Joseph Campbell, scholar of comparative mythology and religion, once said, “All religions are true, but none are literal.” It is this belief that fuels the impassioned resistance the scientific and academic communities have against Creationism or, as it’s been rebranded, Intelligent Design.
Virginia state legislator Richard P. “Dickie” Bell has just offered a House Bill that critics fear is a way for Intelligent Design to be part of the Virginia School curriculum.
One of those critics, progressive non-profit Think Progress, wrote that this bill “is part of a national trend of legislative proposals, led by creationist organizations like the Discovery Intsitute and climate-change deniers such as the Heartland Institute.” They also point out rising ocean levels due to climate-change poses a specific threat to the Hampton Roads area in Virginia.
The bill itself makes no mention of any specific theories and also goes out of its way to distance itself from promoting or discriminating against any specific “religious or nonreligious doctrine.” And this is the major problem with the bill, because science is all about promoting its central “doctrine”—the scientific method—over simple observation or anecdotal belief.
According to Hampton Roads, Va.’s Daily Press, “Bell says his bill is intended to protect teachers from disciplinary action if people don’t like the way they respond to questions about scientific theories.” However, if that response disregards recorded scientific evidence (e.g. the fossil record, long-term surface temperature analysis), there are derelict in their duties as an educator.
Bill Nye, a scientist who hosted a popular children’s television show in the 1990s, told Big Think that intelligent design (or even the debate about it) is not appropriate for the science classroom. He stresses the importance of teaching children correct science. “We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future,” he says, “we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”
So it’s not so much that the law paves the way for Intelligent Design in the classroom, it’s that it doesn’t go far enough in its language to stop that from happening. Intelligent Design doesn’t hold up as a theory because it does not offer a testable hypothesis, the most crucial part of the scientific method. For a science teacher, this is the only acceptable answer on the matter.
This is not to suggest that children should be sheltered from the larger political and philosophical debates of our society. However, these lessons need to be delivered in the proper context and not presented as provable scientific theory.