A lawsuit filed 3,000 miles away has ignited debate among local
educators and community members about the teaching of intelligent
design theory in public school classrooms.
Gilroy – A lawsuit filed 3,000 miles away has ignited debate among local educators and community members about the teaching of intelligent design theory in public school classrooms. Proponents argue it disproves evolution and deserves a place in science curricula. Critics call it a repackaged version of creationism based on speculation and not fact.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell adamantly rejected the practice in a press conference Wednesday.
“The introduction of intelligent design theory in natural sciences courses would be a blow to the integrity of education in California,” he said in a release. “I will fight to ensure that good science is protected in California classrooms.”
The lawsuit was filed by eight families in Pennsylvania who argue that a school board policy requiring teachers to expose intelligent design to students in science classes is unconstitutional, citing that it stems from religious theory and not in accord with the separation of church and state.
Intelligent design is not taught in Gilroy Unified School District and is not included among the state’s standards.
The theory was established in the early 1990s and refutes evolution as being able to explain how complex life forms came to be. Instead of following Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, proponents say an unidentified designer is behind creation.
“The reason we don’t teach intelligent design is there is no evidence,” said Gilroy High School marine science teacher Jeff Manker. “You could mention it as a hypothesis … I very strongly believe it does not belong in science.”
He is a strict evolutionist and does not believe intelligent design theory follows scientific practice where evidence is tested, retested and reviewed by peers before becoming a theory.
“The public use of the word theory and the scientific use of the word are at odds,” he explained. “In science, that’s as sure as you can be about something … that’s as true as you can get in science.”
Evolution is the accepted theory among most scientists. According to evolution theory, organisms produce variety within their species through reproduction. Over time, some mutations allow the organism to better adapt to its surroundings and are continued in the gene pool. Through survival of the fittest, the mutated organisms are dominant and more complex.
But for retired Morgan Hill science teacher Duane Linstrom, most mutations are harmful to a species and that is why he does not believe mutations alone could drive evolution forward.
“Evolution has a lot of holes in it – those things are generally passed (over) in schools,” he said. “Very few mutations are good. Mutations do not add information to a cell. They only foul up what’s already there.”
A former evolutionist, Linstrom began questioning it 30 years ago.
“I used to be an evolutionist, but I’m also Christian. I just figured God made the earth through evolution,” he said. “It made so much more sense to me – not from a religious point of view, I was fine with that … it just made more sense from a scientific standpoint.”
According to Linstrom, while proof that a higher being is responsible for creation cannot be proved – neither can evolution – and why, he reasons, it should be taught in public schools as well.
“Nobody was here to see the world created and no one was here to see evolution,” he said. “Science is the search for truth and what’s considered right at the time tends to change. What was cutting edge in 1925 is a joke today.”
Christine McCormack, a nurse practitioner who has a masters degree in biology and two others in religion, believes evolution cannot explain the complexity of the human body.
“Chance could never drive that level of complexity,” she argued. “Evolution is an untestable theory. It’s not testable because it’s about the past. And creationism is in the same boat.”
For McCormack, she believes students should be taught all theories so they can critically examine evolution.
“Give them the skills to think critically about any scientific theory,” she said.
The argument Manker has heard many supporters of intelligent design make is the structure of the human eyeball.
“(They view) the eye as such a complex structure that it could never happen by chance.”But evolution is an extremely long, complicated process that happened over millions of years,” Manker said, adding that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old.
“All it takes is one (mutation),” he said. “And lots and lots of time to get that one.”
Critics of intelligent design argue that it is religious dogma hidden under the veil of science.
“It’s scientific creationism repackaged into secular language,” said Dale Morejon, a retired GHS science teacher and consultant for the California Teachers Association. “They leave out words like divine, Bible and God … The way that they prove their (theory) is by disproving someone else’s. That’s illogical.”
Morejon admits that there are gaps in evolution theory, but doesn’t believe they discredit the theory simply because the answers are unknown.
“Not all science is strict fact,” he explained. “By deduction we find it. We didn’t know blackholes existed (for certain) until we got the equipment to find it … No one has ever seen gravity, but we know it works. Does that mean we throw it away?” he asked.
He demands evidence to go along with the theory.
“Give me data. Because that’s what science is,” Morejon said. “Tell me what intelligent design is and I’ll teach it, along with wicca, and the Buddhists view, and the Inuits … in a philosophy class.”