Does Teaching Intelligent Design Benefit Science Education?

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University of Warwick Professor of Sociology Steve Fuller argues that teaching Intelligent Design in collaboration with evolution would benefit science education in the long run.


“Debating Darwin: Should evolution be taught as the only truth?” at the 2007 Battle of Ideas conference hosted by the Institute of Ideas.

The debate over creationism has sprung up as the latest flashpoint in the battle between secularism and religion. While the US has seen extended conflict over the theory of evolution – from the 1925 ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ to the recent Dover, PA court case – new challenges to Darwinism under the guise of intelligent design (ID) have arisen in the UK.

While few seriously endorse the literal biblical story of creation, ID on the other hand claims to highlight Darwinism’s shortcomings on scientific grounds. Evolution is ‘just a theory’ after all – surely in the spirit of encouraging critical thinking we should ‘teach the controversy’? Science is about questioning received truths rather than establishing certainties for all time. Does this not permit a more flexible approach to science education, where debate is encouraged? Further, the sheer complexity of evolutionary theory leads ID advocates to claim it is best to cultivate a critical eye in pupils, rather than have them take as truth a misunderstood Darwinian theory.

Is science, or ‘scientism’, just as fundamentalist as religion, arrogantly claiming to know everything, or are doubts such as these a reflection of scientists’ failure to make the case properly for what science does have to offer? Is this merely another case of the ‘balance fallacy’ – the mistaken belief that even falsehoods should be given air time? – IoI

Steve Fuller is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. He received his B.A. summa cum laude (History and Sociology) from Columbia University (1979), MPhil. (History and Philosophy of Science) from Cambridge University (1981), and PhD (History and Philosophy of Science) from University of Pittsburgh (1985). He is the founder of the research program of social epistemology – which is the name of a quarterly journal he founded with Taylor & Francis in 1987, as well as his first book Social Epistemology

Steve’s work has appeared in 15 languages, and he has been a visiting professor in the US, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and Israel. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, Fellow at the Economic and Social Research Council, and is listed in Who’s Who in the World. In 2007 Warwick University awarded him a ‘higher doctorate’ (DLitt) for distinguished contributions to scholarship.



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