It’s the debate that never ends – thanks to an aggressive minority that insists religious beliefs belong in the science classroom.
California public school teacher Mark Ferrante belongs in that group. According to the Modesto Bee, Ferrante recently announced that he planned to teach the latest variant of creationism, “intelligent design” (ID), alongside evolution at Modesto’s Roosevelt Junior High, sparking quite the community discussion.
The newspaper reported that since Ferrante’s announcement, some of the school’s trustees and other science teachers have admitted their belief that ID should be included in science courses.
“The current curriculum states that the evolution of man, Darwinism, must be taught as a theory,” trustee Nancy Cline said in an e-mail to the Bee. “I feel we do our students a disservice by not helping them become critical thinkers when we forbid the teaching of competing scientific theories, such as intelligent design.”
Cline couldn’t be more wrong. ID is not a “competing scientific theory” at all.
In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Public Schools, a 2005 case brought by Americans United and our allies, a federal judge held that intelligent-design instruction at a Pennsylvania school violated church-state separation. The court held that ID is not scientific concept but a religious one.
Still, creationists continue to push for ID as a way to bring religion into science classrooms. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, leads the movement.
But most scientists and educators believe ID shouldn’t be taught as part of science, and they find no conflict between that decision and their religious beliefs.
“The problem is that intelligent design is trying to somehow wed science to faith and it can’t because in intelligent design you start with an assumption and it’s unquestionable,” a California Catholic high school teacher told the newspaper.
Most parents understand the issue as well.
“Science versus religion is a false dichotomy,” a Modesto parent said. “They are coming from two entirely separate spheres, as religion doesn’t seek answers, it has them. Science is an ever-learning body of knowledge; it is the application of that same objectivity that gives us heart transplants, blood transfusions, and theorizes about our origins based on data.”
Fortunately, this school district knows going along with Ferrante would be a big mistake and has assured concerned parents that it’s never going to happen.
“He will not be teaching intelligent design,” said Modesto City Schools spokeswoman Emily Lawrence. “He has been instructed to teach the state standards and intelligent design is not the state standards.”
Officials at Modesto City Schools so far have been wise to keep ID out of the curriculum, and the board of trustees should keep it that way. Parents have the right to teach their children religious beliefs at home – they don’t need public school teachers to do that, whether it’s in science class or in any other.