This letter by Julia Delegal was published today under the heading, “Evolution: Respect boundaries of religion.”
During college, I used to chuckle that Jacksonville was still debating whether the public schools should teach evolution. That was 20 years ago. Now our state senator, Steve Wise, wants intelligent design taught as an "alternative" to evolution in my children's schools. I am no longer chuckling. Instead, I want to scream. I'm no atheist; I'm a believer. My understanding of evolutionary principles in no way threatens my faith in God. Rather, I marvel that a series of events as extraordinary as human evolution could have been orchestrated by a Creator who works through all contingencies. The choice about whether to believe in God, in light of evolutionary science or in spite of it, however, is irrelevant to the question of whether intelligent design is a scientific theory. It is not. It is a belief built on faith-based assumptions - not on empirically proven phenomena that are explainable via theory. A George W. Bush-appointed federal judge, who decided the 2005 Kitzmiller case, agrees: intelligent design "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist and thus religious, antecedents." Our Deist forefathers descended from those who fled religious tyranny. They knew that investing religious groups with governmental power would interfere with the freedom of individuals to pursue their own spiritual quests. Wise received hate mail in reaction to a related bill that failed last year. Those letter writers should ask themselves if they would appreciate their own children being proselytized by someone of a religion different from their own. They should treat others as they wish to be treated. On this issue, the First Amendment to the Constitution demands no less. Denying or denigrating science in the name of religion won't inoculate children from atheism. But insisting, disingenuously, that religion is science risks driving them to a wholesale rejection of faith. Conjuring "alternatives" to evolutionary theory is not God's work; it's political fodder. Winning the hearts and minds of our young people necessitates that we honor their minds, especially if we believe those minds to be God-given. I challenge local religious leaders to demand that Wise withdraw the intelligent design bill, and get on with this year's real work: funding education.My reaction to liberal religion is always mixed. In this case, I'm happy to see support for the teaching of evolution and sad to see an unwillingness to abandon faith after it's been rendered meaningless. It strikes me as very odd to “marvel that a series of events as extraordinary as human evolution could have been orchestrated by a Creator” when that series of events resulted in the extinction of more than ninety-nine percent of all species and a very imperfect design for our own bodies. And I certainly don't want to “inoculate” children from atheism or discourage a “wholesale rejection of faith”! Nevertheless, if fundamentalist believers adopted this author's viewpoint, science education and society as a whole would no doubt improve.