Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent Design

What's wrong with intelligent design, and with its critics

I disagree with the author's reasoning, but agree with the result: evolution, not "intelligent design", should be taught in science classes. My view of the purpose of science education is teaching the scientific method by example, and that drives the curriculum in the same direction the author advocates: toward presentation of the best science. So what do I disagree with? Putting the emphasis on exclusively on finding the "best science" to put into the classroom. For two reasons: it (inadvertantly?) frames the discussion about evolution and intelligent design as a theory v. theory debate, which it's not (and the author touches on this point), because intelligent design is only a theory in the lay meaning of the term, not the scientific one. But, also, because illustrating the scientific method with "bad" theory may be just as effective -- or more so -- than teaching it with "the best".

In a modern college level physics curriculum, you find out you've been "wrong all along" in your use of the classical model of physics, and begin to explore the strange, charmed world of quantum mechanics. But on the gross level (human sized stuff, as opposed to subatomic particles), classical mechanics still works great. QM equations reduce to their classical forms, basically. However, this means classical mechanics, is, technically, 'flawed', because it doesn't really reflect out current understanding of how things actually work.

And yet, QM's just too abstract, too complicated, etc., to try and get into high schooler's heads. So, go ahead and teach classical mechanics -- you can actually do experiments in class on that, without spending too much of the school budget, you know? It works. Even though it's only an approximation...even though it's not actually the 'best' science available.

Besides, the author starts off by asserting without proof there's no such thing as the scientific method. A point on which I strenously disagree. It's also the point at which I wonder if we're not speaking the same language. To me as a scientist, science is knowledge gained via what we refer to as the scientific method. The author seems to have a broader definition, perhaps scienter as it is meant in a legal framework, as "knowledge", regardless of the method by which it is acquired.