March 1, 2007


The American Psychological Association has just put out a press release today describing a policy that the group has adopted that opposes the teaching of intelligent design as a SCIENTIFIC THEORY.

"WASHINGTON, DC—The Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) has adopted a resolution opposing the teaching of intelligent design as scientific theory and stating that teaching intelligent design as science undermines the quality of both science education and science literacy. The APA Council released the following statement after adopting the resolution:

'While we are respectful of religion and individuals’ right to their own religious beliefs, we also recognize that science and religion are separate and distinct. For a theory to be taught as science it must be testable, supported by empirical evidence and subject to disconfirmation. Thus, intelligent design lacks a basis in science.'

In adopting the resolution, APA reaffirmed its 1982 Resolution on Creationism which stated that “creationism does not conform to the criteria of science.” In adopting the current resolution, APA joins a number of other science and education organizations that have taken similar positions including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and the National Association of Biology Teachers."

This is great news!

Now they did not say that ID could not be taught as a religious theory. But parading it in a science classroom as if it was of the same caliber as that of genuine empirical observations is really just nonsense. Why waste the students' time with this when schools have trouble just teaching the basics? Teaching students an idea, which is based upon no empirical evidence, as a generally accepted scientific theory will severely hold these students back when they decide to go to college. Not only will they be lacking in biological knowledge, but they really won't know what science is. There's already too much to keep up with in college, why hinder the learning process by trying to relearn biology and reconstruct your concept of what scientific standards are at the same time?

I think this is the big issue here. Science is not just about curiosity and creativity. Those are definitely major components, but science is also based upon rigorous logic, experimentation, replication and peer review (all four being rigorous, not just the logic part). These criteria are here for a reason. We can't just say something is a scientific theory because it makes us feel better. Science is about being able to make predictable generalizations about how the world works. That's why it's useful. If your theory can't predict anything about the world around us, well then it's worthless. Saying that we were designed (because you can't find a good, natural explanation for how we came about) is not useful, not to mention intellectually lazy. It doesn't predict anything. How is this type of explanation going to be a driving force for medical science? It's not.

Now besides holding the principles of science up to the highest degree of integrity, there is also another reason why this APA policy adoption is a good idea. And that is because the knowledge of evolution through natural selection intersects a variety of scientific disciplines. For example, it is important for the discipline of psychology. And I'm not just talking about whether one accepts contemporary evolutionary psychology or not. But to be an intellectually honest psychologist, one must accept that our brains and minds, as well as our bodies, have evolved by the process of natural selection. This has numerous implications for psychology as a discipline. For instance, evolution is important for the study of developmental psychology. Developmental psychologists study the stages by which humans develop across the lifespan. We don't just pop out with the ability to speak and think abstractly. All this comes in stages. I mean, if we want to know how a human being develops and interacts with his/her environment, we at the very least should understand the concept of inheritance. We should be comfortable with the idea that genes have a certain influence on our behavior.

Another example that helps illustrate how evolution is the crux of psychology is the development of psychoactive medications. Most, if not all, the drugs we use (for mental and physiological illnesses) have been developed under animal models. Animal models of behavior are ubiquitous in neuroscience, pharmacy, cognitive psychology, you name it. There would be no reason to use these animal models if it weren't for the idea of evolution through natural selection. Why should we expect medicines developed through these models to work?

Oh well . . . needless to say, I'm pretty happy about the press release. The only question I have is why did it take so long?

The complete APA resolution can be found here.

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