Ohio - intelligent design
If you want 'honest science,' Intelligent Design is not it
By BRIAN MCENNIS, Marion Star, Apr 12, 2004 - Original

On March 11, The Star published a column by Lowell Hedges under the headline "Let's teach honest science." I agree with the headline, but not with Mr. Hedges' interpretation of honest science. He advocates the inclusion of non-scientific material in a science curriculum, teaching students to abandon scientific method by explaining natural phenomena with supernatural forces. The lesson is dishonest in that it masquerades as science while including misrepresentations and factual errors. It has been rejected by (amongst others) The Ohio Academy of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and major research universities in the state.

It is disturbing that the Ohio Board of Education would ignore overwhelming scientific opinion in developing a science lesson plan, harming the students whom they should be serving. Students hoping to gain admission to elite universities, or hoping to avoid remedial biology courses in college, should ask why the Board of Education is acting against their best interests. And science-based companies, which rely on well-educated employees, will think twice before locating in a state whose Board of Education is in open conflict with the scientific community.

What is it about the disputed lesson plan that has scientists concerned? Despite Mr. Hedges' claims, there is nothing that we're hiding. We just have this conviction that science courses should teach science! If competing theories are to be taught in a science classroom, they should at least be valid scientific theories. We are implored to "teach both sides of the issue," as if valid science and fraudulent science had equal merit. If that were the case, there are many sides, not two. We would need to teach creation myths of various cultures, flat-earth theories, and any other crackpot theories that claimed classroom time. This might make for a fun course, but it wouldn't be science!

Intelligent Design satisfies none of the criteria for a scientific theory. Science is evidence-based, and any theory that would compete with modern evolutionary theory must account for the overwhelming evidence, such as the evidence of the fossil record and the evidence of molecular biology. Intelligent Design simply ignores the evidence.

The scientific method explicitly rejects superstition, mysticism, or other supernatural explanations of natural phenomena. Without that discipline, we would never have emerged from the Dark Ages, and would (for example) still be explaining illness as possession by evil spirits. Intelligent Design is the antithesis of scientific method, asserting that some natural phenomena require supernatural explanations. Welcome back to the Dark Ages, Ohio!

Scientific theories are continually tested by making predictions based on theory and searching for evidence to either confirm or refute the predictions. Intelligent Design, by its very nature, cannot be tested - it is an article of faith. Mr. Hedges claims that scientists are afraid to have critical analysis of their theories. Baloney! Science is critical analysis, and evolutionary theory has survived almost 150 years of it to become the cornerstone of modern biology.

It is Intelligent Design that is afraid of criticism. Where is the critical analysis of Intelligent Design in the lesson plan? There is none. Under critical analysis, Intelligent Design collapses like a house of cards. Mr. Hedges asks "...why don't they want the theories of evolution criticized in a public school classroom?" He misrepresents the positions of responsible scientists and educators, who have always advocated critical analysis of all scientific theories. It is not critical analysis we object to; it is the insertion of pseudoscience into the curriculum.

Mr. Hedges describes scientists as "believing" in evolution, in order to create the impression that science is based on faith. He has it backwards. Intelligent Design, by invoking a supernatural being, is faith-based; science is not. Scientific theories are based solidly on physical evidence. Intelligent Design explicitly brings religious beliefs into the science classroom, and it will cost Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars to defend against the inevitable court challenges.

Mr. Hedges refers to the support of Sen. Edward Kennedy, echoing a claim made by Sen. Santorum in the Washington Times of March 14, 2002. Kennedy responded in a letter to the editor, published in the same newspaper on March 21, 2002:
"The March 14 Commentary piece, 'Illiberal education in Ohio schools,' written by my colleague Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, erroneously suggested that I support the teaching of 'Intelligent Design' as an alternative to biological evolution. That simply is not true. Rather, I believe that public school science classes should focus on teaching students how to understand and critically analyze genuine scientific theories. Unlike biological evolution, 'Intelligent Design' is not a genuine scientific theory and, therefore, has no place in the curriculum of our nation's public school science classes."
So much for the claim of Kennedy's support! This type of misrepresentation and shading of the truth is typical of the way that Intelligent Design proponents present their case. The lesson plan that they wrote is similarly riddled with deceit and error.

If it is honest science you want, this lesson plan is not it. It is scientific fraud, and has no place in the classroom.

Dr. Brian McEnnis is a professor of mathematics at The Ohio State University at Marion. He is involved in middle school and high school science education as the director of the science fair programs at OSUM and as a representative of this district on the Junior Academy Council of The Ohio Academy of Science.