Although I have no expertness in evaluating the plausibility of scientific claims, my appraisals are nevertheless worth stating, both because almost anyone trying to figure out what is true overall must engage a field in which he is not expert and because many educational officials and virtually all judges who must discern if educational decisions are constitutional will lack special scientific competence. (p 101)No matter how much we might wish otherwise, because of our constitutional framework and the patchwork system of US education that emphasizes the political role of state and local school boards, critical decisions about what constitutes valid educational goals are necessarily in the hands of people with little or no expertise in either education or the particular subjects to be taught. (Science education would be well served if all school board members, administrators and judges had anywhere near Greenawalt's grasp of the issues involved in the evolution/creationism dispute. If his notes are any guide, he has read widely in the literature of both sides. Besides referencing such well-known philosophers of science as Hume, Popper, Lakatos, and Kuhn, he discusses the works of philosophers particularly interested in the evolution/creationism debate, including Philip Kitcher's Abusing Science, Larry Laudan's "Science at the bar: Causes for concern" and Robert Pennock's Tower of Babel and Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics. Among scientists, he is familiar with Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God and numerous works by Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Niles Eldredge, and others. Nor does he neglect the creation science and ID side, citing works by Henry Morris, Jonathan Wells, Phillip Johnson, Alvin Plantinga, William Dembski, and Michael Behe.) Greenawalt admits that "it may seem that I give more credence to critics of dominant evolutionary theory than would the overwhelming majority of practicing scientists" (p 89), but goes on to point out that the primary issue in the law is not the scientific validity of the critique but whether including it in public education transgresses constitutional boundaries.
Modern science seeks to discover natural explanations for physical events. We cannot be certain that natural explanations will always suffice, but physics, chemistry, and biology have made amazing advances by assuming that they will. If we had powerful evidence that science could not conceivably explain some phenomena, this evidence of limits could be one small part of science courses; some people believe such evidence exists about evolutionary processes, but the uncertainties there are matched by those in other areas of science. In any event, it is too soon to conclude that any difficulties with evolutionary theory, even if they exist, cannot be rectified by scientific explanation. (p 114)Coming to the nitty-gritty, Greenawalt has no great difficulty identifying "creation science" as a religious program. "[W]hat makes the theory religious is that religious premises explain why the practitioners reach the conclusions they do" and no attempt to edit out scriptural references and to substitute "abrupt appearance" for "divine creation" can disguise that (p 116).
The dominant neo-Darwinian account has enough conundrums for text writers, science teachers, and boards of education to conclude that teachers could usefully discuss them and, further, suggest that whether the dominant theory, and particularly the pre-eminent place it accords natural selection, may require substantial revision or supplementation is an open question. I do not claim that scientific evidence supports this qualified presentation of neo-Darwinism better than an unqualified account, only that the choice is within the range of constitutionally permissible judgment — something judges have to assess by the balance of scientific opinion and their own sense of the strength of arguments. (p 124)However, Greenawalt immediately goes on to say:
Were educators to go further and insist that intelligent design is probably a needed supplement to natural selection and other aspects of neo-Darwinism, or that intelligent design is the alternative to unvarnished neo-Darwinian theory, they would step over the constitutional line, because such judgments could now be made only on religious grounds. (p 124That the proponents of ID may have taken Greenawalt's positions to heart in recent days should now be clear. In the case of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school district's attempt to present ID, the local school board — at least following the court challenge — has denied that it will curtail the teaching of evolution in any way and presents ID merely as one possible alternative to evolutionary theory (see RNCSE 2004 Sep/Oct; 24 : 4–9).
I have proposed a middle course somewhere between what evolutionists insist is the only sound scientific approach and what proponents of Genesis creation and intelligent design seek. This counsel of moderation may have little appeal for opposing camps who standardly accuse one another of dogmatism and dishonesty. (p 125)The problem is that he has left us with no way to tell what his "middle course" might look like in practice.