Australian Christian Schools Defend Teaching Intelligent Design Despite Protest of Scientists

Christian schools and teachers in Australia defend introducing the theory of Intelligent Design (ID) into Science classes following a massive protest of scientists more than one week ago.

Christian schools and teachers in Australia defend introducing the theory of Intelligent Design (ID) into Science classes following a massive protest of scientists more than one week ago.

A statement released on Oct. 28 by the Christian Parent Controlled Schools Ltd and the National Institute for Christian Education in Australia – both advocators of ID – accused opponents of the theory of being "intolerant" and of "ideological conservatism."

The two groups supported ID by noting that "no approach to science is value-neutral … both the materialist evolution and the intelligent design approaches have their own strong ideological foundations."

The proponents further warned that the perspective of opponents may hamper the "genuine exploration of alternative approaches within science teaching in Australian schools."

The challenge to ID in Australian schools and scientists came after the Australian Federal Education Minister Dr Brendan Nelson told the National Press Club in early August that ID should be taught alongside with Darwinian evolution, however, emphasizing that evolution theory would not be replaced.

The theory of Intelligent Design states that some aspects of nature are so complex that they could not have been created by evolution and posits an intelligent creative agent that guides the process. Although the theory does not explicitly speak about God, some have said it leaves the door open to include a Divine guiding hand.

Many Christians are proponents of ID. Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) Australia, an evangelical ministry, has been actively promoting ID nationwide through distributing a DVD presentation, entitled "Unlocking the Mystery of Life," to every Australian high school.

Australian Education Minister Nelson, who also is a Christian, made a public statement that displayed his support of ID one day after he met with CCC, reported the Australian newspaper, The Age.

Meanwhile, the widespread support of ID in Australia over the last few months has triggered the protest of science researchers, academics and teachers, who argue that ID is not a science theory, but a belief.

According to The Age, an open letter was signed by groups such as the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) on Oct. 21, calling on Australian governments and educators to stop ID being taught as science.

The letter was published on all the major newspapers in Australia.

In the statement published on the ASTA’s website, the 70,000-strong science coalition defined that scientific theories are "to be tested and are modified on the basis of facts and experimental evidence." Therefore, ID which holds the creation is best explained by the intervention of an unknown intelligent cause, is barely "a belief system" and should not have a place in the science curriculum.

Some extreme comments even compared the ID theory with some unscientific worldviews such as astrology, spoon-bending and aliens, saying that teaching ID in school would make a mockery of Australian science teaching, according to The Age.

The scientific communities further suggested that it maybe more appropriate for ID to be considered being incorporated in a religious or cultural studies curriculum, as written in the statement.

In response to the opponents, chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O'Doherty clarified, "… there is no such thing in Australia as an intelligent design curriculum that takes Darwin off the shelf," according to the report of the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

O'Doherty explained that intelligent design was "a debate among scientists" using the scientific record and complexity of biological systems "as evidence of an intelligent designer," according to SMH.

It is appropriate that students questioned scientific processes and theories but "there is a point where science stops and faith begins", he added.

According to SMH, Christian Schools Australia fully accepts the New South Wales Board of Studies science curriculum, which includes evolution but not intelligent design. But they wish ID can be taught alongside to offer choices for parents and students.

Tim Hawkes, headmaster of The King's School in Sydney, has supported the theory of intelligent design in secondary schools. The King's School, Australia's oldest independent school, is Anglican and widely regarded as the nation's most prestigious, according to The Age.

After reviewing CCC’s DVD on intelligent design, Hawkes said it was "quite legitimate to challenge students to think through the implications of there being a 'grand architect' of the universe", The Age reported.

"There are undeniable weaknesses within Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and these must be acknowledged honestly," Hawkes added.

He believed that schools, therefore, should be allowed to explore different ideas and theories.

According to The Age, even though Hawkes supported the use of CCC’s DVD in promoting ID, he warned that its Christian background could compromise the acceptance by general public. He suggested that there should be a transparent revelation of those behind the DVD.

Bill Hodgson, national director of CCC Australia told “The Australian” newspaper in early September that "our interest is providing people with the resources that can help stimulate interest and discussion, among young people, on the bigger questions of life. The DVD asks some big questions. Our view is that it is moderate, brilliantly done and has scientific merit; that is, these are scientists presenting their case, they are not laymen."

Hodgson reiterated, "Some may use it to stimulate discussion on some aspects of evolution... we have not asked anyone for curriculum changes."

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