“Intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial. ~CNN

Let me say straightaway that the judge’s ruling here was ludicrous. This is not because ID has scientific merit (it does not–it is not natural science), but because this is yet another example of the mystical “wall of separation” being invoked to drive religion out of schools. It is doubtful that biology class is the best place to discuss theology (which is the realm in which ID properly belongs), but if the school board in Dover wanted to have a theology class I would be the first to champion the right of public schools to instruct their students in theology. It is a matter of Western cultural education and literacy, even if it were nothing more than that.

The sad thing is that ID theorists have handed the secularists an incredibly easy target and allowed them to score a quick victory to establish yet another anti-religious precedent. It should not be the business of the judiciary to declare what is taught or not taught in biology classrooms one way or another. It is not in accordance with the Constitution to claim that any aspect of religion being taught in school constitutes “establishment” or that the federal First Amendment would have anything to say about local school districts establishing religion in their classrooms if there were, in fact, an “establishment” of religion.

Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. ~Statement of Dover Area School Board

Theory. This is a much-maligned, often poorly-used word. It is odd that theory should have become something of a dirty word in the vocabulary of religious Americans in the context of discussing evolution, since theory is an admirable term taken from the Greek for vision and contemplation and has connected traditions of philosophical and theological contemplation. In scientific language theory has a more specific meaning, where it refers to a general explanation that has been substantiated by evidence or a statement about patterns in nature that has been demonstrated to be reliably true through repeated processes of verification. To say that there are “inexplicable gaps” in the original theory (which, it should be noted, ID theorists do not reject entirely) would be like saying that there are “inexplicable gaps” in Newtonian physics because it does not or cannot account for things (such as the movement of subatomic particles) that it did not try to account for. That theories are constantly revised does not make theoretical knowledge less certain or less reliable than the “factual”–there is, or should be, the awareness that no theory ever has the final word, but that it is the best word available to us to date. Indeed, without theoretical frameworks to structure it, factual “knowledge” is often just a jumble of unrelated information. What ID proposes to do is to say, “The theory of evolution has not, as of yet, accounted for all of the complexities of biological phenomena, and therefore we declare it simply insufficient and propose to fill in the ‘gaps’ with a non-empirical, non-scientific explanation.”

I do feel a twinge of pain each time I hear a well-meaning critic of the theory of evolution say something as silly as, “It’s a theory, not a fact!” There are two problems with this: one is the bizarre deprecation of the ability to account for diverse phenomena according to general principles (men do not live by abstractions, but surely abstract thought in and of itself is an aid to understanding), which is as desirable in philosophy as it is in science, and the other is the misguided worship of the factual. Fact as modern men mean it is not Truth, and is very often the enemy of Truth. The common phrase “cold, hard facts” suggests something of why this is so–a fact is something dead, limited and, so to speak, impermeable, so that it admits of no participation, no life-giving quality, no inspiration. (Thus I also cringe a little when I read C.S. Lewis speak of the Incarnation as the Myth becoming the Fact.)

I do not have Prof. Lukacs’ Historical Consciousness handy as I write this, but his discussion of the modern emergence of Fact as the criterion of truth, or rather of accuracy, is a very important one, and in it he explains the problems with the preoccupation with facts far better than I would be able to do. Suffice it to say that I think it is fair to say that a philosophically-minded person would probably desire theoretical, scientific knowledge over sensory evidence, Doxa and Fact.

Darwin did not account for everything when he developed his theory, and over a century later scientists have not accounted for everything (nor would we expect the highly complex systems in the natural world to yield itself completely to our inquiry so quickly), but they have also not found much of anything (as I understand) to reject his basic formulation even if they have found any number of problems with some of his speciifc claims. The scientific method does not require any one man to create an exhaustive systematic synthesis that explains all things without any “gaps.” It is not a much of a real criticism of any scientific theory to say that it does not take account of everything, that it is “gaps,” or else we would ultimately have to belittle every theory that does not rise to the level of Unified Field Theory.

Science requires men to continue testing and revising theories as they find new evidence until a better, more comprehensive explanation can be offered. When ID theorists can seriously offer that explanation, then we can try to get them into science classes, but to do this they would have to begin doing science. Fundamentally, ID is not a better explanation, but an assertion that is supposed to fill the “gaps”: if no other explanation for some highly complex development is apparent, credit the Designer.

It is precisely because genuine science is not dogmatic, in which Darwinian theory is some sort of creed to be confessed, that dogmatic materialist scientists who use evolution as their cudgel to beat Christianity are bad scientists–they have already erroneously reached their final conclusions about God, the universe and everything, even when proper science admits no absolutely final conclusions.