By Krista Kafer Monday’s Rocky Mountain News featured two Associated Press stories that were at first glance miles apart and at second eerily close. The first was about a federal court case in Pennsylvania. A small Pennsylvania school district is defending its policy to give 9th grade students a short statement on Intelligent Design before presenting information about evolution.
Intelligent Design theory rejects the proposition that random mutation and natural selection alone are responsible for the complexities of the natural world. These scientists assert that the genetic and microbiological evidence suggests the presence of a designer rather than an undirected process.
It is an interesting theory that asks important questions. It will either change prevailing scientific thought or strengthen the theory of Darwinian evolution depending on the answers. The debate is interesting. It might even pique the interest of a half asleep, hormone distracted 9th grader.
Keep in mind I have no dog in this race. I have no problem with evolution. I believe evolution and Christianity can coexist – God could have created the earth through a process just as easily as in an instant. I believe that learning evolution, as the prevailing scientific theory, is valuable to students. I believe that discussing dissenting and alternative views is also valuable. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I have several dogs in the race. What I don’t support is closing the track – that is, shutting down public discourse over the origins of life.
That is exactly what some people are trying to do. They want to quash the debate and burn the heretics at the stake with inflamed rhetoric. The tone of Denver Post Columnist Jim Spencer’s Sunday column on the subject was one of sneering condescension toward the people with whom he disagrees. Spencer suggests that questioning evolution is why Colorado can’t fill jobs demanding scientific or technological expertise. Others like him have suggested that allowing a discussion of evolution alternatives in public schools will plunge the country into a Dark Age. (Should I buy a coat of armor before there’s a run on the market?)
Attempts to silence the dissent have implications for public schools, in particular their public-ness. A recent CBS poll found a majority of Americans want students to be taught both sides. If a minority of Americans want no discussion, should they be able to foist their will upon the majority by denying the majority’s voice in schools? What goes on in the science classroom in Dover, PA won’t be decided by the elected school board. A court will decide.
Last month, the Kansas Board of Education tentatively decided to open their science standards to allow the teaching of evolution alternatives in addition to evolution. Will the court ultimately decide there too? Time will tell.
So what was the second article that caught my eye? The second article was about China. It seems that the Chinese government intends to regulate the Internet to ensure that only “healthy and civilized news and information” circulates on the Web. Though a half a world away, the attempt to limit discourse to pre-approved information sounded eerily familiar.