Teaching intelligent design in biology classrooms


William Jessup University in Rocklin, CA is a Christian evangelical institution that has as its mission to “prepare Christians for leadership and service in church and society, through Christian higher education, spiritual formation, and directed experiences”, so you can see that it is a religious institution through and through. What surprised me is that up until now it did not teach any of the sciences at all, an astounding exclusion for a university these days.

Apparently the university has decided to dip their toes into scientific waters and is introducing a biology course and this of course poses an immediate problem of godless heathens claiming that biological evolution is a process without any role for divine intervention. This will clearly not do, so apparently they have decided to include discussions of so-called intelligent design (ID) in the course as an alternative view.

A story on this was written up by Ed Fletcher of the Sacramento Bee and has been picked by newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald. The reporter interviewed me for my reactions to this decision and gives some quotes. (As is often the case with media reports, you speak to the reporter for about half an hour or more and what appears is a couple of sentences from you. This is to be expected. The best you can hope for is that the choices the reporter makes are appropriate and in this case I was satisfied.)

Casey Luskin, research coordinator at the Discovery Institute that is behind the whole ID movement, is pleased by this decision.

Luskin applauded what he called William Jessup’s progressive approach to teaching biology. “I think it’s great that they are going to teach students about the prevailing scientific view,” Luskin said. “It’s also great that they will expose their students to other theories.”

But what will be interesting to see is not the reaction from the scientific community (who will hardly be surprised that the curriculum of a private religious college is suffused with religion) but from hardline creationists, who disagree with ID because of its acceptance of an old Earth, the general idea of evolution, and that humans were part of that same process. They may actually see this as a betrayal by the college and may well point to the college’s Statement of Faith that says “We believe that the Holy Bible is completely God breathed, true in all its teaching, and the final authority for all matters of faith and practice” and ask how it can be made compatible with science.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … hardline creationists, who disagree with ID because of its acceptance of an old Earth…

    Last I heard, the ID faction was carefully avoiding age-of-the-earth questions, for the political sake of building a big tent in which all anti-evolutionists could cohabit.

    Isn’t that how all Real Science™ works?

  2. Compuholic says

    Ok, class: Today we are going to explore an alternative approach to explain the diversity of life on this planet. It is called ‘intelligent design’.

    Are you ready? Let’s go.

    Goddidit

    There, done. Class dismissed.

  3. d cwilson says

    Scratch an ID proponent and nine times out of ten, you’ll find a YE creationist. That much was made apparent by the Dover School Board. ID is the tip of the wedge to bring full-blown creationism into schools. It’s a complete fraud. Well, all creationism is a fraud, but ID is a fraud even to the people who claim to believe it. Even the white knight of ID, Michael Behe, couldn’t come up with a scientific rationale for ID beyond “Goddidit”.

    But ID is not just a fraud, it’s lazy thinking. The argument for “irreducible complexity” is “Well gee, I can’t think of a way this could have evolved in stages, therefore, Goddidit!” The message to students is this: Don’t bother examining this any closer. Don’t try to think of a testable hypothesis that could explain how this works. Don’t explore. Don’t ask questions. Don’t think. Just accept the god of the gaps as the explanation for anything we don’t understand today.

    Thinking like that could bring centuries of scientific advance to a screeching halt.

  4. Matt G says

    Casey Luskin, research coordinator??? Thanks for a good laugh, Mano!

    d cwilson- you are spot on.

  5. DumbDrunkAndRacist says

    They may actually see this as a betrayal by the college and may well point to the college’s Statement of Faith that says “We believe that the Holy Bible is completely God breathed, true in all its teaching, and the final authority for all matters of faith and practice” and ask how it can be made compatible with science.

    This is not a betrayal according to their Statement of Faith as the Bible only deals with matters of “faith and practice”. Not science,politics, economics, art, social welfare, medicine, technology, logistics ….etc.

    Ah, if only they (the religious) believed that.

  6. lanir says

    …from hardline creationists, who disagree with ID…

    Pfft. Real young earth creationists cruise cadillacs through the drive through of their local Kentucky Fried Lizard Parts and assume the reason they haven’t seen any t-rexes or allosauruses on their commute that day is because they’re all hiding from the creationist’s shotgun and cowboy duds.

    Wait, let me correct that. It’s wrong. They probably don’t know what an allosaurus is either.

  7. Thorne says

    More like: “We’re going to start this course with a discussion of all the scientific theories which conflict with evolution.” “All right, then, no on to the science.”

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