claim. I always thought good scholarship described a viewpoint by quoting its proponents, but I guess it’s easier to quote the misrepresentations of critics.)

Poor Mr. Trowel. As a law student, he probably read the Dover ruling and thought that it was accurate and has no idea how badly he’s been misled about ID. (I should note that law schools always teach students to critically analyze judicial rulings, so his reliance upon Kitzmiller isn’t completely acceptable.)

The facts show that Americans don’t want only the pro-evolution scientific evidence taught.

They want the scientific evidence both for and against evolution presented in schools. It seems more likely that pro-evolution-only policies are a greater cause of community strife because they go against what Americans so clearly desire. So who’s the one advocating “divisive” policies here?


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



Kevin Trowel