Theory, Not Law: The Real Problem with How Evolution is Taught

Much debate has occupied the public on whether or not intelligent design should be taught in school as a counter argument to evolution. The idea is that if a teacher presents two sides of a case to students, they can decide for themselves what they believe. This position, unfortunately, does not solve the problem. Intelligent design is not a scientific alternative to evolution. And to this date, there is no scientific alternative. But that does not mean evolution is absolutely right, and it is not an excuse for teaching intelligent design.

The problem with the way evolution is taught in today’s schools is that evolution is not taught with attention to the scientific method. It is presented as the only viable scientific explanation of the advent of humanity, but it is not critically assessed. Evolution, when taught, should be taught as what it is – a theory. And it should be explained that a theory is different from a law (we don’t refer to the Law of Gravity as the Theory of Gravity). Teachers should point out problems with evolution.

For instance, the human brain is not adequately accounted for by the theory of evolution. We use only a very small portion of it, and there is no evolutionary reason for the human brain to be as big as it is. Also, the absence of any actual proof of a direct descent from other animals has yet to be found (i.e. no “missing link”) is a very heavy consideration when evaluating evolution. As part of a good reasoning process, these are issues that need to be raised.

As students learn about the flaws in evolution, and learn how to properly apply the scientific method and how to question information and form rational bases for what they will personally accept, they will be led naturally to determine whether they think there is a different explanation than evolution for why humans are the way they are. Honestly, instead of thinking that science will always “disprove” religion, religious leaders should focus on helping students understand that science can work with religion (String Theory has very promising implications for the religious).

But just because there is no other viable scientific alternative does not mean that intelligent design ought to be taught in science class. My personal belief is that the universe is expanding under the direction of a Being, God, according to natural laws. But belief is not science. Intelligent design can only be taught in terms of faith, and therefore should not be taught in the classroom. But changes to the treatment of evolution are in order as well.

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