Sunday, March 01, 2009

Darwinism and Intelligent Design

As a biology teacher, I have the privilege of teaching about life. The first half of the year we focus on the scientific method, cells, levels of organization, genetics, etc. (the fun stuff in my opinion) and then the second half of the year we look at how different organisms are built differently and live in drastically different environments and yet have to find ways to carry out the essential functions of life - respiration, response, circulation, reproduction, movement, feeding, and excretion. The diversity of life is absolutely amazing! We've looked at sponges and corals, worms and mollusks and are soon moving on to arthropods. Where did all of this diversity come from? A question that has been answered many different ways.

As a biology teacher in a private Christian school, I am allowed to express my Creationist worldview. However, what should be taught in the science classroom? Science is the study of observable, measurable events. I cannot observe or measure the creation of life, the beginning of time. I know the Bible to be true, it is a credible historical document. I know it to be true because I know God is real...he is real in my life, in history - revealed through the Bible as his word. I would never doubt that God created life for his purposes, but that doesn't fully answer my question regarding what should be taught in the science classroom.

Is Intelligent Design an acceptable scientific theory? Does it have a place in the science classroom? Is Darwinism everything that modern day scientists claim it to be? Does it have a right to be taught in the science classroom as a modern theory? There is no way to go back in time to see first hand what happened during creation or the beginning of life. Instead, scientists must look at evidence in the present and at best try to "re-create" what conditions may have been like in the beginning of time that allowed life to begin. It is messy. It isn't even close to "ideal" scientific investigation.

In The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote, "I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendents of some few beings." He believed that living things have been modified over time by natural selection acting on random variations - survival of the fittest. We call it descent with modification. He proposed that, "If competing offspring have traits that are advantageous in a given environment, they will survive and pass on those traits. As differences continue to accumulate over generations, populations of organisms diverge from their ancestors. This straightforward process...has led the earliest organisms on earth to diversify into all of the plants, animals and microorganisms that exist today." (US National Academy of Sciences, Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science)

In a book I've just begun, the statement is made, "According to the theory of intelligent design (ID), it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than by unguided processes." What the empirical evidence is, I have yet to find out. The word "design" is defined as "a pattern produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan." ID does not rely on the Bible nor does it tell us the identity of the seems as though (based on what I have read so far, which is not much) it is an acceptable theory for the science classroom. We'll see.

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