Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

Summer 6-11-2004

Abstract

Intelligent design (ID) proponents assert that the cause of the origin of complex biological systems is best explained by the agency of an unembodied intelligent designer who abiotically infuses information into physical systems. As state and local boards of education review science standards for curricula in the biological sciences, they are confronted with the claim that intelligent design is a fully scientific theory that ought to be taught as an alternative to evolutionary theory to students in public school science classrooms. This dissertation encourages public school policymakers, especially school board members, to approach the claims of intelligent design proponents from a deliberative democratic political perspective. A deliberative perspective weighs the claims of citizens against the political principles of reciprocity, publicity, accountability, basic liberty and basic opportunity to assure that public policies are justifiable to all who are bound by them. I argue that once the scientific claims and religious content of intelligent design are assessed from a deliberative political perspective, it is clear that intelligent design is a religious theory that should not be included in public school science curricula as an alternative to evolutionary theory. Teaching intelligent design as a scientific alternative to evolutionary theory would violate the basic liberty of students by constraining their present and future religious or anti-religious beliefs. It would also violate the basic opportunity of students to receive an adequate education in science. I conclude that the virtue of mutual respect promoted by a deliberative perspective requires public school policymakers to develop public school policies that respect the deep moral and religious convictions of intelligent design proponents. Intelligent design can justifiably be taught in courses that teach about religion and in civics courses which examine the central role religious convictions have in the political decisions of many citizens. Teaching about intelligent design in these courses may help resolve and reduce future disagreements among citizens over the teaching of evolutionary theory in science classes.

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