Intelligent Design in Schools — A Failed Argument

THIS IS not the usual letter-to-the-editor that we post for amusement. Today’s letter-writer presents a clever argument as to why intelligent design (ID) should be taught in public school science classes. He’s not persuasive, but his letter is interesting nevertheless.

It’s a letter-to-the-editor appearing in the Daily Herald, from Arlington Heights, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The title is: Science and religion go hand-in-hand.

The first paragraph indicates that the writer is responding to an earlier letter that opposes ID in state-run schools. We searched for it in order to put today’s letter in context, and this is the earlier letter. Greatly condensed, it says:

[B]elief in intelligent design is a personal and religious choice, not a scientific theory. As such, intelligent design has no place being taught in public school science classes. … Since, by law, religious beliefs are not to be taught in public school, please explain how you believe that the idea of intelligent design qualifies as a scientific principle.

Now that we’re all up to speed, here are some excerpts from today’s letter-writer, with bold added by us:

I suggest that [the author of the earlier letter] has not really thought much about the relation between science and truth. Using an argument of philosophy Professor Kreeft (Boston College), please consider a simple thought experiment.

That reference to Professor Kreeft sent us looking, because what follows is allegedly his argument. Here’s an article about him: Peter Kreeft. Interesting guy. Let’s read on:

Suppose one were given four objects: a golf club, a baseball, a bat and a golf ball. The task is to place two similar objects in each of two separate boxes. Logically, one person might place the two balls in one box and the other objects another. A different person might place the golf ball with the club in one box and the baseball items in the other. Each is equally correct whether the objects are grouped by structure of function.

There is no single correct answer.

We’re always suspicious of arguments purporting to show that there’s no correct answer. If there isn’t one in this case it’s only because the question wasn’t sufficiently specific. We continue:

Now, let us do the same experiment with these four things: science, magic, religion and technology. I think most people would put science and technology together in the first box and religion and magic in the second. And they would be correct, since science and technology deal with only the physical world while the other two focus on things beyond it, the immaterial or spiritual.

Okay. At least so far. Here’s more:

There are some who would group science and religion together and separate them from technology and magic. Again they would be correct …

What? What? Let’s go on with the rest of that sentence:

… since technology and magic are merely man’s attempts assert his control over both the physical and the immaterial worlds respectively.

Yuk! Grouping technology and magic together makes sense only if one is making a list of man’s “attempts” to accomplish things. One must be purposely vague to assemble such a grouping. Here’s the rest of that paragraph:

Science and religion are human attempts to explain the reality, or truth, of the physical and the supra-natural worlds. As such, they are human attempts to seek and understand what is true.

Yes, this grouping of science and religion also makes sense — but only if one is making a list of man’s “attempts” to understand things, regardless of whether the resulting understandings can be objectively verified.

Here’s the letter’s end, and the writer leaves us with a question:

Should we really just educate our children in language, math and science without instilling in them some knowledge of and a desire for what is true and right?

[Writer’s name and city can be seen in the original.]

Nice try. Very slick. We always appreciate clever apologetics, and it was useful to know in advance that slipping ID into state-run schools is what the author has in mind.

We would say, however, that science — and science education — shouldn’t be a wild, aimless, incoherent collection of mere “attempts,” most of which (like magic) have accomplished nothing of demonstrable value. Rather, science is a method that produces verifiable results.

If mere “attempts” are to comprise the science curriculum, then not only magic, but voodoo, astrology, ID, alchemy, and a vast number of other failed enterprises should all be taught — but to what purpose?

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Intelligent Design in Schools — A Failed Argument

  1. I found it hard to get past this sentence …

    “I suggest that [the author of the earlier letter] has not really thought much about the relation between science and truth.”

    Egad!! I read the rest of it!!
    ‘Woe is meh’ (sigh)

  2. I fully endorse teaching ID in public schools, as long as it is part of a law or civics class in the context of Kitzmiller v. Dover, as an illustration of modern applications of the Lemon test and the endorsement test. Alternatively, it could be used in a philosophy or religion class as a counterexample to methodological naturalism.

  3. What garbage. Category assignment can be readily determined within a given context, and the context of science class is quite clear. Only his first option is valid in that context.

    They’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  4. Cur. Or do you prefer Mudge? I have been raising a little hell (not that I believe in the heaven and hell thing) with the local creationist clergy here in northwest Wisconsin and I got this reply to an earlier LTTE in which I ripped a local holy man (howler) for quote mining.

    Curtis Anderson(that’s me) said, “Creationists are … called liars for Jesus.” What an absurd statement to make. It needs a response about the deception and lie of evolution. Let me start with the fossil record.
    But the simple truth is that there are no transitional forms. They can’t be found.
    Darwin himself recognized that the fossil record posed a big problem for his theory. The simple reason being that the fossil record did not show gradualism.
    One of the embarrassments to evolutionists is the bombardier beetle. It’s a
    good study. It’s like God says to the evolutionist, “Prove this by evolution.”
    Another embarrassment is to explain how from nothing, nothing comes.
    Something cannot be derived from absolute nothingness. It is ludicrous to
    claim that the universe is self-caused. The big problem is that if the universe created itself, it would have to exist and not exist at the same time.

    It takes more faith to believe that than to believe that behind the universe is a creator.

    No wonder Dr. Lewis Bounoure, director of research at the National Center of Scientific Research in France, is quoted as saying, “Evolution is a fairy tale for adults.”

    Pastor Merrill Olson
    First Baptist Church
    That’s a real LTTE in our local paper. Unfortunately it’s not available for free on line. I had to pay 32 bucks for a year on line subscription. But it’s worth it if I can copy and paste the LTTE rather than type them.

  5. Crap. I left a lengthy comment and it didn’t appear. Is there a word limit?

  6. retiredsciguy

    How arrogant of religionists to think that their particular religion is Truth.

    Reality is Truth. Science is Man’s attempt to determine what constitutes the truth of reality.

  7. Curtis, your big comment got hung up in the spam filter. I’ll do what I can with it, but you’d better try an abbreviated version. I’ll unspam you, which is probably all I can do.

  8. Cranky Old Git

    Interesting argument, sounds like postmodernism where my truth is just as valid as your truth regardless of objective fact. Bollocks in other words.