Saturday, August 30, 2008

On Palin, Intelligent Design and Trade Barriers

I used a creationist example in one of my previous posts. It led some friends to ask me what I think about Palin's defense of teaching intelligent design alongside evolution. Here are my two cents.

There are two different issues here. One is freedom; the other is knowledge (rings a bell?). For me freedom and its protection are absolutes. I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of learning, and freedom of thought. Therefore, I don't criticize Palin's statement based on the principles of freedom. For example, the statement could be interpreted as being against the imposition of the values of the majority on a minority.

However, I criticize Palin's statement based on the principles of knowledge. Intelligent design isn't science, so sensible people should choose to keep it out of science curricula.

In an ideal society, decisions about evolution and intelligent design would work at the individual level. Freedom of choice should outweigh any other issue. The free market of ideas works, there's no need for government control of thought. Unfortunately, we have a system where there's yet too much government interference in education. In this case, the best policy would be to deregulate education and allow for more freedom of choice and thought. The second best policy would be to incentivize the teaching of evolution and discourage (not forbid) the teaching of intelligent design in government regulated science classrooms. No need for any policy regarding private or home schooling.

So I strongly disagree with Palin's stand on intelligent design based on knowledge.

The discussion brings me back however to my previous post. As Dr. McCoy would say, "Dammit Jim, I'm an economist not an evolutionary biologist! I think intelligent design is bad science, but defending trade barriers and subsidies is much worse science, in particular because it has real, immediate and significant effects on the welfare of humanity. I don't care about what you think of Darwin's beard or the Bose-Einstein condensates as long as you can cure my bellyache. In policy making, good economics trumps good evolutionary biology anytime.

Additionally, the media loves stories about the teaching of intelligent design in science classes, but what about all the economic obscurantism that permeates classrooms in this country at all levels and the media itself? In most other countries it's even worse. When it comes to good economics, the majority of the population has not yet got to terms with Adam Smith -- and he preceded Darwin. Pseudo-scientific economic statements are unfortunately the norm in classrooms and in the media.

Besides that, I'd like to see economists that support Obama openly criticizing him for perpetuating bad economics (more here) the same way I'm criticizing Palin for perpetuating bad biology and for suspending the gas tax in Alaska. Unfortunately those economists are hard to find, by itself is a phenomenon that deserves further investigation.


teambldr said...

"Intelligent Design isn't science"

On the contrary, Intelligent Design is specifically science:

"Intelligent design is the science that studies signs of intelligence. Note that a sign is not the thing a scientific research program, intelligent design investigagtes the effects of intelligence and the intelligence as such... what makes Intelligent Design so controversial is that it purposrts to find signs of intelligence in biological systems." Dembksi, THE DESIGN REVOLUTION p 33.

What is amusing and "not science" is the convoluted logic that advocates of the theory of evolution must go through to discard the possibility of design.

Why not let these competing ideas compete, just as any other competing ideas are allowed to compete? Particularly since there is not one shred proof of either theory?

Scott said...

Soo, creationist parents' children in one classroom and evolution parents' children in the other? These ideas should not be allowed to compete, it would put an unhealthy divide between kids, and bring religion into the school.

Not one shred of proof of evolution? Apparently you graduated before Edwards v. Aguillard.