Thursday, August 04, 2005

School Intelligence - PartII

I was clicking around the blogosphere (yes, that's what it's called, I didn't make it up) and I noticed another post regarding President Bush wanting intelligent design to be taught in schools - this one against. After reading through a few of the responses, I responded, and it turned into a very pleasant but intelligent discussion. It's worth reading through the posts, but a few highlights: [Blogger's name in brackets] First, there was a nice post regarding the real issue that most often is hidden behind the issue; liberalism rearing its ugly head:
[glomo] "Is it that obscene to DISCUSS (you can't teach Intelligent Design) an opposing view?
It's this simple:
'Okay kiddos, some people believe in the theory of evolution, the concept that man adapted from apes through the process of Darwin's famed "Survival of the Fittest." Some people believe in the theory of Intelligent Design, which basically means that they believe that some occurrences in nature are too complex OR have yet to be explained by science, leading them to believe that a higher power had some hand in nature's existence. Everyone is free to believe what they wish. Moving along to scientific names....'
It's almost like getting mad at a sex education teacher for discussing condom use and abstinence."

This was followed by a post pointing out that evolution is equally as flawed as some say creationism is:
[bullchick] "What's wrong with it being taught in addition to the current teachings? While 'Intelligent Design' is a religion for many people, I believe that the theory of evolution is the same to those who believe it. There has been no scientific evidence ever proven to back up evolution, so why is it being taught?
Teach both - give the kids a choice to believe what they want - there is nothing wrong with that."

This was followed by a well-argued post that asserts that the problem with ID is that it lacks scientific basis, but ended with a flawed argument.
[croaky] "...It is not like teaching comparative religions. This is talking about science, which has rigorous standards that intelligent design fails.
The National Academy of Sciences asserts that Intelligent Design is not science. While the scientific model of evolution by natural selection has observable and repeatable facts to support it such as the process of mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, natural selection, and speciation, the "Intelligent Designer" in ID is neither observable nor repeatable.
The ID movement is a coward's way of sneaking faith into science and into schools. The natural universe amazes us all and there are many things about it that we have yet to learn... Emphasis on yet."

This last statement is actually a perfect reason why creationism or intelligent design should be taught as well. Just as evolution is not a perfect theory, and there is still much to be learned about it, so too those who argue that because intelligent design or creationism cannot explain certain happenings or findings, the response should be that overall it is a true theory and there are aspects that we do not yet understand.
The next poster was the original poster, and he still argued that ID should not be taught, but though overall it was a very good post, it did contradict itself:
[Grand Berdino] "If 'Intelligent Design' is going to be "presented" in our schools, it ought to be in a social studies classroom, not in a science classroom.
Academia is supposed to be above the urges of the population at large - hence, my 100% agreement with Croaky's point. When a population demands that young people be taught or exposed to ideas for no other reason than for the sake of advancing that population's agenda, it's not education, it's brainwashing."

If academia is supposed to be above the urges of the population at large (which I do not believe is true, but pass on for now), then it should definitely not be subject to the viewpoints of the minority of the population. Sex education, homosexuality, abortion, and other issues should definitely not be taught, as those are primarily taught as part of an agenda as well [if this were not true there would not have been such a bruhaha when introduced]. Second, by advancing only evolution and not any other theories, one is essentially endorsing and pushing that one theory over all others; this is more of a 'brainwashing' than teaching both sides.
Following this post, I joined in:
[Me] "...The odds of each stage of evolution are so astronomically unfeasible that mathematicians have stated that is is absolutely impossible to have happened.
Meanwhile, most top-level [nuclear and bio-] physicists in the present day have come to the conclusion that there was a Creation point by some unknown force - and many of them have actually become religious because of it.
In addition, the lack of education about 'Intelligent Design' is essentially forcing non- or anti- religious beliefs on students. If you are sure that there is no basis in intelligent design, then allow students to see that for themselves. There is no establishment clause applicable here in the slightest, so I do not see what the problem would be with teaching intelligent design."

Croaky then responded with a very intelligent post, which included an argument that teaching intelligent design may require us to teach every theory out there:
[Croaky] "Your argument that 'if there is no basis in intelligent design, let the students see for themselves' sounds good because it seems to empower the student and give him or her more freedom. Should Intelligent Design and any other theory that helps include all possible religious beliefs in this diverse nation be taught in schools, or should the line of demarcation be more like:
'Okay, class. That was the Theory of Evolution. There are other theories of creation out there, but they do not yet pass any kind of scientific standard so you'll have to learn about them outside of school. I encourage you to do that.'"

While this is probably the best argument I have seen against intelligent design [though I believe the same argument applies to evolution], I would venture that as a practical matter, it is impossible to teach every possible theory. Therefore, those theories that play to the largest segment of the population should be taught. This is part of the argument against that which Grand Brendino said that academia should not be subject to the whims of the greater population. This is not true - it absolutely should, at least in terms of pre-university education. There should be (and in most subjects are) general standards in education, and people should be given a comprehensive and somewhat broad-based education. This does not mean that we should sacrifice our children's general education to cater to every cock-a-manie theory that is out there, because that would defeat the purpose.
This is why most religious people would like something such as 'intelligent design' to be taught in schools. Intelligent design does not say, "This is what the Catholics believe took place, this is what the Jews write, this is what the Muslims say, this is what the Greek Orthodox say." Instead, it argues that a higher power created the universe; and if you want to know the religious aspect, please come learn it on your own time. That is what I believe the 'line of demarcation' should be.
Next, I argued that even the man who had argued the case in the famous Mclean vs. Arkansas case himself admitted fifteen years later that after revisiting evolution he believed that it had as many flaws and philosophical 'leaps of faith' as creationism. Aside from shocking the audience, he essentially debunked the major tipping point evolution seemed to have over creationism.
Grand Brendino then responded:
"I disagree with the suggestion that not giving religious doctrine a place beside scientific evidence is somehow akin to being "Anti-religion," or "Pro-atheist."
Failure to expose schoolchildren to religion doesn't mean you're exposing them to atheism, at all. You’re exposing them to Humanism. Science teaches students that they can teach themselves about the world - that they can go out, with their own minds, and discover, create, and find the truth. There's nothing we can't accomplish if we put our minds to it, science says. Religion is anti-Humanist, to say the very least. Religion teaches us that there's a greater power than us, that there are limits to how much we can or should accomplish, and that we can't flourish on our own - we need the Bible, or the Torah, or the Koran - we need “God.” There's always an element of human inadequacy. How can we teach this to children in a science classroom that's completely at odds with the idea that we are incapable?
It's rather subversive that certain religious leaders are trying to pose these issues as being between two equal sides. How does the Bible explain "Lucy?" Does any church ever account for the discrepancies in its doctrine? No. It essentially whitewashes the issue by saying that it's too complex for us to understand and we should just "trust them…” we should “have faith.”
There are certainly holes in evolution, but there's substance to it, which means that it's leaps and bounds ahead of any religious explanation about the nature of human life. Just because evolution requires a "leap of faith" doesn't mean that any other "leap of faith" is equal to it."

Croaky then added a quote of the judge in McLean vs. Arkansas, which I believe was filled with holes, but the main argument he posed shows the inherent contradiction:
"The proof in support of Intelligent Design and creation science seems to be little more than attempts to discredit the theory of evolution by revisiting decades-old data and theories which have been repeatedly validated by the scientific community. Until Intelligent Design is proven using empirical evidence and the scientific method, it can't be taught by the government using tax dollars."

But since evolution has since been debunked, and requires the 'leaps of faith' that creationism does, it is no more a follower of science than creationism. It is just a widely accepted theory - no more.
Finally, I responded to both of them:
"You are taking evolution as the 'given', but saying it has flaws that must be addressed; yet saying creationism is as a given 'unproven' and therefore would require a fixing of flaws, or a scientific analysis using scientific method, to be able to 'prove' it.
I personally believe the opposite: Creation happened, and would therefore be the "given", and any "flaws" can be explained; they just require more knowledge. Evolution, however, is a nice theory that has a poor basis in scientific fact and until its flaws are addressed there is little to no purpose in learning it.
However, schools do not and should not go by our beliefs. Since, if one starts from a zero basis, neither theory is flawless when looked at scientifically, either neither or both should be learned. Learning neither I think everyone would agree is pointless [though perhaps if a true definition of what would/would not be taught is mapped out that would change]; learning both is therefore your only option.
Back to McLean v. Arkansas: The judge's job is to judge based on the facts presented to him by the two sides. Therefore, he had to judge based on the arguments of both; which included arguments that the arguer himself later recanted on. The judge at the time had no knowledge of this flaw in the theories of evolution, and therefore came to the conclusion that evolution was a more proper scientific model than creationism. Being that this is not true, I would venture that a judge nowadays, judging only on the facts, would come to the conclusion that both are equally good or poor in basis. The only other explanation in the judge's decision in that case would presume that the judge decided based on his own personal feelings whether creationism is a poorer theory. That would be the equivalent of legislating from the bench, and we all know judges don't do that, right? :)"

Okay, so that last line was a bit of a dig at liberals. But back to the post, where I now argued against Grand Brendino's claim that ID is a poor idea for a student's education:
"Being that we believe in free will, and this is made clear to children at a very young age, I do not see a problem - in fact, I see a positive. In Judaism we have the concept of "hishtadlus", which means putting in one's own effort. I grew up with the distinct understanding that everything we accomplish is based primarily on our own effort, and the effort we put in is what enables us to succeed. At the same time, God rules the world. Without Him, nothing is possible; with, anything is. (Side note: It is interesting to note that Jews are known as incredibly highly motivated people - most probably because of this concept.)
Religion, contrary to what you said, does not tell us that we cannot accomplish anything - if anything, the opposite is true. With God and enough effort, one is able to accomplish anything. This works the same way as confidence does in a person's psyche: Just as one who is very confident is able to accomplish more than one who is not, one who believes that God is helping them feels they achieve beyond their abilities. The person who believes that they are limited by their own abilities will never be able to achieve more than their own abilities.
If anything, teaching that leaves out these ideas are in a fashion anti-religious. By saying that one can do whatever their abilities let them, you are saying that one does not need any God to do so - that is anti-religious. You are throwing out the concept of God by saying it is irrelevant, when it fact it is fully relevant. Since you would argue that it is not relevant, and I would argue it is, the assumption should not be that it is not; but rather, that it is unclear whether a God is relevant to our lives."

Finally, I put intelligent design into a bit of a perspective, and summed up why creationism works much the way evolution does:
"I am saddened that the church requires people to take large leaps of faith in order to be religious. One of the ideals most Jews (though sadly, not all) are ingrained with is to try and understand everything in this world. This means that we should learn the basis for why things are the way they are, and not take those large leaps of faith. The more leaps of faith one takes, the more likely they are to come to doubt their religious values. We are also of the belief that even if we do not understand something, it still is true.
For example, you may not understand gravity. You just know that when you're standing on your driveway holding a glass, if you let go, it's going to fall and shatter. Now, you do not understand gravity - yet even so, you believe that it is true. We feel the same way about certain issues in science - even though we may not yet understand how they fall into other things we believe did or did not occur, etc., we understand that we do not, and maybe cannot, have a full understanding of it yet."

"But that won't stop us from trying."

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