KU class angers ‘design’ advocates
Course would be taught as religion, not as science
Creationism and intelligent design are slated to be the subjects of a Kansas University class next semester – but as mythology, not science.
“The KU faculty has had enough,” said Paul Mirecki, chairman of KU’s religious studies department. He said he planned to teach “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies” next semester.
Mirecki’s plans angered some of the state’s religious conservatives, who earlier this month successfully pushed changes in state science standards that critique evolution. And one intelligent design proponent questioned Mirecki’s science credentials.
“I would predict that (Mirecki’s) effort will go down in history as one of the laughingstocks of the century,” said John Calvert, an attorney and managing director of the Intelligent Design Network in Johnson County.
Mirecki said the course would be capped at 120 students, exploring intelligent design as a modern American mythology. Intelligent design is the idea that life is too complex to have evolved without a “designer,” presumably a god or other supernatural being.
The course also will cover the origins of creationism, why it’s an American phenomenon, and why Americans have allowed it to pervade politics and education, Mirecki said. He said several KU faculty have volunteered to be guest lecturers.
“Creationism is mythology,” Mirecki said. “Intelligent design is mythology. It’s not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not.”
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said Monday he didn’t have all the details on the course, and couldn’t speak substantively about it. He said academics did not shy away from a course simply because it was controversial.
“If it’s a course that’s being offered in a serious and intellectually honest way, those are the kind of courses a university frequently offers,” he said.
But intelligent design proponents say the class is meant to demean them.
“To equate intelligent design to mythology is really an absurdity, and it’s just another example of labeling anybody who proposes (intelligent design) to be simply a religious nut,” Calvert said. “That’s the reason for this little charade.”
Calvert questioned Mirecki’s expertise, saying the teaching of intelligent design requires an extensive understanding of evolution and science.
“I think the guy is going to fall all over himself,” Calvert said. “I would love to go to his class and say, ‘Explain to me how DNA arose in the primordial soup?'”
John Altevogt, a conservative columnist and activist in Kansas City, said the situation was the equivalent of David Duke teaching about race relations or Fred Phelps teaching about homosexuality.
“These guys should not be teaching classes in religion, because they’re both bigots,” Altevogt said of Mirecki and a fellow faculty member who could not be reached for comment Monday.
Calvert said efforts by educators to demean intelligent design proponents can be effective.
“My voice is a very, very small voice in the woods,” he said. “My voice is rarely heard because we’re in the minority. A strategy that seeks to demean can be very, very effective to them.”
Mirecki said intelligent design proponents liked to view themselves as the victims, but that’s not the case.
“The educational system of Kansas is under attack,” Mirecki said. “All they are is oppressors. They’re not martyrs and victims … I’m expecting insecure, threatened people to start being more and more vocal. They don’t want their beliefs to be analyzed rationally. That’s what this class is devised to do.”