Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at Indiana University has released a new White Paper: Intelligent Design, Science Education, and Public Reason [link is to pdf file].
One point of interests is the White Paper’s presentation of a Rawlsian argument against teaching Intelligent Design in public schools, which most people would find more congenial to Rawls than the “Rawlsian” argument for including ID, which has been discussed in an earlier post on this blog.
The 50-page White Paper presents a well-reasoned and strongly argued case in defense of “putting limits on extra-scientific speech,” at least in science classrooms. I am glad to see this argued in terms of how we should understand the purposes of public education, rather than just what is or is not permitted by the Establishment Clause.
As well as the White Paper makes its case, however, I’m afraid it misses the main problem. Large numbers who support inclusion of ID do so on the basis of believing that ID is scientific speech. They are people who find credible the arguments of those like Casey Luskin who could take the logic of the White Paper and present it as an argument for inclusion of ID. The authors extol the virtues of making and being open to public arguments on non-doctrinaire grounds, subject to the evidence. That’s exactly what ID proponents say that they are doing. Analysis that presupposes this not to be the case, rather than addressing those who believe this is the case with ID, does not clarify the central problem for those who do not already understand.
A well-done section on the idea of “teaching the controversy,” the White Paper reasonably suggests that there could be a proper place for looking at this real social controversy somewhere in the curriculum, provided it be clear that this is not a scientific controversy. While that certainly is reasonable, I question whether anyone is prepared to do a responsible job of dealing with this controversy elsewhere in the curriculum, without opening the door to the kind of teaching that apparently was going on in Lebec; for this reason, I have been concerned about this suggested resolution as I have seen it being expressed in Michigan.