Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews has a thoughtful article out today endorsing Rick Santorum on teaching the evolution controversy (while declining to say whom he’d vote for in a primary or election). Mathews isn’t a Darwin doubter or ID advocate by any means but he argues on pedagogic grounds that teaching both sides of such a debate would draw students into the discussion better than just teaching one side. Of course this is just what we’ve been saying for a long time.
Santorum and I have different reasons for wanting high schools to allow discussion of intelligent design — the notion that some supernatural force (not necessarily God) brought life to earth. Santorum believes that God had a hand in it. But he wants to avoid injecting religion into schools, so he says classes need only examine the scientific possibility that Darwin was wrong to conclude that life evolved only because of natural processes.
I think Darwin was right, but boring.
It was hard for me to become interested in classroom explanations of natural selection when I was a student. Introducing a contrary theory like intelligent design and having students discuss its differences from Darwinism would enliven the class. It would also teach the scientific method. Did Darwin follow the rules of objective scientific inquiry? Does intelligent design?
Advocates of intelligent design at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute have influenced Santorum. They accept many Darwinist concepts, such as the notion that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. They see a weakness in Darwinian theory because of the lack of much evidence of natural precursors to the animal body types that emerged in the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. How did we get from random chemicals to creatures with eyes and spines? They say that gap in knowledge leaves open the possibility of intervention by an outside force.
Many scientists and teachers think the intelligent design folks are only pretending to have an allegiance to science. They seemed sincere to me. Some have doctorates in science. Even if they are fakes, their reliance on the fossil record rather the first book of the Bible qualifies them for a science class debate.
It’s refreshing too, incidentally, to hear from a journalist who isn’t on our side but who has followed ID’s arguments with an open mind and can accurately say back to us, if in very broad terms, what the case for intelligent design actually says. A hearty and sincere congratulations to Mr. Mathews. Read the rest here.