As part of our response to the PBS-NOVA documentary “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design,” Discovery Institute recently released “The Theory of Intelligent Design: A Briefing Packet for Educators” (available free for download, here). The packet contains numerous resources for educators trying to effectively teach about biological origins in public schools. These resources include:
- An introductory letter helping teachers to understand the debate and to avoid the pitfalls in the PBS-NOVA’s educational resources;
- An FAQ answering common questions about evolution and intelligent design, discussing definitions and evidence for both theories.
- The truth about the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial.
- A summary of the law regarding teaching evolution in public schools.
- A list of authorities that support teaching the controversy over evolution.
- A detailed discussion of some of the scientific controversies that can be taught regarding Darwinian evolution.
- References of peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting intelligent design.
- A list of internet resources on intelligent design and evolution.
The packet also details Discovery Institute’s preferred policy for teaching intelligent design (ID) and evolution in public schools, explaining that we oppose mandating ID in public schools:
As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.
Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned.
The introductory letter, co-authored by John West and myself, explains that the intent of the packet is to assist teachers dealing with this issue, regardless of their personal views: “Whether you support or oppose intelligent design, the following materials will help you better understand what it actually proposes and correct common misunderstandings and misrepresentations about the concept often found in the newsmedia.” The letter also emphasizes Discovery Institute’s approach to teaching this issue:
For the record, we do not propose that intelligent design should be mandated in public schools, which is why we strongly opposed the school district policy at issue in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. However, if you voluntarily choose to raise the issue of intelligent design in your classroom, it is vitally important that any information you present accurately convey the views of the scientists and scholars who support intelligent design, not a caricature of their views. Otherwise you will be engaging in indoctrination, not education.
Teachers need to understand that their role is to teach science objectively, not misrepresenting the evidence for or against any theory of biological origins that they choose to discuss in the classroom. Unfortunately, PBS’s educational materials present evolution as a unilaterally validated theory of biological origins. This not only misrepresents the science, but results in bad education. As our packet explains:
Although some claims made by modern evolutionary theory are strongly supported by empirical evidence, others are not. In particular, there are scientific debates going on about the limits of the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random mutations and what kind of changes it can actually produce. It is perfectly appropriate–and constitutional–to teach about these scientific debates regarding the limits and weaknesses of Neo-Darwinism.
As a final note, the packet was released to help correct much of the misinformation released by PBS-NOVA in its briefing packet for educators. It observes, “The materials being distributed by NOVA and PBS are riddled with factual errors that misrepresent both the standard definition of intelligent design and the beliefs of those scientists and scholars who support the theory.” Because the PBS-NOVA materials are “grossly inaccurate and biased in the information they present about the views of those who support intelligent design,” we hope that this packet will help educators who deal with this issue to do so in an informed, objective, and accurate fashion.
Download color version of the PDF here.
Download B/W printable version of the PDF here.