Much ado has been made about the word "theory." But when scientists say that evolution or relativity are theories, the word theory doesn't necessarily imply the caveat of "wild conjecture" or "the current guess about something we know nothing about." There are areas where scientific exploration is new and the observations and experiments required to confirm or disprove the theory are currently impossible. (A good example is String Theory.) But evolution is definitely not in this category.
I suppose if we choose to do so, we can simply set up two systems of learning: one scientific and one pre-scientific--although the systems actually go together like oil and water. In this sense, I found the following comic particularly poignant.
Among Creationists (and those on the right in general), one frequent mode of attack is to mount a fierce battle against an old discredited theory when a field of science was in its infancy. Thus we have the spectacle of the blog Teleological attacking Lamarck as one of the two pillars of evolutionary science! This blogger needs to stop using their grandpa's biology textbook. Sell it on eBay--it's a collector's item! I'm sure that somewhere in Darwin's notebooks, he forgot to dot an "i" or something and science (not to mention religion) is not always perfect. But this is hardly reason to conflate the two approaches to knowledge. Science isn't another faith; nor is religion a "science." As Ken Wilber points out, science and religion have their proper spheres of knowledge and authority and there's no need to confuse the two.
A recent WaPo article (via Stranger Fruit) puts the debate in perspective:
Of course the president is right that, in the context of a philosophical debate, it would be appropriate to discuss both sides of an issue before arriving at a conclusion. In the context of a religious discussion, it would also be very interesting to ponder whether the human race exists on Earth for a purpose or merely by accident. But the proponents of intelligent design are not content with participating in a philosophical or religious debate. They want their theory to be accepted as science and to be taught in ninth-grade biology classes, alongside the theory of evolution. For that, there is no basis whatsoever: The nature of the “evidence” for the theory of evolution is so overwhelming, and so powerful, that it informs all of modern biology. To pretend that the existence of evolution is somehow still an open question, or that it is one of several equally valid theories, is to misunderstand the intellectual and scientific history of the past century.
I think devout followers of all religions need to accept that scientists will never again scurry to Rome to ask the Pope (or some fundamentalist minister) to provide their writings with an imprimatur. The marriage of our scientific and religious modes of knowing will only come after a long courtship in which the two come to know each other and determine proper spheres of authority. A good starting point is to simply admit that something's amiss, the times are a'changing, and we might have to struggle spiritually and intellectually to attain a higher synthesis. I think this following excerpt, from a post by Magic Seeker, exemplifies this attitude:
Either you believe that God designed the universe or you don't. Well, it really is a lot more complicated than that. I am having a major battle in my mind about this. I, from the bottom of my heart believe in a higher power. I feel God like I feel happiness, sadness or love. Those things are real to me, so God is real to me.
On the other hand, I am a firm subscriber to the scientific method. As imperfect as it is, it is the best tool we have for understanding the universe and progressing human achievement for the betterment of mankind.
So, how does one rectify these seemingly opposing views? This goes back to my search for real magic. I am hoping science will prove the existence of God just by doing their thing. I am thinking that this will never happen and I will be doomed to reading endless arguments back and forth.
The scientists do have an advantage. They are not trying to do anything but understand the universe while the ID folks have specific idea they have to prove.