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Should Intelligent Design Be Taught in Public Schools?

George W. Bush ignited a fire storm of controversy last month when he responded to a reporter’s question. Even though he never mentioned intelligent design, many in the media presumed that he endorsed teaching both evolution and intelligent design (ID) in public schools. We’re often asked a similar question at outreach events and during radio interviews: Should ID be taught in public school?

As it currently stands, we believe ID should not be taught in biology class. This is not to say we think there’s a lack of evidence in the record of nature for the work of an Intelligent Designer. Far from it! The scientific support for a Creator’s direct involvement in bringing the universe and life into existence is overwhelming. So too are the problems for biological evolution. We agree with the ID community: the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory should be discussed in public school.

However, at this juncture, ID isn’t formulated as a scientific theory. Technically, the design inference isn’t a scientific construct. Leaders in the “ID movement” (Michael Behe, Bill Dembski, Jay Richards, Guillermo Gonzalez, and Steve Meyer, to name a few) have done excellent work developing methods and approaches to detect intelligent causation in nature. Phil Johnson, Paul Nelson, and Jonathan Wells have identified and critiqued the materialistic underpinnings of modern-day science, highlighting serious problems facing biological evolution. We applaud and support these efforts. But ID hasn’t yet matured to the point of being a scientific theory.

To date, ID has not developed an origins model with scientifically testable assertions and falsifiable predictions. No ID theory accounts for the history of the universe and of life. There are no ID predictions about what scientists should discover when they examine the record of nature. Without a testable model, ID cannot guide future scientific investigation. Model-building and model-refining activities are the hallmark features of science.

This need for a scientific theory is one reason RTB has been working to develop a testable creation model–a scientific theory of creation–derived from the biblical text and recast in the form of scientific propositions. Pieces of the RTB creation model appear in The Creator and the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Origins of Life, and Who Was Adam? This creation model makes specific predictions of what scientists working in cosmology, origin-of-life research, and anthropology should discover predictions already fulfilled by the latest data. We continue to work on expanding the model to include specific predictions about life’s history and to add more detail to those parts of the model currently in place.

We have publicly presented the RTB model to faculty and students at major universities. After our presentation, we invite a panel of scientists, typically those with expertise in cosmology, physics, and biology, to critique and discuss our model. We have yet to encounter any substantive scientific objections, only philosophical and theological protests. Respondents claim that ID isn’t science, but their comments lose credibility once we’ve presented a list of detailed scientific predictions all with potential to falsify or verify our model.

We are encouraged at how these and other peer-review sessions have gone and are planning more such forums. The RTB creation model can only benefit from exposure to the scientific community. Our approach prompts skeptics to consider the truth claims of the Christian faith. We hope it will continue to transform the scientific enterprise. Our approach may someday serve as the framework to allow theistic considerations to influence the cutting-edge of scientific research. It may even provide the entrée for consideration of biblical creation in science education.

All this will take time. When it does happen, we hope that the President of the United States will advocate teaching all scientific theories supported by facts. Only those researchers­­-including advocates of biblical creation models-who produce working, successfully-predictive models should be granted public support and encouraged to further develop and promulgate their theories.