I just didn't feel like including this with my original post on the subject since it's not really a 'West Wing' issue, although it was a central part of last nights episode (which of course Jimmy Smits character managed to solve without taking into account any of the actual reasons behind the debate). I'm talking about the whole Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate.
I personally don't care whether or not ID is ever taught in schools, but not being a parent, my 'vote' on the matter really doesn't count. My interest on this topic is more having to do with the debate itself than the actual subject.
Like I said, I don't care if ID is ever taught in school, but I do happen to disagree with most of the arguments made to prevent it from being taught.
The first being that since it is not a true scientific theory it should not be taught along side evolution. Of all the reasons not to allow ID in schools, this one is by far the strongest. While it's true that ID may not be considered a true scientific theory, Evolution, along with many other 'theories' are so poorly taught in schools these days that few students leaving the classes understand what the word theory means. Just try going on to any discussion board on the subject and you will find that to most people fighting on the Evolution Only side see the Theory of Evolution as close to fact as you can get. Critical thinking, which is suppose to be the main product of the education system, seems to be totally absent. This is what generally happens when only one alternative is offered up to explain something, not that we should be creating just random theories to add variety, but there should be more stressing of the fact that theories are only temporary placeholders and can evolve (pardon the pun) with time or be totally replaced with a better one at a later date. It is just this type of indoctrination that many parents are looking to avoid, and while they may truly agree with ID, they also see it as a useful tool to show that no 'theory' is the end all be all of the argument.
The second, is that ID violates the first amendments 'Separation of Church and State'. Now if one person can actually show me where this 'Separation" is stated in the US Constitution I may have to side with the Evolution Only crowd, as ID definitely has some major religious underpinnings, but as it doesn't I'll just have to go with the actual phrasing "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...". Now as education is the purview of the individual States, and the teaching of ID does not specifically favour one particular religion, I can't actually see where the US Constitution actually comes into all this. Even if a community, or for that matter an entire State, decided to adopt a specific religion as the official religion of the area, that would still not, in any way, violate the first amendment. The first amendment only prevents the Federal Government from creating an official religion (just think the Anglicans and England). So in effect, unless there is a Federal move to include ID in schools, the first amendment doesn't even enter the picture as a legal reason to exclude it.
Finally, there is the theory itself. ID essentially claims that all existence is the product of some higher power (the definition of higher power is pretty much left open). People who object to this notion of a higher power maintain that existence happened by chance. They contend that this uncertainty, and lack of a true unified model make ID unteachable. That is definitely true to some degree, but no one said you had to spend days teaching ID. In many, if not most cases, the people fighting for ID in the schools just want it mentioned as an alternative, or possibly supplementary explanation to evolution. Should the fact that it calls for the existence of a higher power, or deity, simply exclude it from being discussed as an alternative. Just look a the Big Bang theory. While we have some pretty conclusive evidence that the universe at some point had a shared starting point, can anyone answer exactly where this material came from? There are a lot of theories, but none that can clearly explain how this super condensed material came to be. If the basis for almost all our astronomical knowledge can have such an open ended question, is it not almost required that we allow students to question the possible sources of this material, even if it should include the possibility of a deity.
Without time travel or access to your own personal 'Q', we will probably never know for sure, while we're alive anyway, which answer is true, and by the time you could know the answer, it is either too late or you don't care (being dead can do that to you) but as I said earlier, the main product of the education system is meant to be people capable of critical thinking, not some parrots of useless fact and figures. As long as it helps students consider the possibilities I'm all for the teaching of ID, or some alternative, in schools, but if the courses were being taught the way I would like to see them done it would be almost redundant. Locking kids into one way of thinking, while possibly making the things appear more harmonious, does nothing to advance the knowledge base.