18 January 2006

ID as Philosophy

From a Science standpoint, the course was completely legitimate.

FRESNO, California (AP) -- Under legal pressure, a rural school district agreed Tuesday to stop offering high school students an elective philosophy course on "intelligent design," an advocacy group said.

A group of parents had sued the El Tejon school district in federal court last week, saying it violated the constitutional separation of church and state by offering "Philosophy of Design," a course taught by a minister's wife that advanced the notion that life is so complex it must have been created by some kind of higher intelligence.


Honestly, I have much less problem with ID being taught in a class on philosophy or religion. Where the problem comes in in my mind is when it is taught as absolute fact in those courses - much as if Jesus, Buddah, or Moroni were taught as facts. Then it becomes the trickier issue of the separation of church and state. However, having ID in science classes is very simple: you don't teach Math in an Art class, you shouldn't teach Religion in a Science class.


feral said...

I agree with you, I have no problem with it being covered in Religious of philosophy classes; it does not belong how ever in science classes.

utenzi said...

I agree with you, ZP. This course is an elective. I can't see why the parents would object to that--other than the obvious knee-jerk reasons that are more often attributed to the Religious Right. I guess it's good to see that folk on both sides of the issue are annoying and unyielding.

boyhowdy said...

As a matter of abstract principle, I agree with your assessment.

However, in the case of this case -- which is not abstract at all -- a close read of the articles on the subject have revealed some interesting tidbits:

1. The Intelligent Designer which was being promoted in this course was not just AN intelligent designer, but specifically the Christian God. (Course was also being taught by a minister's wife, who proclaimed publically that God had called her to teach the course). As a matter of philosophy, ID is SUPPOSED to leave open the possibility of just what sort of designer we're talking about, here. The course didn't meet that standard.

2. The course was entirely "let's watch this video which shows, from a CHRISTIAN standpoint, how intelligent Design could come from the Christian Creator." That's both VERY bad teaching -- not actually class at all, I'd suggest, and I teach middle school -- it's also, again, not consistent with the philosophical standpoint that ID claims to present as a matter of philosophy.

As such: in the public school setting, the course was both a total breach of the "freedom of religion" clause, since it specifically promoted a signle religious standpoint under the guise of ID, which is NOT supposed to do so...it was also very, very bad teaching which would never pass a state board of standards in a million years.

boyhowdy said...

The relevant 'graphs from the article you quoted are in fact near the end. To wit:

"El Tejon Superintendent John Wight said the subject was proper for a philosophy class. But Americans United argued the course relied almost exclusively on videos that presented religious theories as scientific ones."

Oops. Not philosophy or religion alone, after all, then -- but a class which presents religion AS science.

And, two 'graphs later, as referenced in my previous comment:

"Sharon Lemburg, a social studies teacher and soccer coach who taught "Philosophy of Design," defended the course in a letter to the weekly Mountain Enterprise. "I believe this is the class that the Lord wanted me to teach," she wrote."

Oops. If ID is to be taught using the standards both you and your other commenters seem to allow (and with which I agree), this isn't going to be the trial balloon. Teaching religion as theory, or as ethics or philosophy...no problem. But teaching pseudoscience under the GUISE of religion? Not on your life, no matter what class this is. Religion or philisophy class should teach things AS RELIGION OR PHILOSOPHY.

ID in its pure form -- which allows for ANY intelligent designer, as a NON-scientific theory -- is something I'd love to see. But this class fails that test.

utenzi said...

Boyhowdy is funny. ID in its "pure form." That's rich. ID has always been a sham. I do agree with Boyhowdy's conclusions but I doubt any ID folk want to teach a course that isn't pseudoscience.

zandperl said...

Unfortunately, even in its "pure" form - allowing for little green men to have created the universe as we know it - ID is still pseudoscience. "Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke. And magic is supernatural, and therefore not within the scope of science.

Amusingly, Clarke was kinda arguing the compliment of my usage when he first said that quote. He meant "even the apparently inexplicable stuff is really just science," while I'm saying "if something really is inexplicable, then it's not science."

Doctor Marco said...

I do not agree with the teaching of ID as a philosophy. I think thet we cannot go further than the following as part of a course on deities or aliens: "There is people who believe that the Universe is so complex that it could only have been created using an intelligent design." I do not see how a formal course can be made out of something like this. For example, in a philosophy course, we learn about the various schools of thought of the ancient Greeks, like Epicurianism or Stoicism. Can ID be put at the same level? I leave the open question...

jordan_wildpirate said...

I think ID would be best taught in a class with a broader mandate. It'd be better understood in a course that looks at different belief systems, and compares many different ones with comparisons based on dogma, believers, historical contexts, etc...

Anyways, I pretty much swiped that course description from a "Nature of Religion" course I took in my first year of Uni. However the course worked really well and was an intelligent way to understand an interesting topic. Unfortunately a class on the Philosophy of ID (especially in high school) could be too easily co-opted into something of an indoctrination or recruitment lecture (like what happened here).