Tuesday, August 09, 2005

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG SAYS "TEACH THE CONTROVERSY!" Step back for a minute from the raging debate about Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design. Instead of asking yourself which of these theories provides a better explanation for life on earth, ask yourself how we should conduct this debate in order to prevent the rise of even more antagonism between secular and religious culture in the United States of America.

Naturally, I do have a personal opinion about whether Darwinism or Intelligent Design is a better theory. The answer is Darwinism, hands down. In fact, I don't even belive that I.D. deserves to be described as theory in the scientific sense of the word.

However, that does not mean that I believe the best way to deal with the popularity of I.D. is to denounce it as a malicious hoax, a la Paul Krugman. Nor do I think that taunting and consdescension, in the manner of the cartoon above, serve much of a purpose.

But take a second look at that cartoon and ask yourself why alchemy, phrenology, magic and astrology aren't taken more seriously on the campuses of Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago. Is it because the vitriolic denunciations of secular intellectuals have persuaded people that these four pseudo-sciences are full of bunk, or is it because pseudo-sciences can't survive the laboratory competitions imposed on every competing theory by modern science?

You might say that when it comes to Intelligent Design, I prefer a Darwinian approach. Let the better theory survive. In fact, I'm even willing to let local school boards in Pennsylvania and Kansas mandate that I.D. get a fair hearing in the classroom. Let the kids read books and essays by Michael Behe and William Dembski, alongside criticism of their work. (After all, getting kids to read books about anything would be an important accomplishment for many of our public schools.)

Some of the kids who read these books will be persuaded by what they read. I'm guessing that most of them won't. And that might even be besides the point, since the moment any of these kids steps onto a college campus they will be thoroughly indoctrinated by Darwin's heirs. (I was. I don't regret it.)

But here's the real silver lining for all of those liberals who are concerned about Christian fundamentalism invading our schools in the guise of Intelligent Design. If conservatives are serious about "teaching the controversy", then perhaps they will also be willing to teach the controversy when it comes to liberal add-ons to the public school curriculum, such as birth control and homosexuality.

When it comes to education, I like to think of myself as a true liberal: let the kids sample everything, instead of waging culture wars designed to deny them access to controversial ideas.
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