Monday, September 26, 2005

The Legality of Teaching Intelligent Design

Francis Beckwith of Right Reason has begun a debate with Douglas Laycock over at Legal Affairs Debate Club. Their topic: "Is Teaching Intelligent Design Illegal?" Laycock, in his reply to Beckwith's opening salvo, says
[i]t is entirely lawful for public school teachers to say we know much less about a natural explanation for the origins of life than about a natural explanation for the evolution of different species once life begins. But it would be an important additional step, sounding more in religion than in science, for the teacher to say that therefore, an intelligent designer must have created the first living things.
I understand the First Amendment's proscription of the establishment of religion. But I cannot for the life of me understand why it should be illegal for a public-school teacher to suggest that an intelligent designer might have created the first living things. Neither evolutionary theory nor any other branch of science can disprove the existence of an intelligent designer (or God, for that matter).

A fundamental illegality occurs when a public-school teacher is barred by law from teaching about a possible explanation for the existence of life. As it also says in the First Amendment: "Congress [and, by extension, all governmental bodies] . . . shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. . . ." It seems to me that a general proscription by any legislative body or court of the teaching of intelligent design as a possibility would be in violation of the First Amendment.