March 22, 2004

Right Coast's Tom Smith ID'd Me Wrong

Tom Smith of the Right Coast recently called me (without using my name) an "Intelligent Design" scientist. First, I'm not a scientist. I'm a philosopher with a graduate degree in law. (See here). Second, I'm not a defender of ID, though I think the ID arguments are serious and ought to treated as such. The purpose of my work in this area--including my book Law, Darwinism, and Public Education-- is to explore a question of constitutional jurisprudence. It is not a treatise on science, and in fact, I say as much in the book's introductory chapter. (Some of my law review articles on the subject can be found here). And, as I have told many people on numerous occasions (including one blogging UT professor in at least one private email, and yet he continues to mischaracterize my work), I do not hold, and have never held, the view that ID should be taught in public schools. In fact, in several recent interviews (including in a recent talk at Texas Tech Law School) I have maintained it is not a good idea to teach ID in public schools at the present time because its publication record, in the biological sciences, is thin. (A couple of years ago I took no position either way on the matter, but in June 2002 I began rethinking the question in light of what I learned about the paucity of ID-friendly work in the biological sciences). However, one could conceivably include some ID-type material in the sections of a textbook that deal with philosophy and history of science (which they do sometimes address), and here I am thinking of M. Rea, A. Plantinga, and R. Koons type arguments. But whether such a move is sound pedagogy is a question outside of my interests and areas of specialty. Nevertheless, I don't think there's anything unconstitutional with including such material, and I also think there are good secular reasons that a government body could employ to justify it. This is why I was invited to offer my comments at the Texas state board of education hearings in Austin in July 2003. I declined to offer comments in the September 2003 hearings because the minutia of textbook content, and secondary school pedagogy, are outside my orbit of competence.

Update: Kudos to Tom Smith for linking to this. Thanks Tom.

Posted by Francis Beckwith at March 22, 2004 12:09 PM