Is it legal to teach ID in schools?

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Tue Feb 12 2002 - 16:22:56 EST

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    In the Jan-Feb Skeptical Inquirer, an IBM debating colleague of mine,
    commenting on a prior article by Pigliucci, suggests that the teaching of
    ID concepts might be illegal.

    His letter reads as follows:
    Pigliucci's' Design Yes, Intelligent Nol
    Massimo Pigliucci says that William Dembski "admits that his Intelligent
    Design could even be due to a very advanced extraterrestrial
    civilization, not to a supernatural entity at all." Pigliucci seems to
    have chosen his verb under the assumption that Dembski's only motivation
    in writing as he did was to convince his readers that God designed
    Earth's animals. It clearly was not.
    Pigliucci's observation that Dembski claims that his "explanations ...
    should be allowed in ... public school curricula" is very much to the
    point. Dembski realizes that Supreme Court decisions have barred
    supernatural explanations from public schools and so wishes to provide
    some natural basis for his explanations. He chooses one that is
    transparently unbelievable in the hope that while he persuades officials
    that "intelligent design" can be legally taught, he at the same time can
    persuade students that only an omnipotent God could credibly be the real
    source of the "design."
    His ploy cannot work. Reference to very advanced extraterrestrial
    civilization inevitably raises the question of the origin of the members
    of that civilization. If their origin is supernatural, then so is the
    foundation for his theory of Intelligent Design and it is therefore not
    legal to teach Dembski's theory in the public schools. If their origin is
    not supernatural, then the very advanced extraterrestrial civilization's
    origin must have been natural, albeit extraterrestrial, evolution....
    I pick up on his second to last sentence, which rightfully says "...if
    supernatural .. then not legal to teach... ."

    Since Dembski does not make the claim, at least in public, that the
    "advanced extraterrestrial civilization" is supernatural, then perhaps it
    IS "legal" to teach ID in public schools. But only as an explanation for
    life-on-earth, of course, not for life in general. Perhaps that would
    satisfy the ID people.

    Note please that I am not addressing the larger question of whether or
    not teaching ID would be a "good thing." That's another whole can of
    worms... . <G>

    With that introduction, consider a thought problem. It is 2007, and the
    SETI people announce, with credible evidence, that an extraterrestrial
    intelligence has been detected. For the purpose of this thought problem,
    one need not assume that they are either right or wrong, but that the
    populace, and a substantial number of scientists, are convinced by the
    evidence they display.

    If teaching ID was either illegal or just plain wrong before, is it now?

    ID burst onto the scene just about the time my discussions with my IBM
    colleague ceased as we both retired and found there was real life beyond
    the blue walls, so we had little chance to debate it. I, for one, am
    afraid of it, but that is because I view methodological naturalism as a
    permanent foundation for proper science. Consider a second thought
    problem, based on the first. It is 2009, and "everybody knows" there are
    extraterrestrials "out there." Imagine the weird "religions" that will
    spring up, based on the combination of ID and the "new knowledge."

    John Burgeson (Burgy)
           (science/theology, quantum mechanics, baseball, ethics,
            humor, cars, God's intervention into natural causation, etc.)

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