This is the kind of nonsense that makes my blood boil.
Someone, "A.J. from Vienna, Virginia", has initiated a petition to place a federal ban on teaching intelligent design or creationism in public schools. Apparently this is in response to the "teach the controversy" movement promoted by the Discovery Institute, which several states have adopted.
As of this afternoon, the petition has 34,600 signatures. They need 100,000 by July 15th for President Obama to address the issue.
From the petition, “[Creationism and intelligent design] have no basis in scientific fact,” the petition claims, “and have absolutely zero evidence pointing towards these conjectures. These types of loopholes in our education are partially to blame for our dangerously low student performances in math and science. Therefore, we petition the Obama Adminstration [sic] to ban the teachings of these conjectures that contradict evolution.”
This is nonsense on many levels. First, how can this person claim that there is zero evidence of design? We are here functioning, aren't we, along with millions of other species? We live on a planet which seems to be perfectly designed for life, isn't it? And don't we live in a universe with fundamental forces and constants which appear to be fine tuned for life and for discovery? Furthermore, the best explanation for the existence of genetic information is design. All of creation points to a designer.
There are "facts" which support common descent evolution and design. The big question is which origins theory best explains the universe we live in. The debate is largely about philosophy, not the facts. It is about how we define science, which is a question of philosophy. Many in academia are defining science as the study of natural causes and effects. This is practical for medicine and engineering but very limiting and inadequate regarding our origins. That is the rub.
What happened in the past cannot be proven conclusively. You look at the data, you make assumptions and choose a theory which best explains the evidence. What is "best" is subjective, based on philosophical preferences. The problem with this ban is that they are essentially banning a philosophical position. I ask, is this, or is this not a free country?
The claim about design and/or creation beliefs affecting our national math and science performance is also ludicrous. Math and science can be learned and applied regardless of your stance on questions of origin. Many engineers, doctors and researchers, including me, accept design origins theory, and it doesn't affect their performance in the least. We know that natural laws do a great job explaining most current phenomena, and we accept that and apply those laws accordingly.
If anything, restricting which origins theories are taught in schools will discourage many prospective scientists from engaging in the field. Now a campus minister, I hear students tell me they are uncertain they want to continue in science because the professors are so dogmatic and persistent about common descent evolution. Apparently some go on and on about it with no particular purpose but indoctrination. Objectors are shamed and silenced, which is a real problem that the "teach the controversy" movement is meant to remedy.
Another issue here is states rights. Can ideas and philosophies be banned at a federal level? I don't think so. If they can, something is seriously wrong here.