Teach the Controversy?

The intelligent design public relations machine has been successful in creating a name for itself and entering the public sphere over the past couple of years. Once creationism was declared illegal to teach in public schools in this country, since it violated the separation of church and state, given that creationism is a religious idea, its proponents got a little bit more sophisticated and came up with the catchier name 'intelligent design theory,' and with an arsenal of other seemingly sophisticated concepts, such as irreducible complexity.... oooooo.

Since this so-called theory does not produce one iota of predictive success that is not based on phenomena already observed, the next best move was not to show how this approach may be true (since that turns out to be nearly impossible), but to attack evolution and create the illusion that intelligent design theorists were more open minded to alternative explanations by proposing that public schools "teach the controversy."

Of course, this sounds like a good idea... if you don't have a brain... Any minimal amount of critical thinking immediately betrays the fact that this 'teach the controversy' slogan ultimately relies on the unquestioned presumption that there is indeed a controversy, when, in reality, this is simply not the case.

But if there is no controversy, then what's all this fuzz about? There is a distinction to be made here: there is a controversy regarding evolution vs. intelligent design only among lay people; that is to say, there is a controversy among people who know nothing or very little about science, how it works, its methods, its underlying epistemic principles, etc.

When it comes to professional scientists and philosophers, however, there is no real controversy. The scientific and philosophical communities are united in their acceptance of the truth of evolution through the process of natural selection, and when philosophers agree, well, then you know there's got to be something to it because us philosophers can't even agree on whether we exist!

There may be some disagreement, as there is in every science, regarding some of the details concerning the mechanisms of evolutionary processes, but this should not be taken to indicate that there is disagreement concerning whether evolution is true.

But it's not simply the logic behind the slogan that's faulty... the practical consequences of accepting that uncritical line of thinking are just as ridiculous, as shown in this great cartoon:

I'd love to see proponents of intelligent design theory put their money where their mouth is and go to a witch doctor whenever their children are sick... Actually, I wouldn't want the children to suffer because of their parents' stupidity, so I take it back.

Instead I hope proponents of these so-called enlightened alternative views rely on tea-leaf readings to determine whether they should rub oil over their arms whenever they break their legs...
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