This week Discovery Institute launched Discovering Intelligent Design (DID), which is a comprehensive curriculum that presents the scientific evidence for intelligent design to both young people and adults. When I previewed the product recently, I immediately recognized its great worth. Although it will be very useful in educational (and personal use) settings beyond home schools, I predict that it will be the hottest selling science product among home school educators over the next few years. My son (who graduates from high school in two weeks) has experienced public, Christian, and home school education. DID is well suited for the last two of those environments. See the Table of Contents here.
DID is the first full curriculum to present the scientific evidence for intelligent design in both cosmology and biology in a broadly accessible format. The curriculum includes a textbook, a workbook, and a DVD with multimedia video clips that are integrated into the readings. Developed by home school educators Gary and Hallie Kemper, and Discovery Institute research coordinator (scientist-attorney) Casey Luskin, DID uniquely fills a specific niche in science education materials. As a science educator at the college level for over twenty years, I can assure you that the scientific content of this material is of the highest quality, and yet it communicates well to pre-college students.
Although DID is a textbook, it reads like a book that will captivate a wide range of ages, from middle-schoolers to adults. Thus, it will be useful for personal use and in many educational and church environments. When used as science curriculum, DID is not intended to replace standard subject science texts. Rather, it can supplement them by presenting information not available in many standard textbooks. While DID is strictly scientific in its content, it is not recommended for use in public schools. This is Discovery Institute's explanation of why:
As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively. [read more about the recommend public policy here].
One of the best supplemental biology textbooks suited for public high schools and colleges is Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism. It focuses only on biology and evolution, and does not cover cosmology or intelligent design. Although there are numerous other high quality books available on intelligent design, DID is the only strictly scientific textbook that comprehensively introduces both the cosmological and biological evidence for intelligent design for middle schoolers to adults.
DID is well coordinated with a companion DVD to provide an integrated multimedia learning experience. The book prompts you when it is time to watch specific DVD segments, which have been drawn from four highly regarded documentaries: Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet, Darwin's Dilemma, and Icons of Evolution.
Each chapter begins with a thought-provoking question to introduce the material. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions that spark reflection and further investigation. Instructors or discussion group leaders may use these questions to encourage critical thinking. A separate workbook offers review questions, vocabulary questions, essay questions, and inquiry activities.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of this new textbook published by Discovery Institute Press.
A number of theories have been proposed to explain a materialistic origin of the universe.
Some materialists have claimed that the universe created itself. As Stephen Hawking argues, "Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." But for anything to create itself, it would have to exist before it was created. Most people would agree this is logically absurd. Oxford mathematician John Lennox observes that Hawking confuses physical laws -- which merely describe how the universe works -- with ultimate explanations:
The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics... Similarly, the laws of physics could never have actually built the universe. Some agency must have been involved. What options are left for materialists? Since they are unwilling to accept intelligent design as a first cause, materialists hold that ultimately the universe came into being by chance for no reason at all.
Betting on Chance
Oxford University scientist and author Peter Atkins parodies the book of Genesis with a summary of the materialistic view:
In the beginning there was nothing. Absolute void, not merely empty space. There was no space; nor was there time, for this was before time. The universe was without form and void. By chance there was a fluctuation... Atkins goes on to argue that this random, theoretical, primordial fluctuation spawned a chain of events that caused everything else -- the chance universe.
While Atkins is correct that before the universe there was nothing, not even space or time, his argument does not account for the very beginning of everything. He says, "By chance there was a fluctuation." But if absolutely nothing existed, some questions arise.
- What was it that fluctuated?
- Why was there an environment that allowed for such "fluctuations"?
- What caused that non-existent something to fluctuate?
For many years, materialists have been attempting to answer such questions without much success. Is "chance" an appropriate final explanation in science?
When a person says that something happened "by chance," there may seem to be an implication that chance actually caused the event. But "chance" is not the true cause.
For example, we often think of a coin toss before a football game as an example of "chance." When a referee flips the coin, there are a number of factors that will cause it to come down heads or tails, such as the weighting of the coin, the placement of the coin in his hand, the amount of applied force, wind, and gravity.
Because many of these factors are difficult to predict or control beforehand, we attribute the outcome to "chance." But "chance" is not really the cause at all. That term is an expression of probability and is used simply to predict and describe events. It is not a causal agent.
Yet Atkins attributes the origin of the universe to chance. In this context, chance is not an explanation. It is the absence of an explanation.