Bioethics Discussion Blog: More on Teaching Intelligent Design

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Monday, October 17, 2005

More on Teaching Intelligent Design

Writing in the National Review Online,(and please read the entire article) John Derbyshire makes a good argument why there is no reasonable basis for the president or anyone else to proclaim the teaching of intelligent design to students should trump teaching each of the other “pseudoscientific flapdoodle”
The title of the article is "Teaching Science--
The president is wrong on Intelligent Design.

...I caught President Bush's endorsement of teaching Intelligent Design in public school science classes. "Both sides ought to be properly taught," President Bush told a reporter August 2, "so people can understand what the debate is all about."
This is Bush at his muddle-headed worst, conferring all the authority of the presidency on the teaching of pseudoscience in science classes. Why stop with Intelligent Design (the theory that life on earth has developed by a series of supernatural miracles performed by the God of the Christian Bible, for which it is pointless to seek any naturalistic explanation)? Why not teach the little ones astrology? Lysenkoism? Orgonomy? Dianetics? Reflexology? Dowsing and radiesthesia? Forteanism? Velikovskianism? Lawsonomy? Secrets of the Great Pyramid? ESP and psychokinesis? Atlantis and Lemuria? The hollow-earth theory? Does the president have any idea, does he have any idea, how many varieties of pseudoscientific flapdoodle there are in the world? If you are going to teach one, why not teach the rest? Shouldn't all sides be "properly taught"? To give our kids, you know, a rounded picture? Has the president scrutinized Velikovsky's theories? Can he refute them? Can you?


I think that proponents of each theory could argue the value of their view to be included in an educational curriculum and probably they should. But I also think that they certainly should not be taught in a class dealing with science. I would think that a philosophy class would be more appropriate. Do you agree? ..Maurice.

3 Comments:

At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 8:03:00 AM, Anonymous Bob Koepp said...

I tried posting this earlier, but for some reason it didn't "take." So, I'll try again...

My response, in a word, to the question posed at the end of Maurice's discussion, is "No!" Wild speculations are not what philosophy is about, although philosophy can be very useful in explaining why wild speculation also is not what science is about.

It would help tremendously if people took care to distinguish between teaching flapdoodle and critiquing flapdoodle. While the former doesn't belong in science (or philosophy) classes, the latter could find a natural home there.

It would also help tremendously if scientists were better informed about the conceptual foundations of their disciplines. Then they might be able to respond to flapdoodlers with reasons instead of rhetoric.

 
At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 8:21:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Bob,with regard to critiquing the array of examples of so-called flapdoodle as presented by John Derbyshire in his article, can you help us understand the criteria which we must use to separate pseudoscience from true science? ..Maurice.

 
At Wednesday, October 19, 2005 7:34:00 AM, Anonymous Bob Koepp said...

Maurice is raising a question that has stymied the best philosophers in recent memory. Nobody has been able to articulate a "demarcation criterion" that didn't create as many questions and controversies as it resolved. Still, I think the following is an example of a useful "rule of thumb." (Science is blessed with a number of such "vague around the margins" rules which, happily, tend to be mutually reinforcing.)

When the claims of a theory are challenged, where do we look for guidance in settling the dispute? If we address our questions to nature, either by gathering data regarding the natural course of events or by constructing experiments designed to reveal otherwise obscured aspects of nature, then we might be dealing with science. If we turn to some authority other than nature, whether a group, an individual or a privileged text, then we probably are venturing outside science.

There's a lot more to science, of course, than addressing questions to nature. The form of the questions, the critical standards we apply, the tentative attitude toward any answers on offer -- all these things contribute to something counting as the "real thing." And just to forestall confusion on the point, consensus only matters if it's based on precisely the same sorts of considerations as are important for decisions by individuals -- by itself, consensus is just an idol of the marketplace.

 

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