Unintelligent Design

Science is on the side of evolution


Who needs to make monkeys out of the Kansas Board of Education when its members are doing such a good job of it themselves?

Members of the Kansas board convened hearings this month to hear testimony from proponents of the theory of intelligent design that the theory of evolution is bunk. How deliciously wacky of the board to hold their kangaroo court on evolutionary theory on the 80th anniversary of the arrest of Tennessee high school teacher John T. Scopes for illegally teaching biology to his students. And like the Tennessee court back in 1925, the Kansas education officials in the 21st century have found evolutionary theory guilty again.

Intelligent design claims that life and the universe are too complex to have happened by accident. "Evolution has been proven false. ID (Intelligent Design) is science-based and strong in facts," declared board member Kathy Martin before the hearings began. And nothing Martin heard at the proceedings evidently changed her mind, saying at their conclusion that evolution is "an unproven, often disproven" theory.

Based on these hearings, the Kansas Board of Education will consider modifying the science curriculum in its public schools.

At the Scopes trial, when William Jennings Bryan was asked what the purpose of the trial was, Bryan magisterially replied, "The purpose is to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible, and I am perfectly willing that the world shall know that these gentleman have no other purpose than ridiculing every person who believes in the Bible." In those days that was enough to convict Scopes.

Today, opponents of evolutionary theory know that they can't teach religion in public schools. If they're going to smuggle religion in, they need to be sneakier. So they strip off any part of their "intelligent design" theory that might sound like it is religious and pose as simple scientists asking "hard" questions of narrow-minded evolutionists.

The anti-evolutionists affect not to know who or what the "intelligent designer" of their theory might be. He, she, it, or they could be little green men or purple space squid or a race of intelligent supercomputers—or maybe, just maybe, an omnipotent God. Who knows? We're all just innocently asking "scientific" questions here.

But away from the glare of media attention, this pose of scientific objectivity cracks. "ID has theological implications. ID is not strictly Christian, but it is theistic," admitted board member Martin. The intelligent design proponents in Kansas ask: Why not let children in public schools hear arguments for intelligent design in biology classes? Schools could "teach the controversy."

Biologists retort by asking, "So it's OK then for high schools to teach astrology, phrenology, mesmerism, tarot card reading, crystal healing, astral projection and water witching, too?"

Intelligent design theorists aside, the people who want intelligent design taught in public schools hope the theory will undercut the corrosive effects of evolutionary biology on the religious beliefs of their children. They don't know and couldn't care less about the scientific details of the evolution of species or the origin of life—they just want Darwinism kept away from their kids.

What they don't understand, however, is that religious belief and evolution are compatible.

In 1996 no less a religious authority than Pope John Paul II declared, "New knowledge has led to the recognition in the theory of evolution of more than a hypothesis."

In response to Bryan's assertions about the purpose of the Scopes monkey trial, defense attorney Clarence Darrow retorted, "We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States, and you know it, and that is all." As the hearings in Kansas showed, they are still trying.