"Philosophy of Design" Course in California High School Challenged


The latest battle over "intelligent design" erupted in California when a local pastor's wife managed to persuade the Lebec, California, school board to allow her to teach a month long elective course entitled, "Philosophy of Design." According to the course description,

the class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid. The class will discuss intelligent design as an alternative response to evolution. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting the earth is thousands of years old, not billions.

Opponents of teaching "intelligent design" in high school biology classes have sometimes argued that it might be OK to teach it in comparative religion or philosophy classes. The Lebec "design" course is evidently not what they had in mind and now the liberal activist group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, along with 11 local parents, are suing to get the course stopped. Even the Discovery Institute, which is the leading organization promoting "intelligent design," is queasy about the course. The Institute sent a letter to the school district asking that the course be renamed. Specifically, the Institute's press release notes,

"In reviewing the course description and syllabus it's clear that the course wrongly mixes intelligent design with young earth creationism or Biblical creationism," said attorney Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture and author of the letter. "As far as we can tell more than half of the course content deals with young earth creationist materials, so the title "Philosophy of design" is misleading."

The Lebec course actually raises some interesting issues. In the first place, it is not being taught in a biology class. Second, it is an elective course. Third, does the course violate church/state seperation? Fourth, is it ever all right to teach even widely believed nonsense in public schools (after all, nearly one-third of Americans believe in astrology)?

I once again offer my solution to the problem–privatize the schools and let parents choose where to have their kids educated. I suspect that competition would reduce "intelligent design" schools to insignificance in the marketplace as parents saw their kids falling behind those being educated in science oriented schools.