Ending the Debate Before it Even Starts

An ongoing debate about whether schools should teach only evolution in science classes or change their policies to include intelligent design—which says life is too complex to have begun as a random chemical reaction in the primordial ooze—clicked into high gear last August when President George W. Bush said both theories should get equal consideration.

Educators and scientists balked, of course, saying intelligent design (ID) is scientifically untestable. But since evolution is equally untestable, ID advocates say teaching an alternate theory as well shouldn't create a problem.

The reason educators think it does might well lie in the fact that both modern science and the modern education establishment sprang from the theory of evolution.

Shared DNA

In 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species—a book that made a splash in education circles where the government had only recently taken control to produce the current free universal K-12 education system.

Herbert Spencer, a Victorian biologist and social philosopher, applied Darwin's theory to education in his 1860 book Education: Intellectual, Moral and Physical, a set of essays in which he presented the idea that children learn the same way mankind evolved. The book was reprinted 39 times over the next 20 years and had a profound influence on the generations that followed.

"Spencer created the system that filled in for young scientists the missing links of evolution, a system that in their minds was far superior to God,” explains Dick Carpenter, a professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Four decades later, those ideas would fascinate John Dewey, a Columbia University philosophy professor who was also one of the 34 signers of the Humanist Manifesto I in 1933—the document that established secular humanism as a religion, postulating that because man is inherently good, over time he can evolve into a better species.

"With the idea of evolution as Darwin postulated it and Dewey humanized it, we started training generations of future university professors, who are the gatekeepers of a culture's intellect,” says Brian Carpenter, an education researcher in Michigan (no relation to Dick -Carpenter). "So the idea of any kind of intelligent design is now just openly ridiculed.”

Defacing the Enemy

Though ID opponents often refer to it as "creationism light,” because both theories include the concept of a designer, advocates say there are several crucial differences between them.

"Creationism requires that you subscribe to a faith system—specifically, a literal interpretation of Genesis—to get to the science,” Dick Carpenter explains. "ID requires no faith system to believe its conclusions, and its starting place is the natural evidence from which it works backward.”

But to maintain the upper hand in schools, evolutionists must convince the public that ID and creationism are the same—by misinformation and character assassination if necessary.

As the Kansas education board debated including greater criticism of evolution in its science standards early last year, Liz Craig, public relations manager of Kansas Citizens for Science, detailed her plans to portray ID supporters "in the harshest light possible, as political opportunists, evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc.” The fight was inevitable, she wrote, "but we can sure make them look like asses as they do what they do.”

The biggest problem with the debate, Brian Carpenter says, is that evolutionists are trying to suppress it. "My position is, if evolution is so scientific, it shouldn't wither at all in the face of the scrutiny others would level at it,” he says. "The fact that they don't even want to discuss it shows how robust the theory of evolution isn't.” •

Religion in Schools

“It is none the less obvious that any religion that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be shaped for the needs of this age.”

So reads the introduction to the Humanist Manifesto I, the philosophical statement published in 1933 that would establish secular humanism as a religion and, through the work of John Dewey, one of its 34 signers, come to dominate American educational theory. Likewise signed by Anton J. Carlson, John H. Dietrich, R. Lester Mondale, Charles Francis Potter, Curtis W. Reese, and Edwin H. Wilson, the manifesto continues to inform generations of university professors, the supposed gatekeepers of our cultural intellect, and proves that our public educational system was "religious” long before the controversy over intelligent design. Here are its fifteen precepts (in brief):

1. Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.

2. Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.

3. Humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected.

4. Humanism recognizes that the individual born into a particular culture is largely molded by that culture.

5. Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values.

6. Humanists are convinced that the time has passed for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties of "new thought.”

7. Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious.

8. Religious humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man's life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now.

9. The humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.

10. It follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural.

11. Humanists assume that humanism will take the path of social and mental hygiene and discourage sentimental and unreal hopes and wishful thinking.

12. Religious humanists aim to foster the creative in man and to encourage achievements that add to the satisfactions of life.

13. Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life.

14. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good.

15. Humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few.


From Salvo 1 (Autumn 2006)

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This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #1, Fall 2006 Copyright © 2019 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo1/evolution-ed