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Archive for Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ottawa University planning class on intelligent design

December 24, 2005

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— A class next semester at Ottawa University will examine intelligent design in the wake of the State Board of Education's adoption of public school science standards that critics say promote the concept.

The class, "Intelligent Design: Neither Science Nor Theology," will be taught by Richard Menninger, a religion professor, and Henry Tillinghast, a biology professor.

The course represents another effort by educators in Kansas to deal with intelligent design, which says an unspecified intelligent cause is the best way to explain some orderly and complex features of the natural world.

Located in Ottawa, the university has about 500 students and is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA. It announced the class Thursday.

The two professors teaching the class side with the science community in saying intelligent design shouldn't be considered science. But Menninger said he also wasn't willing to put it in religion or theology classes, where some scientists say it belongs.

"We're not convinced it falls into either category," he said.

The state's new science standards treat evolution as a flawed theory. Supporters say the standards don't promote intelligent design, and they include a disclaimer to that effect.

But critics note that statements in the standards about evolution come directly from intelligent design advocates' arguments.

Universities' response became an issue last month, when Paul Mirecki, a professor and head of the religious studies department at Kansas University, proposed a spring course he originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies."

Later, when Internet messages written by Mirecki mocking Christian fundamentalists and religious figures became public, the class was canceled. Mirecki later stepped down as department chairman and has reported being the victim of a roadside beating because of the controversy.

Last year, Kansas State University established a Center for the Understanding of Origins, and it began an undergraduate class this fall. The center's goals include bringing scientists and philosophers together and giving students a better understanding of how science works.

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