The debate over intelligent design is becoming unbearable. So heated and divided are the sides that students are now suffering ill-conceived lessons in a sea of confusion. Some parents and teachers believe strongly in the theory of evolution and consider any other possible ideal as a bad combination of academics and religion. Others believe in a supreme being capable of creating the universe in one cosmic boom. Unfortunately, people are allowing their personal beliefs to influence a decision that affects children and parents from all walks of life.
The Scopes trial – also known as the Monkey trial – set a precedent regarding laws concerning the teaching of the theory of evolution in the classroom. In 1925, the American Civil Liberties Union wanted to challenge Tennessee’s Butler Law, which outlawed teaching evolution – or any other theory denouncing the creation of man as taught in the Bible – in the classroom. John Thomas Scopes, a football coach and occasional substitute biology teacher from Dayton, Tenn., was used to that end.
According to National Public Radio’s Web site, Scopes wasn’t positive that he had taught evolution in the classroom for sure, though two of his students testified that he had. Even though Scopes lost the judgment, the war in the classroom was won. The tables have turned; creationism is now deemed ignorant, and those who teach it are regarded as immoral for bringing a “religious” concept into the classroom.
The debate boils down to one’s own personal and spiritual beliefs: Many of those who subscribe to Judeo-Christian convictions could likely believe in creationism or a combination of evolution and intelligent design, in which a supreme being influences the natural proceedings on Earth. However, it isn’t fair to young, impressionable students to offer only one option to explain something as far beyond human grasp as the creation of the universe. Surely there is merit to both sides, and I’ve personally known well-respected scientists who have claimed that science cannot fill all of the gaps – some explanations cannot be found to justify every aspect of our universe and how we came to exist.
More importantly, it’s up to parents – not a school board – to determine how their child is taught. If parents wish only secular influences upon their children, that’s their prerogative. Likewise, if some parents want to instill a religious overtone in their children’s upbringing, they should be so entitled. When young children are only offered one option in learning, the alternative seems incorrect by comparison. Eliminating intelligent design may create the impression that someone’s sacred beliefs are nonsense.
In grade school classes, lessons of both evolution and intelligent design should be offered to students. Parents can sign permission slips opting their children out of either lesson for the day, allowing more parental control in what children are taught. And schools should not focus so much of the curriculum on the creation of the Earth – a topic that is subject to debate on both sides – but rather the known and documented occurrences on, in and outside our planet.
The theory of evolution is not foolproof; there are gaps and inconsistencies as with most areas of scientific study. By the same token, intelligent design is not infallible by any means. What is known for sure is that humans have been present on this planet for a fraction of the known existence of Earth. No amount of technology or conjecturing can prove or refute either theory.
The academic community is irresponsible to negate either theory simply because it clashes with one person’s personal attitudes. The concept of a higher being who is responsible in some way for the Earth’s creation is not implicitly Judeo-Christian, but applies to almost every faith in the world. Citing intelligent design as a disruption of the separation of church and state is ignorant – it is not necessary for a church to be involved in order for a worldly individual to believe in the possibility of a power greater than himself.
Taylor Williams is a junior majoring in English education.