September 7, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Controversy is the Fuel of Science, So Teach the Controversy, Educator Says

The Albuquerque Journal published a response from Rebecca Keller after admitting misrepresenting her position.  She did not claim that intelligent design science is looking toward transcendent beings, but rather is asking scientists to become willing to consider design inferences when the data point in that direction.  She clarified the intent of the new science standards that include “teach the controversy” provisions, and explained why evolution is controversial.

It is understandable that people are concerned about the metaphysical implications; if there is design then there must be a designer.
    But the basic trouble, and the underlying reason this controversy never ends, is that evolution is a creation story; it has huge metaphysical implications no matter how it is taught.  How is it less religious or less controversial to teach evolution as it is now, pretending that we somehow know that there is no design? (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

The only way to deal with a controversial subject such as evolution is to encourage discussion about the issues.  She formulates some sample questions:

If we are going to teach students about biological origins we need to help them understand all the issues behind origins science, including evolution.  Why is it controversial?  What worldview assumptions are behind it?  Do we really know that life was generated only by random processes of mutation and natural selection?  What evidence supports it, what evidence is against it?

    Keller, a science textbook writer for Gravitas Publications of Albuquerque, has a PhD in chemistry of U of New Mexico.  She defended intelligent design as a scientific approach to judging evidence, but explained that both evolution and ID have philosophical or religious implications.  Since Darwinian evolution today is often presented without the possibility of criticism or dialog, she argues, it amounts to a secular religion, and the public recognizes it.  Science should welcome controversy:

Not only should students learn that reasonable people disagree about the meaning and interpretation of data, they should learn that scientists disagree, too.  In fact, disagreeing about how data should be interpreted is what scientists do.  That is science.  The history of science illustrates that disagreements in science are the very thing that fuels scientific discovery.
    Evolution as a secular creation story is already being preached from the classroom pulpit.  Teaching the controversy helps keep religion, of any flavor, out of the classroom.

On that basis, Keller defends the Rio Rancho school district science policy.  She portrays the New Mexico case as representative of what is being proposed around the country.

This is another example of a cogent, well-written letter.  Maybe people who agree with her should ask the ACLU to prohibit the Darwin-only dogma on the grounds of separation of church and state.
    Keller makes a good case for the religious equivalence of the opposing views, but a subtext evident in the argument “religion, of any flavor” must be kept “out of the classroom” is that religion is inferior to science and incapable of contributing to debates about the merits of scientific claims.  Perhaps some good follow-up questions would explore the ability of evolutionary theory to make scientific truth claims about ultimate origins, and the ability of theology to prescribe the limits of science – or whether it is even possible for an investigator to be unbiased in such matters.

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