And it's more than worth it for us, after expressing our debt to minds like Ayala's, to note a significant disagreement. We think it's utterly silly to avoid discussion of "intelligent design" or "creationism" in the science classroom, as if doing so would protect students from time lost learning science or somehow degrade both science and religion.
Of course, this is really all about the public high school classroom in the United States, a point to be kept in mind as it constrains what can be done on any front, thanks to the developmental readiness of teenagers to think critically.
But here, in bullet-point nutshells, is why we think Ayala is wrong on this:
- Students are thinking about these issues whether we talk about them or not, if "thinking" is the right term to use for mid-adolescents.
- Integration across disciplines ought to be the aim of all learning at all levels and is expected, it seems, except on this one matter (we're sure politics gets discussed whenever ecological matters are in the syllabus).
- It's unhelpful to compare discussion of intelligent design in the science classroom to discussion of alchemy in the chemistry classroom, inasmuch as there's a serious question at the heart of intelligent design thinking that ought to be addressed. But hey, a chemistry student ought to know something about approaches akin to chemistry that aren't scientific, right? Every science class we know that's worthy of the designation discusses the history of the discipline and so discusses the pre- and para-scientific approaches that are at least tangential to the science.
- Ultimately, the issues of science and religion are not pre- or para-scientific but, to use Plantinga's helpful term, meta-scientific. That is, they are the questions of meaning that a thoughtful human asks after doing the science, like Who am I? Where did I come from? and What does it all mean anyway? No one is helped by avoiding such discussions simply because they are by definition unscientific.