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Monday, August 21, 2006

Campaign issues: The theory of "Intelligent Design"

On the website for my school board campaign there's a page called "Qualities and Qualifications". Up 'til earlier today on the part where I talk about being a Christian - which I believe anyone who's considering voting for me should bear in mind before they cast their ballot - there was a brief blurb about "intelligent design" theory. I had written this:
"... I have issues with the teaching of "intelligent design" in the public schools. If anyone wonders about why that is, write me an e-mail and I'll explain as best I know how."
I removed that small bit earlier today, because I had started to feel like it didn't really adequately address my beliefs well at all. Well, earlier this evening (okay, it's past midnight as I write this right now so this'll be late yesterday) a gentleman wrote me and asked for some elaboration. I gave it to him, as best I knew how. And it sort of confirmed something that had been growing in my mind all day long: that I should provide more about my beliefs on "intelligent design" (i.e. teaching the theory of creationism per the Judeo-Christian model in public schools) on my website.

Well, there's a brief (for me anyway) capsule synopsis of my stance on intelligent design on the Issues page of the site. But just for sake of further clarity, I thought it might be a good idea to post the entirety of what I wrote this gentleman here on my blog, and invite any questions of comments about it from my readers (all three or four of them :-)

That said, here it goes...

My beliefs on teaching "Intelligent Design" in public schools

I believe that God created the world. As a Christian, as someone who's studied science for most of my life, as a historian who's made biblical history a major part of my personal research, and for a lot of reasons I hold to the Judeo-Christian belief that we are not here by accident. I believe we are here for a purpose. And that purpose is established by Someone higher and greater than we are.

Now, about "intelligent design". Which I've pretty much stated that I *do* believe in an intelligent design to the universe already...

If we are to teach intelligent design in the science classroom, we should also be prepared to teach evolution as well, because each of them, in the strictest scientific definition of the term, is considered a theory. You and I believe that God established this world... but that's not something that is absolutely testable and verifiable by scientific experimentation. Neither for that matter is evolution (and I would be the first to point out in a science class that an increasing number of scientists are now saying that Darwin's theory of evolution is a very bad theory according to everything we now know about biology and genetics). Both "intelligent design" and "evolution" are ideas that must be accepted by faith on the part of the individual. And that's not something that we can or even should attempt to use the powers of the temporal realm in forcing another person into accepting: he or she must choose for himself, or herself, what it is they believe about how it is we came about.

I do not believe in the slightest bit that evolution is the answer to how we got here. In fact, it takes *more* faith to hold to the evolutionary model of things than it does for the creation model. But in terms of what materials we have with which to observe and make quantifiable measurements from, neither are concepts that we can either prove or disprove. Again, both come down to being things held by faith. Thus, if we are to discuss "intelligent design" (which I have no personal belief against) as a theory in the classroom, we should also be ready to discuss evolution as a theory also. And any other theory that someone might hold to (including panspermia, as much as I've always thought that was the most ridiculous theory ever postulated).

So how do we teach how it is that we got here, from both the physical and biological perspectives? The short answer is: we don't. And we don't pretend to have an answer for that either. What we *can* do as educators is admit to our students that there are several theories regarding how existence came to be and how we are where we are today. In that context, a teacher absolutely *CAN* discuss his/her personal beliefs on the subject, including if he/she believes in intelligent design (as a matter of fact, every teacher I had in a science class who did discuss his/her personal beliefs admitted that they *did* believe in creationism). If the opportunity arose in the classroom, I would certainly admit that I believe that there is a created structure to the universe that was put in place by God.

Here is the root of my personal problem with "intelligent design" in the classroom. It's not really about the theory at all, because I am a creationist. But it's how it has come to be used and pursued in many jurisdictions across the country. Instead of being something to be promoted as a legitimate theory in opposition of evolution for the students to consider, it has become a weapon to be wielded against those whose beliefs deviate from that of the Judeo-Christian mindset. All too often, the battles fought in our school systems are not about giving our students the best education possible, but rather they are about coming to possess a power over those students. As a Christian, I believe that using "intelligent design" in this context can do nothing other than corrupt unto self-destruction the testimony we are called to have of Christ. Having power over others - in the slightest bit - is not what we are called to do as ambassadors of Christ in this world. So I think in some ways how intelligent design is used has become something of a trap that diminishes us and our mission here.

We are here to convince those outside of Christ by virtue of our character and our humility. Lacking the desire for temporal power is something that markedly separates us from the rest of the world. Having that kind of peace without feeling we must possess power to keep it is something that all too many people in this world are craving in their own lives.

That is why I am suspicious of the promotion of "intelligent design" in our classrooms. Not because I disagree with the theory (as I've said, I do believe in creationism). But far more so, I fear what can and has been done with this theory in the name of God, but in reality has been for the glory of mere men.

This is something I've thought long and hard about, in the event that were to I win election to school board. I can not be a board member and proclaim that my beliefs in creationism are something that must be adhered to by the students of Rockingham County without question, because that would just be me serving my own interests. But I can be a presence on the board suggesting that in teaching science, if we absolutely must discuss the origins of existence then we *should* present "intelligent design" as as theory as viable as evolution.

It's complicated, I know. And what I've shared with you probably isn't half of my complete thoughts on the subect. In coming to my conclusions I really have sought to honor God and present Him as best I can possibly witness for Him to a very secular world.

But in a nutshell: it would be best not to speculate on how we got here, because we can't go back and observe how that came to be. Science can only show us how to observe the here and now. If discusson compels it, intelligent design should be presented but we also must accept that evolution can and will be presented also. We can admit to what we believe in regarding the subject but it's not given to us to compel our students to believe likewise. Rather we should do what we can to encourage them to come to their own beliefs on the subject... even if the answers for those questions can only be found in spirituality. And if we are to present intelligent design in the classroom, we - and I mean the Christians who would be given such authority - must resist the temptation to use it according to our will and understanding, rather than God's.

Okay, if I write anymore I'll risk once again being referred to as a "wordy wordy monkey". Feel free to discuss or write me or whatever :-)


beepbeepitsme said...

RE Creationist

"Dance Like A Monkey"