After a knockout punch in Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District and a continuous barrage by the best in the scientific community, intelligent design is dragging itself up by the ropes for another round. This time the venue is the state Legislature, where lawmakers are attempting to weasel it into the state’s science guidelines under the new Michigan Merit Curriculum. Not only is this a shameful attempt to disguise a religious belief as a scientific theory, but also it is a disgraceful attempt by lawmakers to allow partisan politics to shape the state’s curriculum.
The state Board of Education approved the Michigan Merit Curriculum, a new set of graduation requirements, last December, and it seemed likely that lawmakers could quickly enact the monumental policy. But nine months later, politicians are still arguing over the details of the bill as well as the funding required to enact it. The last part of the curriculum portion awaiting approval is the science guidelines, as some legislators are still pushing to broaden the science guidelines on evolution, opening a window to include ID lessons in science classrooms.
Intelligent design, a veiled version of creationism, establishes that some aspects of life are too complex to be explained by any factor but an omnipresent force. This theory has no testable hypotheses; rather, it gives up on science itself. The National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most respected body of scientists, condemns its merit as a scientific theory and asserts that evolution is “the central concept of biology” that should be taught in science classrooms. Even federal courts agree that teaching ID as science in public schools is a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause.
Although ID may have a place in a comparative religion or philosophy class, given its lack of scientific merit, it has no place in science classrooms. And yet here is where conservative politicians enter the state curriculum playing field. Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos said last week that he believes ID is a “legitimate, competing scientific theory” and that he would support local school districts’ right to teach ID. DeVos’s comment revealed that the image he has attempted to build as a businessman who distances himself from the more evangelical members of his party is far from a complete picture. By providing a glimpse of his true character, DeVos has given Michigan voters all the more reason to be wary of his candidacy.
The state Board of Education’s decision and DeVos’s comments will only manage to further entrench Lansing in debate over the state’s science education guidelines. This will only serve to stalemate an important piece of legislation, as well as continue to reinforce Michigan’s tainted image as an undereducated industrial state. The new requirements are aimed at sending more Michigan students to college and creating a more educated workforce – thus weaning the state economy off manufacturing jobs that are becoming increasingly scarce as the automotive industry falters.
Religious pseudoscience has no business shaping school curricula. Michigan’s Legislature must sufficiently fund and quickly pass the bill just as the state Board of Education drafted it – not the way its members who lack faith in Darwin would like it to be.