I’ve been reading a lot recently about the controversy regarding evolution and intelligent design: The recent TNR cover story, the NPR essays, and the current NY Times series. I’ve also been working my way through the book Guns, Germs, and Steel for the past few months.
I could write volumes on this topic, as I feel quite strongly about it, but I’ll restrain myself to the following relatively mild sentiments. The first is that when we’re fretting about our global competitiveness and the flaws in our educational system, specifically in the sciences, attempts to introduce material into science curricula that doesn’t meet recognized standards of scientific proof, especially at the expense of material that does, seems, well, backward.
Second, the purpose of scientific research is to gain a better understanding of how the world works, not to justify any particular preconceived conclusion. In the hypothetical scenario that evolution or natural selection were proven false, it would be a victory for science, because it would mean the existence of a better model for understanding nature. I cannot imagine the same thing being said for intelligent design, which seems to be all about using science (or scientific-sounding propaganda, depending upon your point of view) to justify a specific view of how life and human life in particular is created.
Finally, let’s be intellectually honest with the semantics. Calling evolution a "theory" doesn’t mean that it’s unproven. It’s proven by the same methods that let us find cures for polio and build nuclear weapons.