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Intelligence, even in Texas

Signs and portents. Yesterday I marveled that the House of Representatives had discovered a measure too stupid to pass, the repeal of the requirement for more energy-efficient light bulbs. Today, there has been an outbreak of rationality in, of all places, Texas, where the State Board of Education has declined to insert material on intelligent design into the science curriculum.

Intelligent design, in case you haven’t been paying attention since the Scopes trial, is a Trojan horse by which theology can be smuggled into the biology classroom under the pretense of “teaching the controversy” over evolution. There is no controversy in science about evolution, which in the century and a half since Darwin’s Origin of Species has continued to accumulate additional evidence. Controversies lie only in the details of generally accepted theory.

Intelligent design attempts to dress in scientific garb the teleological Argument from Design, famously articulated by Archdeacon Paley in the nineteenth century and demolished by David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Since religious doctrine cannot be instructed in secular public schools, the scientific pretense is necessary. But it has gained no traction through free argument in science, and so its adherents have turned to the secular arm to impose it by legislative action.

Freedom of conscience, of course, obtains, and no one challenges people’s right to their religious convictions—though it would be well to keep in mind that a belief that the opening chapter of Genesis constitutes scientific and historical fact rather than poetry is by no means universal among Christians.

Evolutionary theory is a broadly held scientific consensus. If it is an obstacle to faith, than faith will have to accommodate to it, as faith finally accommodated to the Copernican theory, after some struggle. Forcing science to confirm to faith, as we saw with Galileo, is the wrong way around.



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