Should We Endorse the Intelligent Design of Publicly Financed Science Education?

Andrew Coulson has been taking a lot of heat for his recent posts (see here,
here, and here) at Cato@Liberty opposing the ideas promoted by many that there should be a science curriculum imposed by the federal government on all public schools that teaches evolution as the only scientific theory of human
origins.

Coulson agrees (as do I) that evolution is the best explanation available for human origins. Where he differs from his critics is that he also recognizes political problems with the central imposition of controversial curriculum on all public schools. As he argues, it’s “Illiberal, undemocratic, divisive, ineffective, and counter-productive.”

I’m very sympathetic to complaints of those who argue that public money shouldn’t be spent teaching anything but the best science in science classes. If they’d like, I can give them a really long list of other things I’m pained to see public money spent on.

But, the question, for me, is not: “What’s the best science?” The question, for me, is: “What’s the best mechanism for people to learn things?” Is it likely to be the result of a centrally-planned political process, or a free, distributed, process that allows for competition and, yes, evolution? As my post-title suggests, it’s ironic that those who want to promote evolution seem to underestimate the power of diverse and competing processes to produce results better than anyone could have planned; and they seem to think the only way to get the right result is to make sure it’s designed by experts.

Another irony is that these people seem to have a religious faith in the virtue of government officials to always use their power to do what’s best, rather than what is politically expedient. If they think that the scientific evidence supports this position, then their epistemology is no better than that of the people they ridicule.

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