Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Evolution – Is It More Speculative Philosophy than It Is Science?

Darwinian evolution pushes the boundaries of science—maybe to the breaking point. It falls into the category of “origin science” and attempts, like intelligent design (ID), to answer the philosophical question of “Where did we come from?”

Those that advocate teaching evolution in the public school system, at the exclusion of other views, do so claiming that it is scientifically testable. The irony is that those same people often do not want the tenets of evolution to be challenged in the classroom.

Back in 2003, Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater submitted a proposal to the school titled “Objective Origins Science Policy.” If the school had adopted the proposal, it would have expanded the teaching of evolution to include information on any “assumptions which may have provided a basis for the explanation being presented.”

John Freshwater’s 2003 Proposal

The focus of the proposal was on keeping bias out of science and encouraging the students to use critical thinking when learning about evolution. The proposal, in part, read:

“It is the intent of this board that to enhance the effectiveness of science education and to promote academic freedom and the neutrality of state government with respect to teachings that touch religious and nonreligious beliefs, it is necessary and desirable that science which seeks to explain the origins of life and its diversity (origins science), be conducted and taught objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumptions… .”

The language of the proposal did come from the website of an ID organization— (IDN). The proposal, which makes no mention of creationism or ID, was voted down by the school board. (See copy of the proposal and the Science Curriculum Committee response.)

IDN says that while the language of the proposal “would permit appropriate discussions about design theory, it does not require that schools teach design theory.”

Science Curriculum Committee

The letter written by the Science Curriculum Committee—on why they did not recommend the board adopting Freshwater’s proposal—addressed the proposal as if the proposal had been to teach ID. (A copy of the letter was provided to by John Freshwater.)

The only thing in Freshwater’s proposal that comes close to inclusion of ID is this statement: “understand the full range of scientific views that exist regarding the origins of life and its diversity, and understand why origins science may generate controversy.”

The language of the proposal contained no statement that ID was part of “the full range of scientific views.” For the Science Curriculum Committee to come to the conclusion that the proposal was to teach ID, they first had to accept ID as science. However, in their own words they said it was not science:

“Intelligent Design is not science: not repeatable, measurable, etc. (belongs perhaps in social studies).”


“Intelligent Design is basically a religious issue—how do we account for all other religions not represented [...]?”

The committee acknowledged that some portions of the proposal was appropriate and in fact was already a part of school policy:

“Proposed mentioned critical thinking skills—redundant, we’re already doing this.”


“The board of education policy addresses controversial issues—Freshwater proposal is already addressed.”

Is Evolution Controversial?

While the proposal was under consideration, Rev. Donald Matolyak wrote a letter to the superintendant and the board about the issue. One of the reasons that Matolyak gave for why the board should support the proposal was its consistency with school policy on controversial issues:

“The policy states that ‘consideration of controversial issues has a legitimate place in the instructional program of the schools. Properly introduced and conducted, the consideration of such issues can help students learn to identify important issues, explore fully and fairly all sides of an issue, weigh carefully the values and factors involved, and develop techniques for formulating positions.’”

The committee stated in their letter that eighth grade science did not have anything controversial in it, even though the standards for that grade did include evolution.

According to a list supplied by Freshwater, one of the members on the committee was Bonnie Schutte. During Schutte’s testimony at Freshwater’s employment hearing, she acknowledged that evolution was a controversial topic in society but said that it should not be. “If evolution was taught in a scientific manner, they would no longer think evolution was controversial,” Shutte said.

Andrew Petto, in an article for The National Center for Science Education—an organization dedicated to promoting evolution—agrees with Schutte’s assessment. “Biological evolution is a scientifically settled theory,” Petto states. “Among scientists, this means that its fundamental principle —the shared ancestry of living organisms —has overcome all scientific challenges.”

Not everyone agrees with Petto. Ken Ham, in an article for Answers in Genesis—a creationist organization—argues that evolutionists have failed to prove that mutations can produce the diversity of life that now exists:

“Most students in evolutionary-biased education come to believe that mutations and natural selection result in one kind of creature changing into a totally different kind over long periods of time. The fact that mutations do not add new information to the gene pool is rarely mentioned. All we have ever observed is variation within a kind. Science has never observed a change from one kind to another kind.”

Legal Issues

One of the eight reasons the committee gave for not approving the proposal was ominous—it simply said “Illegal.”

The IDN website gives some information on legal issues raised by the evolution controversy. It cites the Supreme Court in the case of Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 104 (1968):

“Government in our democracy, state and nation, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. It may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of no-religion; and it may not aid, or foster or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite. The First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”

IDN argues that origin science is a religiously charged issue:

“Although the State should avoid involvement in religious issues, when it decides to provide information to children about where they come from, the State has chosen to encounter a religiously charged question. Once in this arena, it must remain constitutionally neutral. The best way to maintain this neutrality is to see that the subject is taught objectively.”

On An Editorial Note

Writing as a journalist about the debate between evolution and ID is difficult. Both sides have strong opinions—and journalists are not immune from seeing the claims being made by one side or the other as being more credible.

I could almost swear that the most avid supporters of Darwinian evolution are lying about their views not being speculative philosophy. It presents a challenge for me to take the evolutionists seriously, when every time I have heard them speak or read their literature they were unable to scientifically support their view.

Those that believe in creationism or ID admit that although they claim some scientific support for their view, the interpretation of data related to origins science is often influenced by a scientist’s assumptions.

To what extent should the agenda of avid evolutionists be patronized? Should the government continue to back down in face of their demands that they be given exclusive control of the science classroom?


Anonymous said...

The idea of Creationism V. Evolution has been tried in the courts. Incase you didn't know ID was found to be religion, which can't be taught in public schools.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

The definition of “religion” is important.

John Calvert has an article online titled “Kitzmiller’s error: Use of an exclusive rather than inclusive definition of religion.” In the article, Calvert says:

“I find many aspects of the opinion in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District troubling. However, I believe the fatal error of the decision is that the court used the incorrect definition of religion in ruling on the legality of the ID Policy. For Judge Jones “religion” is simply belief in the supernatural.”

Calvert goes on to say that:

“It is legally erroneous because it conflicts with the inclusive and non-discriminatory definition of religion employed by the judicial peers of the Court - the courts that would have reviewed the decision had it been appealed. Based on controlling definitions of religion adopted by the Third Circuit in Malnek v. Yogi and Africa v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court in United States v. Seeger, Welsh v. United States, McGowan v. Maryland and Lee V. Wiseman, religion is not confined to only belief in the supernatural. It also includes nontheistic beliefs that natural or material causes explain life. We now live in a pluralistic culture where theistic religions compete with traditional non-theistic religions such as Atheism, Secular humanism, Deism, Scientology, Transcendental Meditation and Wicca. Those religions place their faith in nature rather than a creator of nature.”

Anonymous said...

Awesome Article!! Science has come a long way when it ruled in favor of evolution. I think with the resurgence of ID evidence that the field will soon be changing.

I appreciate people like Freshwater who are open to facts rather than just accepting a blind belief in Evolution which to date still has no proof!

Anonymous said...

Secularism is a religion that believes that God does not exist or cannot be known. Secularism is held by Atheist and Agnostics. Evolution is the origin theory used by this religion to explain our beginnings.

At this point, evolution is the same type of religious belief as that of Creationist. ID theory however has concrete proof to support its claims.

We really need freedom of speech in the classroom for teachers. While the school has the right to minimum requirements, it cannot legal under the Constitution stop teachers from explaining to students why macro evolution is unsupported and unscientific at this point.

The state should not be telling people to not be authentic people. Right now the policy is outright discrimination against Christians. The Secularist have freedom to be authentic even though they have no proof to support there claims. This is unconstitutional!

Anonymous said...

Evolution does NOT explain where we came from! It explains what has happened once we were here. That is the problem with creationists they don't understand the difference.
Evolution aside, there is overwhelming evidence of an old earth, not a young one. However the same people will disagree with this as well. And say dinosaurs walked the earth with people, and say the Grand Canyon was formed by a flood and etc etc.........

Anonymous said...

John Calvert doesn't know or understand the laws.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Anonymous said: “Evolution does NOT explain where we came from! It explains what has happened once we were here. That is the problem with creationists they don't understand the difference.”

Evolution attempts to explain how HUMANS came to exist. What it doesn’t do is attempt to explain how living organisms first appeared/began.

Evolution attempts to answer the philosophical question of “Where did WE come from?”

Historians are the ones who attempt to explain what happened to humans “once we were here.”

Anonymous said...

Ya, Evolutionary theory should be taught; however, since there is no concrete proof for the theory, we really should allow teachers to consider alternatives. Comparative education is usually much more helpful than simple indoctrination of a theory that may yet turn out to be false.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Anonymous said: “Awesome Article!! Science has come a long way when it ruled in favor of evolution. I think with the resurgence of ID evidence that the field will soon be changing.”


Anonymous said...

I know of a theory called the flying spaghetti monster. So you think we should allow teachers to teach that?

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Anonymous said: “I know of a theory called the flying spaghetti monster. So you think we should allow teachers to teach that?”

Sounds more credible than Darwinian evolution. BUT, evolution has missing links that are still missing—does the “flying spaghetti monster” theory have that?

But seriously, try to use some common sense “anonymous.” Evolutionists actually believe in their ideas. They may not have much scientific support, but they are trying.

Also, does the “flying spaghetti monster” theory attempt to deal with origins science as evolution does? (There is the Panspermia idea after all.)

Anonymous said...

I was taught Evolution and Creationism. One in school and one in Church. My current religion follows Evolution. My opinion is Creationism should Not be taught in school, just like the Flying Spaghetti Monster shouldn't. (If you don't believe me about that just google it.)
Creationism doesn't have scientific support.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

If you would like an Advance Reading Copy of our upcoming book The Evolution Conspiracy, Vol 1 by Lisa A. Shiel for review or would like to participate in her blog tour beginning following the book's publication date (Sep 1), let me know.

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