“Government-sponsored religion should be taught in all public schools.” It’s an edict you expect from an ayatollah of Iran – the kind of top-down, force-fed religion from which Americans traditionally recoil.

This time, however, the edict came from the president of the United States. Which makes it all the more shocking, and all the more repulsive.

Bush has already racked up more vacation days than Ronald Reagan did in eight years – and he still has three and half years to go! That distinguishes him as not only the worst, but also the laziest, president in our lifetime. Yet his latest pronouncement makes you wish he spent even more time clearing brush and less time wrecking public policy.

Before leaving for another five weeks on his Texas ranchette, Bush told a clutch of Texas reporters that he believes the so-called theory of “intelligent design” should be taught in public school science classes, right up there alongside evolution. Demonstrating what little intelligence he has himself, Bush said: “I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought.”

No, Mr. President. What education is all about is teaching students the facts, and teaching them the truth. It is not about confusing fact with fiction. Nor is it about mixing science with religion. And make no mistake about it, the bogus doctrine called “intelligent design” has nothing to do with science. It is nothing but poorly disguised religion.

According to intelligent designer backers, certain higher forms of life – like cell structure, molecular design or the human eye – are too complex for us to understand. They couldn’t have just evolved that way. They must have been set in motion ahead of time by some intelligent designer: namely, God (unless you believe in space aliens).

This is, first of all, a ridiculous theory. There are a lot of things we don’t understand. I don’t know how my TIVO works, but that doesn’t mean God made it. Besides, throughout history, our understanding and knowledge have grown with the advance of science – which is one good reason for not derailing science by replacing or confusing it with fairy tales.

Intelligent design is simply junk science, or what someone has called “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” It’s the latest attempt by the American Taliban to force religion into our public schools. They can’t do so directly, because the Supreme Court, in 1987, rejected a Louisiana law requiring the teaching of creationism, in addition to evolution, as a violation of the wall of separation between church and state. So religious zealots have repackaged creationism and given it a fancy new name. Any doubt about what they’re really up to was resolved by of Dover (Pa.) school board member William Buckingham, arguing for forcing intelligent design into local schools. “Two thousand years ago, someone died on a cross,” he told the board. “Can’t someone take a stand for him?” Well, yes, but not in science class.

The main argument made by intelligent design proponents is that evolution is still not 100 percent proven. Which is ridiculous. Maybe we haven’t yet discovered physical evidence linking every single step in the growth from slime to slug to sloth to sleuth. But there is zero physical evidence for intelligent design. It’s just a zany theory. Period. I’ll take 98 percent over zero any day.

And that’s no put-down of religion. We are a God-loving people. Of course, kids should be taught religion: to believe in God and to read the Bible as a manifestation of God’s power and love. But religion should be taught at home and in church. Because not all Americans believe in the same God, or in any God at all, the teaching of religion does not belong in the public classroom.

Not only that, forcing public schools to water down science is the last thing this country needs right now. We’re already struggling to keep up with advanced scientific standards of other countries. We already have to import scientists because we’re not producing enough. Mixing science with religion will be bad for students, bad for schools, and put America even further behind in the race for scientific achievement.

Before he starts spouting off about educational philosophy, President Bush should go back to learning his ABC’s. Religion is not science. Public school is not Sunday school. America is not Iran.


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