Day By Day

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Intelligent Design Trial Update -- The Defense Strikes Back

On Tuesday the defense [representing the Dover School Board] continued to present its case. The day was taken up by testimony from Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University. He testified that the plaintiffs had mischaracterized intelligent design saying that it does not necessarily constitute an affirmation of God’s providence (although he stated that such was his personal belief) and it was not, as critics have charged, simply “creationism” in new garb. He also charged that authorities such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science which had endorsed excluding ID from the classroom were making political, rather than a scientific, statements. He further argued that ID was perfectly compatible with the teaching of evolutionary theory and in no way precluded investigation into natural causes. [here]

See also here.

Behe's testimony is important because it goes to the heart of the plaintiff's case -- that introducing ID into public school classrooms is a violation of the separation of church and state. By asserting that ID does not necessarily invoke the deity as agent, he makes it possible to argue that the separation clause does not apply. To me this seems something of a stretch, but we'll see how it plays.

Hanna Rosin elaborates over at Slate:

In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that states can not require schools to teach creationism alongside evolution. So, the plaintiffs are intent on proving ID is just another form of creationism....

as time goes on, the ID people are getting better and better at avoiding overt theism, narrowing their theory to its most unobjectionable form. Of Pandas and People merely replaced the word "creationism" with "intelligent design." There's already an updated textbook in the works called Design of Life, which excises the Genesis-speak and more thoroughly incorporates the principles of ID. The Discovery Institute does not like this case because it involves a requirement that teachers mention ID and because there are too many creationist fingerprints on it. They prefer a model tested in Ohio schools called Critical Analysis of Evolution. In this model, teachers are encouraged to poke holes in evolution and make sure students understand it's just a theory. They can check out ID in their own free time. "They need at least a couple of different perspectives to appreciate the difference between fact and theory," Behe says in his testimony. This is the safest position for ID people to take: What could be more scientific than subjecting a theory to hard scrutiny? But it's also the most disingenuous. This would be teaching 14-year-olds that the truth is relative, that life can be explained by any one of many competing theories....

Read her here.

And here's the rub. The major attacks on evolutionary science have come not from the right [where all the attention is focused] but from the academic left. Postmodernist critics have launched major frontal assaults on any attempt to intrude evolutionary principles into matters of human psychology or social interaction ["sociobiology" and "evolutionary psychology."] In the post-modern milieu truths are relative and competing theories are distinguished only by their power relations.

Once again we see the ideological convergence of the cultural left and the religious right. Why? Because both are repelled by the amoral reductionism of scientism.

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