Intelligent design case sparks varied opinions

Some TCU faculty members agree with a federal judge’s ruling that teaching intelligent design in science classrooms violates the separation of church and state. Although the ruling only applies to the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania, the Texas State Board of Education will address the issue when they revise the science curriculum later this year, said Pat Hardy, State Board of Education member for District 11.

In October, the Dover School Board voted to require a one-minute statement about intelligent design be read in Dover High School’s ninth-grade biology classroom.

U.S. District Judge John Jones III ruled Dec. 20 against the school board saying its primary motive was to insert religion into public schools, according to a December CNN story.

David Grant, professor and chair of the religion department, said as the case went on, “it became pretty clear that the motivation for presenting the school board policies was religious.”

Evolution is a theory that is based on observable data from the natural world, while intelligent design depends on the unobservable supernatural and therefore cannot be included in science, said Mark Bloom, instructor of biology.

“It (intelligent design) might be true; it might not be true, but scientifically speaking there is no way to test that,” Bloom said.

Intelligent design opposes the idea that parts of a complex structure evolved for separate purposes and then adapted into more complex structures. Instead, it relies on the idea of irreducible complexity, which is that some things must have been created by an intelligent designer.

“The notion that one needs intervention from a supernatural being is simply not something the majority of scientists would hold as science,” Grant said.

Grant cited author Michael Behe’s example of a mousetrap as a complex object and said that without each part, the contraption would not function. However, after Grant mentioned this, he pulled out a mousetrap without all of its parts and showed that it can still function but as a tie clip or a hairpin rather than a mousetrap.

“Intelligent design becomes the default; if you can’t explain it otherwise it must be intelligent design,” Grant said, adding that although he believes God is the creator, it is not because “God comes in and tweaks something,” as intelligent design might suggest.

Currently, science curriculum in Texas does not specifically require teachers to mention evolution. They are only required to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, something Hardy said he thinks is not always clearly communicated when addressing evolution.

“Let’s face it, there are a lot of unanswered questions about evolution,” Hardy said. “If explored and studied, it (intelligent design) could be an alternative.”

Bloom said he does not receive a negative reaction from students when he teaches evolution because he makes it clear that science and faith are separate realms.

“Faith in a divine creator; that’s something you have to believe not something you prove or test,” Bloom said.