Science friction: God’s defenders target 3000 schools
By Linda Doherty and Deborah Smith
November 14, 2005
Up to 3000 schools have been targeted in a DVD blitz aimed at challenging Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in favour of an “intelligent designer”.
The right to teach intelligent design in science classes is being tested in US courts and a fiery debate has erupted in Australia that has pitted scientists against advocates for the “alternative theory” to evolution.
Proponents of intelligent design say some forms of life are so complex they can be explained only by the action of an unspecified “intelligent designer”, who some say is God.
A commonly cited example of this complex life is the flagellum, a natural “outboard motor” that propels a bacterium along. The argument is that it could not have been produced by the incremental steps of evolution, because it would not function if it was missing any of its parts.
The Minister for Education, Carmel Tebbutt, said intelligent design “can’t be taught as part of the NSW school science curriculum” because it was not scientific or based on evidence.
More than 100 schools are already teaching intelligent design as science, alongside the mandatory curriculum requirement to study evolution. These schools include Christian community, Seventh Day Adventist, and a small number of Anglican schools.
Many more may follow once the $21.95 DVD Unlocking the Mystery of Life: Intelligent Design is sent free to every school by Campus Crusade for Christ.
The DVD promises to reveal “the unmistakeable hallmarks of design – and the Creator’s skill – within our very cells”.
Campus Crusade for Christ’s national director, Bill Hodgson, said the DVD would be sent to all 3000 public and private schools by the end of the year. “We’re making available to schools a copy of the DVD as a resource,” he said. “There is no prescription on what people do with it.” Schools that refused to “re-examine the basis of evolution” were engaging in “reactionary censorship”.
The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O’Halloran, said the unsolicited DVD was a religious marketing exercise and “should be rejected” by schools.
In a landmark court case a public high school in southern Pennsylvania is fighting for the right to teach intelligent design as “an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view”.
Sue Serjeantson, the executive secretary of the Australian Academy of Science, said the teaching of intelligent design in science classes was of grave concern. “It’s creationism by another name.”
Mr Hodgson said it had “nothing to do with creationism”, but there was widespread confusion even in religious circles. However, John Hammond, national director of Adventist Schools Australia, said: “We’ve always taught it but not necessarily under that title Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ creationism would have been the term used 20 years ago.”