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Intelligent Design & Disclaimers

Anti-Evolution Disclaimers Promote Religion, not Science or Objectivity

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Increasingly popular with the anti-evolution crowd are disclaimers that purport to tell students the “truth” about evolution which the scientific orthodoxy attempts to hide. The Dover school board was no exception and a disclaimer was supposed to be read before each 9th grade science class. The fact that the purpose of the changes in Dover was precisely to single out evolution for negative treatment while encouraging Intelligent Design was made abundantly clear by the language used.

The first paragraph, “The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part,” focuses on evolution. Nothing even remotely similar is said about any other facet of science even though there is so much more science which Pennsylvania law mandates teaching and which appears on standardized tests.

    Stated another way, the first paragraph of the disclaimer directly addresses and disavows evolutionary theory by telling students that they have to learn about evolutionary theory because it is required by “Pennsylvania Academic Standards” and it will be tested; however, no similar disclaimer prefacing instruction is conducted regarding any other portion of the biology curriculum nor any other course’s curriculum.

The second paragraph (Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.) again singles out evolution:

    This paragraph singles out evolution from the rest of the science curriculum and informs students that evolution, unlike anything else that they are learning, is “just a theory,” which plays on the “colloquial or popular understanding of the term [‘theory’] and suggest[ing] to the informed, reasonable observer that evolution is only a highly questionable ‘opinion’ or a ‘hunch.’”

This, it must be noted, is a standard anti-evolution argument used by creationists for years and thus is part of the evidence that Intelligent Design is merely re-labeled creationism.

Finally, the third paragraph (Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.) promotes Intelligent Design while denigrating evolution:

    The theory or “view” of evolution, which has been discredited by the District in the student’s eyes, is contrasted with an alternative “explanation,” as opposed to a “theory,” that can be offered without qualification or cautionary note. The alternative “explanation” thus receives markedly different treatment from evolutionary “theory.” In other words, the disclaimer relies upon the very same “contrived dualism” that the court in McLean recognized to be a creationist tactic that has “no scientific factual basis or legitimate educational purpose.”

Judge Jones concludes:

    In summary, the disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere.

Although these comments are directed at the disclaimer written by the Dover School Board, just about the same thing can be said about every disclaimer which anti-evolution activists have come up with and sought to have included in science texts or science classes.

These disclaimers single out evolution for special treatment despite the fact that evolution is no more a “theory” and no less reliable than every other facet of science, thus revealing that people are concerned with evolution in particular rather than “theories” in general. It's not about promoting sound science or critical thinking, ti's about calling evolution and only evolution into question. Disclaimers play with words in order to convey the impression that evolution is especially uncertain or rests on shaky foundations.

Why? Because of religious bias against evolution. There are no sound scientific arguments against evolution, just religious ones. Because religion was the motivation for the Intelligent Design policy in Dover, it was unquestionably unconstitutional.

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