Thursday, 8 October 2009

Intelligent design and art education

In the United States a most peculiar discussion goes on about Darwin's evolution theory versus Intelligent Design. I find strange sentences in blogs like "open the discussion to students, have them present evidence and deliberate on the validity of that evidence." Those are quirky ideas for a science teacher! I can do my work properly as a teacher of art if and only if my colleague of the science department thinks scientifically. How am I to introduce the fuzzy methods of the artist to my students when they fail to see a difference with scientific method?

My students show the beauty of life on earth in their work. Art does not offer any explanation. The elephant is as beautiful whether it has been created by God instantaneously or considered to be a random product of a meaningless process over millions of years. By the way, I prefer the latter description.

To my opinion it is the task of the science teacher to inculcate in his students the method of scientific thought. A scientist does not seek to prove his hypothesis, conversely he seeks deliberately tests to falsify it. The hypothesis holds only as long as it has not been falsified. A scientist knows he never can prove a hypothesis as his tests never will cover all possible circumstances and conditions. There is not such a thing as "evidence" for a scientific theory. Any idea that can't be tested does not belong to the realm of science. If some one can come up with a test to falsify the idea of a teleological direction in de development of life on earth then intelligent design can become a scientific hypothesis. It is an interesting thought and as such it could be introduced in the science room. It would be a nice task for students: "if you really want to study intelligent design you must come up with a test to falsify this idea." It would baffle them because the religious believer is characterized by cringing from testing his belief.

Another aspect of scientific method is that a complicated hypothesis must give way to an easier, less complicated description. Darwin's hypothesis is leaner than the idea of intelligent design. His ideas do not need intelligence to describe the development of life. Darwin's theory can be tested any moment that we discover forms of life, whether fossilized, in the laboratory or in nature. So far no discovery has falsified Darwin's ideas.

The science teacher should tell his students that he is not a believer. He doesn't believe in Darwin. He only sticks at Darwin for the time being. He will jettison the theory immediately when something falsifies the idea, or when a more elegant theory might pop up.

Only if the the science teacher shows off his clear and logical method will my students appreciate the weird ways of art. God forbid them using the artist's methods in the science lab.