Truth Through Combat

Intelligent Design and Advocacy of Views

There is an underlying issue in this intelligent design debate that continues to be overlooked. This oversight leads to the generation of poorly-framed questions, and therefore should be excised from the debate.

The issue concerns the advocacy of views by teachers. It is commonplace to argue that the U.S. government–whether through its education system or elsewhere–is not permitted to advocate religious views. This is a well-established legal truth. However, there is a clear difference between advocacy and description, and this is where the oversight often appears. According to the “do not advocate” approach, it is not at all clear that the mere teaching of ID (or of religions, for that matter) is illegitimate.

Simply teaching that ID is a competing theological theory is not prohibited any more than teaching Christianity and Islam is prohibited. There is no constitutional requirement that religion be kept wholly out of schools. In fact, in some contexts failing to teach about religion is to give students incomplete information about the world. For example, teaching the history of Britain without mentioning religion is about as educational as teaching the history of baseball without mentioning Babe Ruth. Neither example demands that religion (or Babe Ruth’s exploits) be advocated, but they both demand at least a mention of those key elements in any true history of the respective fields.

Advocacy of religion is one thing. Developing an educational system that does justice to religion, however, does not demand advocacy. It merely requires impartial teachers willing to set aside their personal views for the sake of the student’s educational advancement.

The broader and more interesting question in this debate is the following: should teachers ever advocate a view, regardless of how popular or seemingly true it may be? Perhaps impartiality should be considered a cardinal requirement of all education, all the way from Kindergarten to University.

Filed under: Bioethics, Uncategorized

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