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February 9, 2006
Ban Intelligent Design?
Over at Pharyngula, I find that there's a bill in the Wisconsin state legislature which would ban the teaching of Intelligent Design in science courses. Since I've commented on this issue several times, I thought it would be instructive for me to say what I think about this proposal.
It's an awful idea. Just awful. As tempting as it might be at first, this is truly the wrong way to deal with ID in the classroom. Its advocates already enjoy themselves no end complaining about the rigid, dogmatic Darwinists trying to suppress Intelligent Design's brave, pathbreaking dissent - y'know, like Galileo, right? This will just hand them a wonderful party favor.
And besides, this isn't the way to settle these issues. One of the main things that drives scientists crazy about ID is that it sets itself up as some sort of equivalent alternative scientific explanation (while offering nothing close to what a legitimate challenge to evolution would have to bring). If we're going to have a fight about what's science and what isn't, then we should settle it by debating the evidence and the logic, not by getting someone to change the rules for us.
I can hear the protests now: "But isn't that what happened in Dover? You people got the court to throw ID right out of the schools!" Ah, but it was thrown out after loads of testimony from both sides, after cross-examination of everyone's expert witnesses, in an opinion by a judge who sat down to weigh the evidence. That's what torpedoed the ID side in Dover: careful, rigorous examination of everything they had to say. And it'll work every time.
So I hope that this Wisconsin idea dies before ever being brought to a vote. Don't do us scientists any favors, guys - we can handle this on our own. I have a great deal of contempt for the Intelligent Design movement, and I want to see it given the drubbing it deserves in open debate, over and over again, until it goes away.
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