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Dworkin on "intelligent design"


In the opening section of his recent essay "Three Questions for America" (published in the September 21, 2006, issue of The New York Review of Books), the eminent legal scholar Ronald Dworkin answers the question "Should alternatives to evolution be taught in schools?" with a decisive no. He writes:

If we are to protect dignity by protecting people's responsibility for their own personal values, then we must build our compulsory education and our collective endorsements of truth around the distinction between faith and reason. We need a defensible conception of science not only for the intensely practical reason that we must prepare our children and youth to advance knowledge and to compete in the world's economy but also in order to protect the personal responsibility of our citizens each for his own religious faith. We need an account of science, in our public philosophy of government, that does not make its authority depend on commitment to any set of religious or ethical values. So Senator Frist made a serious mistake when he said that describing intelligent design only as a scientific alternative to evolution doesn't "force any particular theory on anyone." In fact it damages young students, practically and politically, by using the state's authority to force on them a false and disabling view of what science is.
Ronald Dworkin is Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University and Jeremy Bentham Professor of Law and Philosophy at University College London. "Three Questions for America" is based on his new book, Is Democracy Possible Here?, published by Princeton University Press.