Supporting 21st Century Science GCSE

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Intelligent Design versus Evolution?

Is there a place for Intelligent Design in a school Science Curriculum?  We are investigating this, using Science (as we know it!).  A Science Week 2006 Project.





As part of  National Science Week (UK) we are looking at some issues related to the teaching of science in schools.  The teaching of evolution is well embedded in the science curriculum in the UK.  However, there is a strong movement in the USA that argues that  Intelligent Design (ID) needs to be discussed alongside evolution in science lessons.  Indeed, President George Bush has even entered the 'discussion', by suggesting that ID should be discussed alongside the theory of evolution. A report of his statement can be found o­n MSNBC .  

The overwhelming majority of  science teachers in the USA argue that there is no place for ID in science, since it cannot be tested scientifically.  Indeed, it is commonly regarded as pseudoscience or junk science by the vast majority of biology teachers.  Furthermore, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences states that intelligent design is not science because it cannot be tested scientifically , by experiment, and it does not give rise to any predictions or provide a hypothesis .

 William Dembski, who is o­ne of ID's leading proponents, stated that :

"there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence."

Where is the evidence for ID?  Unlike mainstream science, where evidence is collected by carrying out experiments and data is collected,  the proponents of of  ID look for complexities and mechanisms. They  then  infer, from the sheer complexity, that they must have been designed. This 'evidence' is often referred to as look for "signs of intelligence"  The proponents look for one or more signs of a design, which are refered to as   irreducible complexity, information mechanisms, and specified complexity. They argue that such complexity or mechanism could not have been the result of   mutations and natural selection . Therefore, it appears to many opponents to ID that in order to classify ID as a 'science', the proponents of ID have merely redefined 'science', thereby attempting to press a case for discussions with science in schools.

Of course, the signs of a design requires a designer. Although God is not specifically stated, many opponents argue that it is difficult to imagine  how any entity other than a God could have been the designer.  Intelligent design proponents also suggest that the work could be the result of an alien culture, using the argument that there are many features of the universe which indicate an intelligent designer.  Furthermore,  some proponents of ID have made statements that they believe the designer to be a Christian God, thereby excluding Gods from all other religions.  No wonder that many opponents idenfiy ID with Genesis and Creationism.

Has Intelligent Design appeared in scientific journals, as a science?  Yes. For established mainstream scientific publications there is often open hostility towards ID. The main reason is that ID does not satisfy the requirements as a science within the scientific community.  It cannot be validated, or tested, using scientific method. Scientific inquiries require the existence of   hypotheses which can be tested, requiring observable data, and can be backed by empirical evidence. However, there is an increasing number of publications now providing 'space' for ID. Michael Behe, for example, has defended his understanding of "irreducible complexity" in the journal Philosophy of Science. Another journal has a strong focus on design theory, Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design. This publication an large editorial advisory board of over 50 academics from a range of scientific disciplines.

Further resources for your research (from Wikipedia)

Non-Intelligent Design  Perspectives

ID perspectives

Media articles

  • How the media have covered ID 
  • Banned in biology class: intelligent design
  • Darwin Victorious
  • Intelligent Design: Scientific Inquiry or Religious Indoctrination?
  • Devolution
  • The Evolution Debate 
  • Debating Evolution in the Classroom
  • [end of article]