Friday, November 11, 2005

A Different Side to the ID Issue

NPR did a piece on All Things Considered the other night abut ID. I was grateful for the fair and impartial treatment of the subject matter, too. Well done, NPR. (Like they care - but really, they should!)

Barbara Bradley Hagerty started her piece with the story of Richard Sternberg who published a peer-reviewed article by Stephen Meyer, a proponent of intelligent design. On the NPR site is this excerpt:

Richard Sternberg, a staff scientist at the National Institutes of Health, is puzzled to find himself in the middle of a broader clash between religion and science -- in popular culture, academia and politics.

Sternberg was the editor of an obscure scientific journal loosely affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, where he is also a research associate. Last year, he published in the journal a peer-reviewed article by Stephen Meyer, a proponent of intelligent design, an idea which Sternberg himself believes is fatally flawed.

"Why publish it?" Sternberg says. "Because evolutionary biologists are thinking about this. So I thought that by putting this on the table, there could be some reasoned discourse. That's what I thought, and I was dead wrong."

Later in the piece they talk to and about college professors who say they are mute about their belief in ID in their classrooms because of fears they will not get tenure; others who do speak out only do so from the safety of tenured positions.

One who did speak out claims she lost her teaching position because she stated her belief in a cellular biology class she was teaching, saying to her students "it's for you to decide what you believe". Her allegation may or may not be factual - I didn't hear a rebuttal. Many of the other interviewees asked not to be identified for fear of losing their postions as well.

Boy did that piece leave me conflicted. It's one thing to say that ID will not be a formal part of any level science curriculum, but it's another to say that a professor who believes in ID and engages students in a real debate about the idea should be stifled or denied tenure.

My gut reaction is that a college science class isn't a college student's only exposure to the scientific method and basic science education, like it would be in a High School - so how is a professor stating their case for ID, so long as the rest of the coursework is taught appropriately, harmful?

I think the formal teaching of ID chould be relegated to it's own named elective course (under full disclosure, with appropriate disclaimers) at colleges where there is an interest in it. It has not earned it's place as a part of the regular science curriculum. Alternatively, it could be taught as part of a religious studies curriculum.

I remember that having stimulating debates (ok, full fledged shouting matches) in college was all part of the learning experience. I learned from them how to listen and respond to other viewpoints. How to point out logical fallacies - how do you get to do that if opposing thought isn't allowed a voice?

(note: this post is substantially the same as a comment I posted in Mac's blog - just added a bit more content)


emeraldcite said...

I think one of the main problems I have with ID is that the proponents of it argue that the holes in evolutionary theory warrant belief in an idea with absolutely no evidence other than evolutionary's holes and things are "too complicated for us to understand."

That's not evidence. Show me proof. Show me evidence. I'm not saying evolution is right, but ID is wrong.

Dawno said...

I completely agree with you on that.

I heard on NPR one of the new Dover School Board members discuss how they wanted to approach the issue - teach it in a philosophy or religious studies class and give all viewpoints equal weight and access.

emeraldcite said...

I'm all for philsophy and Religious Studies (like a survey college course where students learn about ALL religions). I think students should be exposed to all these ideas. I don't believe tucking away dangerous information or ideas is any way for a free society to act, but placing information in the wrong context is a disservice to students. It's confusing for them and life is already confusing enough at that age.