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a journal of analysis and comment advancing public understanding of religion and education
(more on the Journal)

Fall 2006
Vol. 33 No. 3

Problems in the Philosophical Bases of Intelligent Design

Robert E. Money, Jr.

Within the United States, proponents of “intelligent design” are seeking to challenge evolutionary theory’s standing as a basic scientific truth. The immediate goal of this most recent challenge to evolutionary theory is the same as the goal of previous challenges:  to change the educational curriculum that is presented to American high school students in ways that weaken the rational credentials of evolutionary theory. On the surface, this is a matter of public educational policy. Yet, upon reflection, it is clear to any thoughtful person that the “intelligent design – evolution controversy” implicates a host of important philosophical issues, including issues about the nature of religious belief, the nature of scientific belief, and the nature of the relation between religion and science. Awareness that the controversy implicates these deeper philosophical issues allows one to understand better not only some of the motivations driving proponents of intelligent design, but their argumentative strategy as well. And this understanding, in turn, provides one with more effective tools for resistance.

      Within our democratic form of self-governance, public educational policies, even those that implicate deep and important philosophical issues, are decisions that ultimately must be authorized by one’s fellow citizens. I assume that this collective authorization should proceed on the basis of careful deliberation and an informed understanding of the basic issues. In this essay, I seek to address in a general way and without the use of technical philosophical jargon some of the deeper philosophical issues implicated by the intelligent design – evolution controversy. My audience is my fellow citizen. My aim is to convince my fellow citizen that enacting educational policies that mandate or permit the discussion of intelligent design within our high school science curriculum is tantamount to failing to take seriously our responsibility to educate the next generation.

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