Just A Theory

It was a nondescript, address label-sized sticker on the front inside cover of the biology textbook.

textbook sticker image cropped

 At the time, my kids were attending a small (conservative) Christian school. Despite the misuse of the term “theory” on the sticker, I felt the tiniest twinge of optimism that evolution would actually be “studied carefully” and “critically considered” in my kids’ biology class.

Snowball’s chance.

Drawing Battle Lines

The text of the sticker, however, was not original with our private school, or any private school. The sticker was composed by the Cobb County (Georgia) Board of Education and was the centerpiece of a federal court case in 2004. peachIn an effort to align with state science education standards and placate anti-evolutionists, the Cobb County Board created the sticker and placed it in public school science textbooks. In the end, the federal court found that the stickers were a violation of the First Amendment and ordered them removed from the public school textbooks.

Just a few years prior to this case, the Kansas Board of Education removed all references to evolution in the public school curriculum. The state board was voted out the next election cycle, but four years later an anti-evolution majority was seated. The board again re-wrote the science standards, leaving evolution in but requiring that “evidence against” evolution also be included. big text and t rex didnt ride the range together

School boards in Pennsylvania, Texas, and now Virginia – all have hosted show-downs between science standards, science teachers, and anti-evolution forces.

Kenneth Miller in Only a Theory recounted a conversation with a British scientist who was incredulous at the ongoing battles over evolution in American schools. In Britain (he opined) this would never be! Oxford or Cambridge would simply dispatch a couple of dons who would lay out their degrees and credentials before the local school officials, and then explain the standing evolution had in the modern scientific community. The locals would acquiesce to their expertise, and lay the issue to rest. dont tread on me flag

Americans, Miller explained to his Brit friend, are free thinking rebels at heart. Americans instead would have thanked the experts for their time, but would go on to do just as they pleased. Education in America is a local responsibility.

Blatantly teaching creationism, even as an alternative to evolution, is actually illegal in the United States.  In 1987, the Supreme Court of the United States found that creationism is a religious concept and therefore cannot be a part of public school curriculum.

What now?

Not long after the Supreme Court ruled that creationism could not be taught in public schools, the anti-evolution forces regrouped and emerged with a new strategy. Creationism evolved (ha!) into a new movement known as “intelligent design” (ID). pandascover1The most popular intelligent design textbook was originally written as a creationist textbook. The text had been repackaged by substituting “intelligent design” for “creationism”.

Intelligent design purposefully avoids any reference to the God of the Bible. Proponents of intelligent design contend

  • purely naturalistic process could not have produced life as we have it on earth
  • the theory of evolution cannot explain the complexity of living things
  • an “intelligent designer” (by which they mean God but won’t say it) was required to specially design life

Because overt creationism cannot be taught, the push at present is to also teach “design” alongside evolution in order to provide “balance” and expose the “weaknesses” in evolution theory.

For example, there is currently legislation before the Virginia state assembly which would require public schools to

assist teachers to find effective ways to present scientific controversies in science classes

…(help) students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories


If bills like this become the foundation of science education in Virginia schools, its students (as well as those in several other states moving in similar directions) will learn that:

  • evolution is a deeply flawed theory, unable to explain very much
  • evolution only endures because of coercion and the herd mentality of the scientific community
  • intelligent design (ID) is a better explanation, but has been marginalized because scientists are closed-minded and irrationally committed to naturalism

American students will learn these and many other things that students in Japan, Germany, France, Canada and the rest of the developed world are not learning (Karl Giberson).

A More Science-y Alternative

The intelligent design movement sees itself as the Christian-friendly alternative to the head-in-the-sand young earth creationism of Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis crowd. Most ID proponents accept an old earth and attempt to support their position with evidence outside of a literal reading of Genesis. The Discovery Institute is the primary think tank for intelligent design.

And, as much as the Discovery Institute would like to be the middle ground between Nye and Ham, their aggressively anti-evolutionary agenda and constant negativity towards science make them allies of Ham, not Nye. As a result, bewildered young people will continue to wander out of the church wondering if they really have to choose between science and their faith. (Karl Giberson, How Creationism Hurts Christian Colleges – And Their Students)

This series is an overview of Kenneth Miller’s Only a Theory, with discussion and my commentary. My goal is to examine intelligent design and look at the science behind the anti-evolution claims of the ID movement.


I believe that the heavens declare the glory of God

I believe that day after day the cosmos pours forth speech and night after night the cosmos reveals knowledge.

I trust that the evidence and knowledge that is revealed is true because the Creator of the cosmos is Truth.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Intelligent Design: Creationism Redux « Janet K. Ray

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