Friday, January 06, 2006

Circumspection Should Not Be Controversial

The holidays and other things have prevented me from blogging recently, but others have been active. The Evolution News blog noted this critique of the Dover decision from the Arizona Republic, which is worth a look. Some excerpts (my emphasis in bold):

In the course of a desultory opinion, [Judge Jones] found that there was no difference between creationism and intelligent design. Moreover, based upon the extensive expertise he professes to have acquired in the course of a six-week trial, he defined science and determined that the scientific claims of intelligent design were invalid, neither of which are exactly legal questions best decided by a single lawyer.

Jones actually ruled on the nature of theology as well. He determined that evolution "in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator." That's not necessarily so. Much of evolutionary teaching contends that life on Earth is the accidental and unplanned result of exclusively natural processes. That precludes life on Earth being the willed outcome of a Creator.

Although both intelligent design and creationism posit the existence of a Creator, their scientific and public policy positions are radically different. Creationism holds that God created the Earth and life on it pretty much as it presently exists only about 6,000 years ago.

Intelligent design accepts that the Earth and life are billions of years old, and that life has evolved through adaptation, mutation and natural selection. It even accepts some degree of common ancestry among species.

It simply finds the claim that all life evolved from a single organism not to best fit the available evidence.

Far from wanting to ban the teaching of evolution in public schools, the ID movement advocates that it be taught. Moreover, it does not support the mandatory teaching of intelligent design as an alternative. Instead, it wants a more circumspect presentation of evolutionary theory as well as acknowledgement of its scientific critiques.

Those critiques, such as that some of life exhibits irreducible complexity that cannot be explained by evolution, are fiercely rebutted by evolutionists. But the notion of circumspection shouldn't be controversial.

It is estimated that far fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of living organisms become fossilized. Evolutionists have sharp disputes among themselves about the particulars of even the humanoid branch of the tree of life, much less the continuum going back billions of years to the purported single organism that started it all.

. . .

Perhaps one day scientists will create life in a lab and fossils, despite their paucity, will reveal a fuller and less contentious tree of life.

At present, however, what is unknown about the history of life remains vast and important.

Surely there's a way for that reality to be reflected in classrooms without violating the integrity of scientific inquiry or the freedom of conscience for believers and non-believers alike.