With the large amount of recent news about Intelligent Design (ID) being taught in science classes, I thought I would be weigh in with my own humble opinion about the matter. This tends to be a highly polarizing issue not because of the complexity of the arguments on either side (though some go to great lengths to establish such arguments), but because of the faiths being challenged by either side. Many people who have passionate opinions about either side of the argument tend to believe that by accepting the other side, they are fundamentally giving up their faith in the existence or non-existence of a god (we will make this a generic god as most proponents try to make their argument more palatable by leaving the question of _which _god up for debate.)
Let me begin by defining a couple of terms. Faith, though the word can have various meaning depending on context, will be defined as a belief that cannot be rationally proved or objectively known (see Wikipedia:Faith). Science will be defined as the body of beliefs gained from application of the scientific method. A formal definition of the scientific method is beyond the scope of this paper, but for our purposes, we can paraphrase to mean the cycle of observation, hypothesis, and testing. The testing can either be a test to negate the hypothesis or the test for a prediction derived from the hypothesis. As a final definition, we will define knowledge as an objectively justifiable true belief. Though in different contexts these words do occasionally take on different meanings, but for the purposes of clarity, we must agree on the meanings. (For more discussion of these definitions see How To Think About Weird Things.)
Is science knowledge? Though it is certainly inviting to think so, and in many cases it may very well be true, it is not always the case. By the definition of science we are using, science must always be ‘justifiable’. It must have observation and testing to support its claim, or else it is not science in our definition. However, it might not be _true. _No, I am not suggesting that the whole body of science is false, nor that even the majority of it is, but simply that some claims and beliefs get overturned or revised as new discoveries are made. Newtons laws, though mostly correct, have been replaced with more accurate laws from Einstein. Every day medical beliefs are reversed as we discover new information about drugs and their potential benefits and harms. Does this mean we should disregard science? No, despite the fact that the body of beliefs are constantly being updated and changed, science represents our best attempt at objectively understanding the way the world IS. However, we should recognize that even the oldest and most tested scientific beliefs can be found to be untrue or incomplete by newer work. This does not mean that the discovery changes the the world used to be, it just means that we were wrong in some of our previous beliefs. Though, it is likely that the vast majority of science is knowledge (it is highly unlikely that someone should prove the world isn’t round), there continue to be developments that show some parts were not known. It is this fact that allows science to advance.
Is faith knowledge? Though a given faith may be true, it does not in itself constitute knowledge. This is because of the very definition of faith that we have adopted. A faith is a belief that cannot be rationally proved. If it could, it might be in the set of beliefs we have classified as science. The fact that the definition of a faith precludes it from being considered knowledge at this time does not preclude it from becoming knowledge. If I believe in a faith that claims there is a living being in the core of the sun, it is clear that I can not at this time rationally demonstrate this. To my knowledge, we have no means of traveling or probing the center of the sun for a living being. However, it is possible that in the future we will and may be able to thus justify my claim about life in the sun. The result is that my faith, though true, is not knowledge. It should also be noted that this definition of faith requires that the believe be objectively known. It is possible that I can personally converse with the life forms in question, but no body else can. This may be justification to my self, but it should be noted that it does not provide objective justification of the belief.
The above discussion can be summarized in the following propositions: 1)Some science is knowlege, 2)No faith is knowledge, 3)Some faith may become knowledge, 4) No science is faith, 5) No faith is science. These claims follow directly from the definitions we have assumed. Since we have established faith and science to be mutually exclusive, we can now evaluate how ID and evolution fall into the categories.
Let us first look at ID. The idea of ID is that all of the observed phenomena and species are far too complex to have evolved from particles in a big bang, or that the big bang itself must have had some motivation. Therefore, some intelligent creator must have been at work for our world as we know it to exist. This has two of the components for scientific belief. First, it has an observation: the diversity of species and physical phenomena is enormously great and beyond most causal explanations. Second, it has a hypothesis: the reason for all of this diversity is a creator. However, it fails in the criteria for the scientific method in the test portion. There is no way, to my knowledge, to systematically test for a creator. One could perhaps call to him/her and they would answer, but this at least does not seem to work reliably enough to be objective evidence. But a lack of a test for a creator does not disprove the theory, for one could test the negative. However, the logical difficulty in demonstrating that any item doesn’t exist is appear ant. Another possibility for it to be a scientific theory is for one to test a prediction the hypothesis presents. However, all predictions of this sort tend to be in the form of “If there is a creator, then there should be great diversity in ____”. This, however, is a fallacy of circular logic, as the very claim being made results from the original observation. Therefore, we have no choice but to classify ID as a faith. This, as noted about, does not preclude it from being true, nor does it mean there will never be a time when it can be objectively tested. Perhaps, someday, we can find a way to test for the existence of a creator, but for now, we must accept ID as a _faith.
Evolution, on the other hand, is a science. This is a broad claim that is difficult to prove in the space of this article, but I will attempt to give a few examples. Evolution, for the most part, stems from the same observations as ID, however it has different hypothesis involved. The hypothesis vary quite a bit and often become the center of discussion comparing ID versus evolution. Though, I will concede that micro-evolution, macro-evolution, and big bang are all hypothesis with different evidence, they do derive themselves from roughly the same observations. These hypothesis all have one big difference from ID: they are testable. Big Bang theorists can make predictions about the expansion of the universe and then test that prediction through observation of stars. Biologists can make predictions about locations of similar species based on geologic knowledge of where plates used to be, and then go dig up fossils. Geologists can make predictions about the age of certain fossils, and then test it with carbon dating. Does this mean that all claims of evolution are true? No. As we noted before, scientific beliefs can change or be uprooted by new evidence. But, the very testability of these claims (even ones not yet tested) makes them _scientific _beliefs.
By logic, from this analysis, if a science class exists to teach science, only evolution should be included in its curriculum. Many proponents of ID in science class have proposed just providing a disclaimer that there are other points of view. I agree that there should be a disclaimer, but not one suggesting a faith as an alternative to a scientific belief. The disclaimer should be in the logical observation of how the scientific method works. A good understanding of this method will lead the student to be aware that scientific belief of any kind is subject to new evidence. It should not confuse the student about the fundamental differences between faith and science. In fact, if a science teacher has done his/her job well, the student should leave with a good idea of what current scientific beliefs are and with an open mind to new data.
I would propose that perhaps, if ID should be taught, it should be taught in a religion course. Proponents on both sides of the argument often bristle at this suggestion. The ID faction doesn’t want ID lumped in with other faiths, and often evolutionists site ‘separation of church and state’ as reasons for not having a religion class. Unfortunately, since testable evidence for the existence of a creator doesn’t exist, it must be classified along with other untestable beliefs. This doesn’t mean that ID is wrong, nor that other beliefs are correct, or vice versa. This just means when a school’s job is to disseminate knowledge, the only knowledge that can be said that we have about ID is its categorization as a faith.
As for the separation of church and state, I believe that the purpose of this policy is to prevent laws and policies from being enacted that require us to take on or believe any set of faiths. Though I certainly don’t expect a religion class in public schools to require the belief in any given faith (it, like the science class, should make clear the reasons for being classified as faith), it is not fundamentally a violation of this separation to impart the knowledge we have about what these faiths are.
If you have gotten this far, I thank you for your endurance. I have tried to succinctly and accurately give my views about a controversial subject, that I don’t believe should be controversial. The cause of the controversy is the inability to recognize that neither of the two sides is fundamentally false. In fact, even should science find the evidence to prove all aspects of evolution as decidedly as the existence of air, that does not prevent believers of a faith from accepting their faith (after all, it needs no justification). What must be recognized is that these are two beliefs with fundamentally different origins. If I have failed to make any part of my argument clear, I welcome criticism, and I will, to the best of my ability, clarify.