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Teaching Jewish Kids About Intelligent Design

In this week's Jewcy feature, How to Raise an Ideological Warrior, Neal Pollack worries that opponents of evolutionary theory will corrupt his son's education. If Neal's nightmare comes to pass, it'll be in large part due to the efforts of The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that promotes the theory of Intelligent Design (ID). ID holds that the diversity of life on earth is "best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection," and it includes among its backers President Bush, parents and school board members across America, and a growing list of dissident academics.

We've asked David Klinghoffer, a Jewcy contributor and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, to tell us "What would the Discovery Institute like to teach Jewish-American children about Intelligent Design?" Here is David's answer:

No thoughtful, feeling person would find it palatable to live a life without meaning. For many Americans, meaning is obtained primarily through religious faith. For others, through family, career, or politics. For lots of people in the Jewish community, but not only there, life’s meaning is supplied by fear.

Some fear the so-called Islamofascist threat. Many liberal Jews, however, are terrified by the scientific critique of Darwinian evolutionary theory.

My stake in the matter? I work at the Discovery Institute here in Seattle, which almost single-handedly put the issue Darwin v. Design before the public. For the record, I’m a fellow in DI’s program on Religion, Liberty & Public Life, which is not focused on evolutionary or other scientific questions. What exactly would the Discovery Institute like to teach Jewish-American children about intelligent design?

Paranoia has been running high. The Anti-Defamation League calls ID a “challenge to religious freedom in America.” The group warns that, “Many who believe in intelligent design want to teach this idea as science — either alongside the scientific theory of evolution or in place of it.”

Outside the more fevered precincts of the Jewish community, a few of the Republican presidential candidates would not oppose teaching both sides of the Darwin controversy to public school students. Hillary Clinton affirmed her own faith: “I believe in evolution, and I am shocked at some of the things that people in public life have been saying….I am grateful that I have the ability to look at dinosaur bones and draw my own conclusions.”

Setting aside the question of how Senator Clinton could draw a scientific conclusion from gazing at dinosaur bones, one notes her implication that Republicans sympathetic to ID pose a “shocking” threat to her freedom to “draw her own conclusions” about life’s origins.

There are so many misunderstandings here.

ID theory represents an inference from scientific facts, facts agreed to by all scientists, like the nanotechnology in the living cell and the information-rich software of DNA. This is not Bible-based creationism. No Darwin critic that I know differs from established scientific conclusions about the age of the earth or of the universe since the moment of the Big Bang. The issue dividing Darwin advocates and Design theorists is a question of the interpretation of universally accepted data for the purpose of describing events in the distant past.

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