God vs. Science: Debate rages over use of Intelligent Design

By Heather Hackman 2007

The battle has resurfaced once again and this time, it has escalated into a full scale court case along with heated controversy. Is Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution responsible for explaining man’s origin or does the theory of intelligent design give a more accurate explanation of how man came to rule the earth?

Intelligent design is a theory opposing evolution and natural selection that Darwin formulated many years ago. Intelligent design claims that the earth , along with everything in it was created by an intelligent designer, which in most groups is believed to be God.

Beyond the debate that is raging in the halls of science and courtrooms, many are wondering what role schools should play in this timeless debate. Should schools mention the alternative theory of intelligent design to students? Or, should institutions only mention the theory that Charles Darwin proposed after his study in the Galapagos Islands?

Cedar Falls High School senior Glenn Adolphs said he believes schools should represent both. “Everyone already knows intelligent design exists, and the thing schools should do is just make sure everyone understands evolution is only a theory, not a fact.”

At Iowa State University, the debate has grown into a university-wide issue. An ISU astronomy professor, Guillermo Gonzalez, co-authored an intelligent design book called The Privileged Plant with Jay Richards. The book claims that earth is so unique and different that it must have been created by some type of intelligent designer because it is so complex in its nature. Now, Gonzalez and his book have drawn much debate over whether it should be allowed in ISU science classes. Many ISU professors have signed a petition to get the book out of the school’s science department and restrict it to the ISU philosophy classes. They say they do not want the school’s reputation to be tarnished in the controversy.

Some CFHS science teachers aggress with the college professors. Biology teacher Jeff Hartman said he believes in teaching only the theory of evolution. “Intelligent design is a matter of faith, not science. Although I personally believe in both intelligent design and evolution, only evolution is science and should be taught in a science class,” he said.

Although Hartman has not been asked many questions on evolutions, he does have a policy for students who object to it. Hartman said he believes that every student should examine the evidence he present, and if the student still does not accept it, then he or she should use the alternative theory of intelligent design.

Father Ken Glaser, the chaplain at Saint Stephen The Witness Catholic Student Center in Cedar Falls, said that with what he knows about intelligent design and from what he has discussed with others, he believes that there is a place for intelligent design in the classroom.

“Intelligent design could at least be mentioned in the classroom. In theory, it is not much different from the creation theory; however, it is using a different language. The language is what everyone’s concerned about.”

Adding to the fight over human origin, a court case has progressed in Pennsylvania that could alter the landscape of high school classrooms forever. The Dover School Board in Pennsylvania has a policy that states teachers must make students aware of the existence of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution, but it does not say that the teachers must teach the belief.

Some parents of students think that even mentioning an alternative theory is unscientific and has no place in a public school’s curriculum. A few believe that the school board’s ruling is in violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

The Dover Area School District has been sued by parents and the American Civil Liberties Union for having a policy that mentions the other theory. Both sides of the issue are representing a much larger group than jus the school district or a few concerned parents. This case will likely set a precedent for other courts to follow if another case involving intelligent design and schools arises.

This case will, perhaps, answer many questions. Is just mentioning an alternative theory wrong? Should it be left up to the family to decide whether or not a child should be aware of intelligent design theory? Must we only accept one theory, or is it possible to scientifically use both?

Hartman said, “There’s no rule that states you must believe in either intelligent design or evolution. It’s a matter of science, faith and your own personal beliefs.”

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