What does “university-level course” mean?

The Discovery Institute is touting something called a “university-level course” by Michael Behe. I have no idea what that means. A real university course is part of a curriculum, a program of study that leads to a degree; there is supposed to be an integrated body of knowledge behind it and surrounding it. We also emphasize lab work in the sciences, so there’s a mix of lecture and hands-on research. We also tend to rank the level of a course by how many prerequisites are required — you don’t get to take my development course unless you’ve also taken cell biology first, or you’d be wasting everyone’s time.

So what is this “course” Behe is offering? It’s 41 video episodes. No prerequisites. They don’t say if you get college credit for taking it, but I can safely say the answer is “Hell No.” They’re using “university-level” as a meaningless adjective. It’s not offered through any accredited university, it’s just YouTube for creationists.

In these videos, Behe discusses the history of thought on evolution and intelligent design, and then delves into the science behind natural selection, random mutation, and irreducible complexity. He covers criticisms of ID as well as relevant new discoveries.

The lectures are accompanied by quizzes to help track your progress, perfect for everyone from high school students up through college professors! Don’t miss it.

The course is a $50 value. But you can get it free by pre-ordering Darwin Devolves.

Oh, it has quizzes. Is Michael Behe going to grade them? You know, we don’t just test students for the heck of it — it’s to assess how they’re doing, how the material is being received, whether we’ve got good comprehension. I’ve often looked at test results and said, “Uh-oh, they didn’t get concept X…I better go over that again, try a new approach, get them to engage these ideas”. Will Behe be interacting with his “students” at all?

No, of course not. I wish people would learn that there’s more to teaching than just marching through a series of presentations.

I also like how they claim it is a $50 value. How did they determine that? Are they even aware that that would be a ridiculously low price for what they’d like to pretend is equivalent to a 3-credit full semester course (3 class hours a week for 15 weeks…of course, we don’t even know how long each of these videos are)? And then it turns out it’s not $50, it’s completely free when you buy a book.

That tells me it’s worth $0, which is a fair price for the value.

I shouldn’t be surprised. They’ve been pretending to be scientists for years, now they’re pretending to be educators…and are equally incompetent at both.


  1. Sean Boyd says

    Why wouldn’t I be surprised to discover this “university-level” course would count for graduate-level credit at Bob Jones or Liberty? (Probably because I’m a cynic.)

  2. KG says

    What does “university-level course” mean?

    It means “Nothing whatsoever like a university course.”

  3. chrislawson says

    Yeah, I also think $0 is too much to pay. If this were a classic economics study, I would be asking one group of actual university biology students how much they would be willing to pay to have this “course” introduced to the curriculum. I would then ask another group “if this was a mandatory activity, how much would you pay to have it waived?” I expect we’d find the value of the course is way into the negative dollars.

  4. cag says

    What does “university-level course” mean?

    It obviously means that any “university” that taught such a course would have to be levelled, obliterated, vaporized and go the way of trump U.

  5. Larry says

    It would be my guess that this doctor-recommended, scientifically formulated course could be considered best in class and that by taking this turn key series of videos, you’ll cover the low hanging fruit resulting in an outstanding ROI. Besides, it’s new and improved! And totally risk free! Act now! You’ll save up to $50 and more!

  6. stevewatson says

    This sounds like online courses I’ve taken — watch a couple of dozen videos, answer a multiple-choice test every so often, turn down the offer to pay actual $$ to receive an Official Diploma. It was interesting, I learned some stuff, but it’s nowhere near the level of the “university-level” courses that I have taken from an actual, you know, university. As in: the latter have more lecture hours, and the same or more again in challenging readings, and the requirement to write some thousands of words demonstrating that I assimilated and maybe improved upon the material presented.

  7. nomdeplume says

    Behe seems deserving of contempt – he should know better than this, he does know better than this. Like Georgia on AiG who apparently has a reputable degree in genetics and yet week after week spouts creationist rubbish that she must know is bullshit. I can feel sorry for ignorant fools like Ham and Hovind and Comfort who simply know nothing and fill their ignorance with b9ble nonsense, but I can’t for people who have been exposed to scientific inowledge and thinking but deliberately reject it in favour of bronze age mythology.

  8. lofgren says

    As a layperson, I would generally assume “university level” refers to rigor expected from students and the depth of the material. After taking a “university level” course in physics, for example, I would expect that I should be approximately equally conversant in the topic afterwards as any freshman who has also taken a physics course accessible to them through their school.

  9. says

    I think KG at 5 has the best answer.

    When an advertiser uses a noun that looks appealing, and it’s modified by an adjective or suffix that means “similar to X” or wants to say “just as good as X,” that’s a way of saying “not X,” or “wants to be X.”

    Yum! CHOCOLATE-y flavor! GOLD-colored furnishing! Rich, VELVET-like cloth! (To quote Martin Mull, “Wheat flavored, vitamin-shaped” cereal.)

    Thus, of course, UNIVERSITY-level courses! Because this learning institution that we’ve constructed from straw and old oil drums is just as good as your fancy-shmancy college, and looks damn near IDENTICAL to it when you’re flying over our isolated island at 3,000 feet.