Anti-Creationism Group Flip-Flops on Intelligent Design in Schools

For its latest collection of position statements defending evolution education, the National Center of Scientific Education (NCSE) will include one from an area of study it had previously suggested as an alternative forum for Intelligent Design.

The lobby group's third edition of Voices for Evolution will include a statement from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) to explain its latest position on teaching Intelligent Design in the classroom.

"Social studies may, at first glance, seem to be a better fit for this approach to teaching intelligent design, but the same constitutional issues arise whether religious beliefs are taught in science or in the social studies curriculum," read the NCSS statement, which was issued in May 2007.

The NCSS stated that "while the social studies classroom is the proper forum for the discussion of controversial issue," it maintained that the "teaching religious beliefs as the equivalent of scientific theory is not consistent with the social studies."

A contributor for "Evolution News & View," a blog from a subgroup of the Discovery Institute, a think tank associated with the Intelligent Design movement, points out that the NCSE will go at great lengths to banish any line of thought inconsistent to the teaching of evolution — even if it means going back on its previous arguments.

"[A]fter endorsing censoring science classes and relegating intelligent design to discussion in social studies, the NCSE is now flip-flopping and praising censorship of social studies classes as well," wrote Robert Crowther Friday on the blog for the Center for Science and Culture.

Crowther cited several examples from previous articles in which the NCSE and other supporters of evolution education proposed social studies as an appropriate forum for discussing non-Darwinian thoughts such as Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Furthermore, Crowther suggested that critics of Intelligent Design have strategically misrepresented the scientific claim as synonymous to Creationism to exclude it from being taught in science classes.

Opponents of Intelligent Design have criticized the claim, alleging that it is only a vehicle to inject religious teaching, mainly Creationism, into public schools and scientific debate. Intelligent Design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

Jay Richards, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, told The Christian Post in an interview earlier this year that while the religious labeling of Intelligent Design is misguided, it serves the critic's purpose.

"By attaching the label of religion to it, the person is essentially trying to privatize it, so it doesn't have to be considered public evidence," said Richards. "But the point of intelligent design's argument is that it's based on public evidence, the evidence from nature and the natural world."

The Discovery Institute makes it clear on its website that Intelligent Design "theory" is neither based from nor upholds the Bible and is not the same as Creationism.

"The intellectual roots of intelligent design theory are varied," explains the Discovery Institute on its website.

"Plato and Aristotle both articulated early versions of design theory, as did virtually all of the founders of modern science."

"Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the 'apparent design' in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations," the group adds.

In contrast, "Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago.

"Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design," the Discovery Institute clarifies.

Other explanations surrounding Intelligent Design theory posted on the group's website also clarify that Intelligent Design does not reject evolutionary theory, if "evolution" is defined by "change over time," or "that living things are related by common ancestry."

However, Discovery Institute does challenge a dominant form of evolutionary theory known as neo-Darwinism, which "contends that evolution is driven by natural selection acting on random mutations, an unpredictable and purposeless process that 'as no discernable direction or goal, including survival of a species.'

"It is this specific claim made by neo-Darwinism that intelligent design theory directly challenges," the group states.

Regarding NCSE's initial suggestion that Intelligent Design be taught in the social studies curriculum, Discovery Institute's Richards said even if it were allowed, the theory would be irrelevant in that discipline. Since the design argument draws from science disciplines such as biology, chemistry, astronomy, or physics, it would be most appropriate in a science class.