KU withdraws intelligent design course

A controversial class on intelligent design at Kansas University has been dropped from the spring schedule, the university announced Thursday.

Paul Mirecki, chair of KU’s religious studies department, withdrew the class, “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design and Creationism,” after controversy erupted over e-mails he had written disparaging Catholics and religious conservatives.

“My concern is that students with a serious interest in this important subject matter would not be well served by the learning environment my e-mails and the public distribution of them have created. It would not be fair to the students,” Mirecki wrote in a prepared statement.

“It was not my intent when I wrote the e-mails, but I understand now that these words have offended many on this campus and beyond, and for that I take full responsibility. I made a mistake in not leading by example, in this student organization e-mail forum, the importance of discussing differing viewpoints in a civil and respectful manner.”

Provost David Shulenberger added: “I granted Professor Mirecki’s request and agree with his recognition that his actions had created an untenable situation. We still think the course itself not only has merit but is important and should be taught at some point.

“While the e-mails were unquestionably offensive, I know that Professor Mirecki regrets the situation he created. He has taught biblical studies and other religious studies courses here for 16 years and has an international reputation for his research. I hope this serious scholar will continue his work.”

The State Board of Education’s conservative majority last month successfully pushed changes in the state’s public schools science standards that critique evolution – with intelligent design at the heart of those standards. Mirecki’s course was inspired by that decision.