A constant refrain from intelligent design proponents is that we need to teach the controversy. On the other side we have science educators who say, no we don't. I say use the controversy to teach good science. My proposal is a result of a challenge by Henry Gee in Nature.
What we really need is a cadre of religious scientists who can both stand up for their beliefs, and realize that they don't need intelligent design to stick their faith and work together.
These brave scientists should be prepared to expose intelligent design for the nonsense it is.
Fair enough. This Evangelical scientist will attempt to fill the gap. Here is what is needed in science education:
- Have a clear definition of both science and methodological naturalism. Science is a natural tool seeking natural answers. There may exist supernatural answers but this is beyond the ken of science. Methodological naturalism assumes there exists a natural answer to a natural problem. If such an answer does not exist you are attempting to prove a negative and thus it cannot be done in science.
- Distinguish metaphysical inferences about nature from science. I believe both in evolution and a designer. I look at the order of the Universe and the beauty of how evolution elegantly searches a solution space and I see a Designer behind it. Non-religious scientists see a self-existent Universe run by Natural Law. Science cannot tell us which metaphysical inference is true. Good grief, there's a reason why Aristotle called called this discipline "above physics". Let science be science and answer the "what" question and leave the "why" question to other disciplines. If the reason why certain topics are not brought up is because of the intentional self-limitation of the scientific method, then the conflict can be resolved without crushing students' faiths. The way many religious people view science is a bunch of elitists looking down and judging their faith. By stressing the deliberate limitations of science here, the misconception can be diffused.
- Acknowledge the controversy but teach the science. This is the core of my proposal. Some of Intelligent Design theory is scientifically testable. Use these to show how science advances and what characterizes good and bad science.
Behe had a number of concerns about Evolution in that Irreducible Complexity was something that Evolution couldn't overcome. Since Behe originally came up with his thesis the genomic revolution in Biology occurred. Biology students need to know how much progress has been made in Evolutionary Biology in the last decade. If you listen to the ID proponents you would think it was going the other way. By not addressing the concerns it gives science students the wrong impression that ID is simply being silenced.
Here's how it would work in practice. Take some of his specific concerns about the blood clotting cascade, whale transitional forms, the vertebrate immune system etc. and show how they were addressed. These are actually good case studies of how Evolutionary Biology is done in the 21st Century and how it is different from the 19th. When you are done, stress that proving IC does not prove ID and disproving IC does not disprove ID. Science cannot answer that question.
Address why ID does not show up in peer-reviewed journals. Namely, it is because of bad methodology. Americans think science is "democratic" and simply don't understand how real science is done. Here the controversy can be used to teach them. Pick up an issue of Science or Nature and go to the section on methods. Explain how a peer reviewer examines and critiques the methods to make sure that they are valid. Show how a peer reviewer looks for transparency and lack of conflicts of interest in order for the experiment to be replicated by others. A good case study can be found here. In this case study Randy Isaac plays a peer reviewer for an allegedly censored paper by John Baumgartner. Randy Isaac is Executive Director of the ASA, a group of working scientists who are also Christians.
In conclusion, I believe that reasonable science educators and reasonable Christians can get together to improve the quality of the science education in our country. The level of ignorance of science in this country is quite high and it is not limited to just Conservative Christians. The current controversy can be taken from a huge distraction to an occasion to really teach Americans how science really works and how it is not a threat to people of faith.