By Ric Llewellyn
School starts in a couple of weeks and I have a question about the curriculum. Why don't we teach intelligent design in our public schools?
Yes I'm a Christian and I believe in creation. But teaching a creation model, or intelligent design, isn't my idea of clandestine proselytizing. It's part of the larger goal of teaching kids how to think, not simply what to think.
Kern County is a little more traditional than some areas of the state. But we still embrace the idea that education requires us to critically question what are categorized as religious beliefs while we brush the critical evaluation of science under the rug.
So why don't we let our children learn about intelligent design in the academic environment? Why must they only know about evolution?
When we strip away the camouflage we are left with two fundamental reasons.
First, those who support teaching the intelligent design model of origins are afraid of the Constitutional issue. The Constitution says that the Legislature cannot make a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."
The courts have creatively applied that briefly vague concept to so many areas of public life that we have become afraid to advocate for anything remotely related to religion.
It costs money to get sued. I'm sure our school districts learned the lesson of Frazier Mountain High School, which tried a class with intelligent design and got sued, and have concluded it's not worth the trouble for kids to know about intelligent design.
So, is learning about intelligent design religious intrusion? No doubt there are myriad stories about where this world and all it contains came from. Biblical and Koranic accounts of creation are probably the most ubiquitous.
But the intelligent design concept of origins is not inherently religious. While religions include various and sometimes wildly differing accounts of creation, the raw idea that some agent acted in creating this universe is just that -- an idea.
It is an idea that deserves an honest, respectful discussion in the academic environment. It is not an idea that should be dismissed by relegating it to a religious studies class.
We most often hear about creation in some religious context. So we accept the notion that it is a religious topic. Since we immediately categorize it as religious, we shy away from a public discussion.
But attributing the existence of our expansive and complex universe to a designer is not in and of itself a religious idea that must be excluded. It is just an idea that demands investigation.
Who will advance the discussion? Who will be the thinkers developing the nuances of intelligent design if students are not allowed access to it in school?
Second, those who oppose the idea of teaching intelligent design do not know how reasonable this explanation of origins is.
When I was a child in school, I was taught many things. Naive and open, I accepted everything I was taught.
As I grew older and more educated I was taught new things. Since I had only a foundation that was designed to support the new things, I accepted them as being true as well.
In other words, I did not believe that a design was possible or that it could be applied to biology, geology, chemistry, etc., only because I never knew anything about the concept.
Although blanket statements are generally not a good idea, I'd venture to say that those who oppose the concept of intelligent design have not learned anything about it as it applies to geology or biology. Instead they have been told by someone who also didn't learn anything about intelligent design but was told it by someone else.
When we set aside our prejudice toward the RELIGIOUS idea and simply investigate THE idea, we will begin to build a foundation for further honest inquiry.
Who knows what great opportunities will arise from a different, even richer understanding of what we are and how it all came to be?
School is starting in a couple of weeks. Why aren't we teaching intelligent design? It's just an idea -- an idea that deserves less animosity and more exploration. But we don't want to get sued. And it couldn't possibly be anything the kids would want to think about.
-- Ric Llewellyn is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Llewellyn, not necessarily The Californian. You can email him at email@example.com. Next week: Heather Ijames.