What is the position of the NRCSE on the teaching of intelligent design [ID] as an alternative to neo-Darwinian evolution in Nebraska schools?

We oppose the teaching of ID as science, though it might be a subject for study in contexts other than science.  It is the NRCSE’s position: 1) that evolution is a viable scientific theory, 2) that a Creator is a viable theological proposition, and 3) that creationism (“creation science”) and intelligent design theory lack evidence and represent erroneous deviations from the scientific method. The Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education's position on ID is the same as that of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. We consider evolution compatible with theism. In contrast, others consider evolution an insurmountable barrier to theism.  These include atheists who defend their worldview as the only "scientific" choice as well as religious anti-Darwinians.  Here is where the real controversy lies - over theology and philosophy.  Can schools create "space"  for students to study this debate without endorsing any particular religion or philosophy, and without confusing either religion or philosophy with science? Hopefully so.

Michael L.Peterson, in his essay "C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design" (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith Vol. 62, #4, December 2010, p. 253) writes:

A fair summary of Lewis, then, on the possibility of arguing for an Intelligence beyond nature is that he embraced several lines of reasoning in which this theme is either implicit or explicit. Interestingly, however, none of these lines of reasoning are really design-type arguments ...Lewis was a purist regarding the role of science and rejected any notion that its methods can deal with qualitative matters and values, let alone prove (or disprove) a Transcendent Intelligence or God ...But Lewis’s critical point for present purposes, in current parlance, is that we must distinguish the appropriate methodological naturalism of science from philosophical naturalism—something ID fails to do. Methodological naturalism is the scientific approach of restricting the explanation of natural phenomena to natural causes. Philosophical naturalism, on the other hand, is the philosophical view that nature alone is real, that there is no supernatural. Confusing these two definitions leads to the misunderstanding that mainstream science is inherently atheistic. In reality, methodological naturalism is completely neutral as to whether God exists or life has meaning; such lofty matters take us into the areas of theology and philosophy.

Dennis R. Venema, in his essay "Seeking a Signature"  (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith ,Vol. 62, #4, December 2010, p. 276) critiques Stephen C. Meyer's 2009 book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.  Dr. Venema also has a series of blog posts at BioLogos on the origin of biological information and other topics.

Leah Ceccarelli, an associate professor in the Communication Department at the University of Washington and author of the award-winning book Shaping Science with Rhetoric, writes in her 2008 essay "Manufactroversy: The Art of Creating Controversy Where None Existed":

Three recent examples of manufactured controversy are global warming skepticism, AIDS dissent in South Africa, and the intelligent design movement’s “teach the controversy” campaign. ... All three seemed to be following the playbook of the tobacco industry when scientists discovered that their products cause cancer; when a threat to their interests arises from the scientific community, they declare “there are always two sides to a case” ...

In the Feb. 2003 issue (Vol. 3, No. 6,  p. 18) of Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology (later called Science and Theology News)  William Dembski defends intelligent design (ID) theory as being different from a silly claim such as "ancient technologies could not have built the pyramids, so goblins must have done it."  Dr. Dembski states the difference as follows: "We can show how, with the technological resources at hand, the ancient Egyptians could have produced the pyramids.  By contrast, the material mechanisms known to date offer no such insight into biological complexity."  Dr. Dembski's assessment of known evolutionary mechanisms is too pessimistic.  More problematic, however, is the logic of his argument.  What if we were not yet able to show how the pyramids were built by the Egyptians?  What if we were not yet able to even imagine how they built them?  Would such ignorance really increase the status of any alternative (e.g.goblin) theories?  Of course, pyramids can't form naturally and spontaneously.  Indeed we can show that they were designed and built by humans.  Archeology and forensic science are valid disciplines.  They draw from both the natural sciences and the human (social) sciences.  But what do pyramids or any other products of human design really have to do with the origin of biological complexity?  ID proponents claim that ID theory requires no assumptions about the identity, motives, or mechanisms of the unknown designer, just as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) looks for signs of unidentified intelligent aliens.  But unexplained complexity in electromagnetic radiation from outer space, by itself, would be insufficient evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence.  Likewise, unexplained complexity in living cells, by itself, does not lead to a scientific conclusion of intelligent design.  Our astronomical, biological, and other scientific knowledge is not nearly complete enough to presume that we must already have any and all possible natural explanations!  What's more, the SETI project assumes that all electromagnetic radiation striking the earth originates from within our universe.  If intelligent aliens are behind any of it, they too would be subject to natural laws, and thus subject to scientific investigation.   ID theorists place no such natural limits on their unidentified designer.  This is perfectly acceptable, but only if ID is understood to be metaphysics (a valid branch of philosophy and theology) rather than science.

Bruce Gordon collaborates with other leading ID researchers, including well-known ID advocate William Dembski.  Nonetheless, Dr. Gordon agrees with the NRCSE that ID does not belong in public school science classrooms today.  Even the Discovery Institute, which heavily promotes ID, acknowledges that no high school science teacher should be required to teach ID (see  "Evolution Shares a Desk With 'Intelligent Design' published in the December 26, 2004 Washington Post ).  In the January 2001 issue of Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology (later called Science and Theology News),  Bruce L. Gordon notes that:

. . . design theoretic research has been hijacked as part of a larger cultural and political movement. In particular, [intelligent design] theory has been prematurely drawn into discussions of public science education where it has no business making an appearance without broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the natural world. (from "Intelligent Design Movement Struggles with Identity Crisis," Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology, January 2001)

90% of Ohio college science professors surveyed in 2002 see no scientific evidence for intelligent design theory, and 93% see no scientifically valid evidence challenging the fundamental principles of evolution (Ohio Scientists' Intelligent Design Poll).  

Biologist Kenneth Miller notes in his book Finding Darwin's God (p. 107 of the Perennial-HarperCollins edition, 2002):

Incredibly, the critics of evolution continue to claim that the mechanism of evolution is unknown, that mutations are never beneficial, and therefore that the hand of design is the only way to explain adaptations of organisms to their environments.  For some reason, the real importance of simple studies . . . never seems to sink in . . .that laboratories around the world have repeatedly observed the mechanism of evolution in action under controlled conditions.

Theoretical chemist Walter Thorson also finds theological warrant for naturalism in science (for example, see his work in the March 2002 issue of  Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith). In "Fingerprinting God?: Divine Agency and 'Intelligent Design'," published in the June 2000 issue of CRUX, Dr. Thorson writes:

But in fact we insist on a “naturalistic” science whose terms of reference are framed within created things, precisely because God must be properly revered as transcendent . . . We should understand that our mundane science is not intended, even by God, as the scrutiny of God himself but rather as the fulfillment of our creaturely vocation as God’s servants in creation; indeed, God waits for us to explore on its own creaturely terms the beauty and complexity and richness of all he has made.

Paleontologist Keith Miller is concerned about both scientific and theological problems of anti-evolutionist writings  ("God's Action in Nature" from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith Vol. 50, #1, 1998, p. 75):
My first, and most serious, concern is that a truly biblical understanding of God's action in creation and human history will be lost. God actively participates in all the processes of nature, not only upholding creation in being, but directing it to his providential purposes . . . The concerted efforts by many Christians to identify gaps in our causal explanations of natural events (especially in the history of life) seems to me to indicate a view of creation in which God is perceived as only distantly involved in secondary causes. God's immanent action through natural processes seems to be thought by many to be an inadequate expression of divine involvement in creation, and equivalent to deism. Any significant creative act is thus assumed to require God to break causal chains. Similarly, the identification of only specific well-defined events or structures as evidence of "intelligent design" in effect places all the rest of the richness, beauty, and power of creation into the category of the merely natural. The argument from design is thus weakened, not strengthened.

My second concern springs from the nature of scientific exploration and our present level of scientific understanding . . . Science can identify areas of inquiry in which no demonstrated cause-and-effect explanations presently exist, but that is all. To establish that a given process or event has, in principle, no possible causal explanation would require essentially complete understanding of all relevant factors and historical contingencies. Such knowledge has not been even remotely obtained in any field of scientific inquiry, nor is it likely in any foreseeable future. The danger in using presently inexplicable aspects of creation as evidence of intelligent design or direct divine action, is that future discoveries have the potential to fill those gaps and undermine the foundation of sand upon which the case for divine action was built.  

"Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design" by Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett provides a lighthearted but insightful argument for viewing evolution as part of God's creation.

William Grassie, founder and executive director of the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science, explains "The Problem with Intelligent Design."

Michael C. Dorf, Michael I. Sovern Professor of Law at Columbia University, explains "Why It's Unconstitutional to Teach 'Intelligent Design' in the Public Schools, as an Alternative to Evolution."

Philosopher of science Michael Ruse also explains why we should "Keep Intelligent Design Out of Science Classes."

Historian of science Richard Aulie provides a helpful "Readers Guide to Of Pandas and People", an intelligent design textbook.

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