President Bush on Monday said schools should teach both evolution and “intelligent design,” siding with conservative Christians involved in controversies over science textbooks in school districts across the nation.
Responding to a question in a wide-ranging interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to state his personal views on intelligent design, which argues that the complexity of life cannot be explained by naturalistic evolution, thus implying a creator.
But the president, who as governor of Texas said students should be exposed to both evolution and creationism—which also debunks evolution but sticks closer to the Bible—said he favors the same approach to intelligent design, “so people can understand what the debate is about,” according to Knight Ridder Newspapers.
“I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,” Bush said. “You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.”
A moderate Baptist ethicist said the president appears confused “about the differences between scientific theory and statements of religious faith.”
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said Bush “would do well to understand that the Genesis stories are about who and why, not how and when.”
“The state always gets in trouble when it legitimizes the Genesis accounts as the science of how and when,” Parham said.
“The president is certainly confused about competing theories of creationism and intelligent design within fundamentalist Christianity,” Parham said. “Creationism claims the Bible teaches a literal seven-day creation. Intelligent design winks that it has no religious basis for its theory, except a designer, a code word for God, who fashioned creation over an extended period of time.”
Bush’s answer put him on the side of religious conservatives in the so-called culture war against liberals over issues like gay marriage, “activist” judges and public displays of the Ten Commandments.
For example, the Kansas Board of Education recently drafted new standards for teaching science, incorporating language favored by advocates of intelligent design.
Pennsylvania is considering a law that would allow local school boards to mandate that science lessons include intelligent design.
In January a federal judge ordered that several thousand stickers stating that evolution is a theory and not a fact be removed from science textbooks in Cobb County, Georgia.
The BCE’s Parham criticized Bush for offering “a bogus argument that creation or intelligent design should be taught in order to expose children to all ideas.”
“Hopefully, he knows better,” Parham said. “All ideas are not of equal value. Neither creationism nor intelligent design is on equal par with the theory of evolution. Alchemy is not on equal par with chemistry. Astrology is not on equal par with astronomy. Numerology is not on equal par with mathematics.
“Surely, Bush’s pastor or science advisers can brief him on these issues and keep him from taking us back to the days before Darwin.”
Opponents to intelligent design, including the National Academy of Sciences, say it is a pseudo-science and an attempt to inject religion into public schools.
Defenders, like the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, deny intelligent design is a religion or just another form of creation science and claim support is growing within the scientific community.
One of the movement’s leading thinkers, William Dembski, recently left Baylor University to become the Carl F.H. Henry Professor of Science and Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky, where he directs the new Center for Science and Theology.
Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, contends that some features of the natural world are best explained as products of an intelligent cause rather than a series of random events, as postulated by Charles Darwin.
At a conference in April he said intelligent design is controversial because it divides secularists from people with a Christian worldview.
“These issues of intelligent design and creation really cut to the heart of worldviews, what we are about, how we’re putting life together and what’s ultimately meaningful, what morality is based on,” Dembski said, quoted in Baptist Press.
Theology Dean Russell Moore described last year’s announcement that Dembski was coming to Southern Seminary as “an historic event in Southern Seminary’s long heritage of equipping Christians to engage the culture with a Christian worldview.”
Seminary President Al Mohler said in his report at the Southern Baptist Convention in June that Dembski’s appointment is part of the seminary’s efforts to “stand for absolute truth in the face of moral relativism,” according to Baptist Press.
Appearing last December on MSNBC, Mohler said the theory of evolution has become an intellectual pacifier for the secular left.
“It (evolution) is just the religion in which there is no God,” Mohler said on “Scarborough Country,” and quoted by Baptist Press. “Or as others would say there is nothing left for God to do. It is an inherently anti-Christian religion, but it is a religion and that’s why they are holding to their dogma so tenaciously. That’s why they are so scared to death and paranoid, insecure, about the rise of intelligent design. It scares them to death.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.