Teaching Natural Science III:
What Amounts to Teaching Religion?
Thus far, we have concentrated on what counts as science or belongs in a science course. We now approach our topic from the perspective that matters for constitutional law: what counts as teaching religion? We shall focus first on the responsibilities of educators, saving judicial enforcement of the Establishment Clause for the last section.
Teaching creationism in its full-blown, Genesis version is teaching religion, even if the material is taught as creation science, Scripture is not mentioned, and terms like abrupt appearance are substituted for divine creation. The difficulty is not that the theory has implications for some religious propositions, it is the absence of any real scientific basis for the theory. One could believe in the theory only for religious reasons. Creation science is not genuine science because neither its theses nor the techniques of its practitioners are genuinely scientific, and its conclusions conflict with the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence;1 what makes the theory religious is that religious premises explain why the practitioners reach the conclusions they do.2
The status of intelligent design is less easily fixed. If the theory accepts most features of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, including natural selection as an explanation for many evolutionary changes, it does not conflict sharply with what scientists can comfortably assert. My present state of understanding is that a scientist looking at the scientific evidence could reasonably doubt the power of natural selection to explain as much as is often claimed for it, and might suppose that constraints of order, as yet unexplained, are a plausible basis for some changes that