Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bishops, tabloid endorse ID in WA public schools

Catholic Archbishop of Perth Barry Hickey, Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft and The Sunday Times have all endorsed the teaching of intelligent design in WA public schools:

Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey says that intelligent design would give students an opportunity to question the mysteries of life that science can't explain.

And Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft said: "I think if our classrooms do not allow for the exploration of the spirit, the exploration of the questions of meaning, then we're going to produce ultimately, human beings who have deep emptiness in them"
Herft's remark is stock-standard theistic pablum, with the imputation that if public school students aren't force-fed religion they'll become "empty" atheists uninterested in "questions of meaning," thrown in for extra measure. The same kind of nonsense underscores the Howard Government's rhetoric on "values in schools."

Hickey, who hails from the medieval wing of the Catholic Church, seems to be making a classical argument from ignorance in favour of teaching ID. However his reported choice of words is interesting: "intelligent design would give students an opportunity to question mysteries of life that science can't explain" (emphasis added). Proponents of ID usually present it as a scientific theory; Hickey appears to accept it as non-scientific. The editorial doesn't indicate whether Hickey or Herft believe this non-scientific theory should be presented to public school children in the science classroom or elsewhere. (Though, if not in the science classroom, where else in the public school would it be taught?)

The silliest contribution comes from the editorial itself, which maintains that on one side of the ID/creationism debate are its proponents, and on the other side are "atheists, including many scientists, who believe in the theory of evolution." Yes, you read that correctly: if you're not a proponent of ID, you're an atheist, and evolution = atheism. It gets better:
What logically follows is that religious teaching at all levels and at all ages, but particularly among the young, should be questioned to reach a considered judgment between ID/creationism and evolutionism. After all, there are those who form beliefs somewhere between these extremes. [. . .] And if the teaching of intelligent design was introduced in schools and it resulted in more young people questioning the basis for traditional religious beliefs so that they can make informed judgments, then it would be an effective innovation. We want more than religious dogma for our children.
The term evolutionism is a creationist pejorative--intended to suggest that evolution is just as much of a belief system or ideology as ID/creationism. Hence The Sunday Times' call for ID to be taught in schools: students need to be able to make "informed judgements" between two "beliefs." In other words: teach the controversy. Far better, I think, to give students the wherewithal to discern the difference between science and religion--between the acceptance of ideas and theories grounded in evidence and those grounded in presupposition and faith alone.

And far more important, in a liberal democracy, for religion not to be forced on students in public schools. Not even in the guise of intelligent design.