Kansas University's provost today issued a statement saying that it was "appropriate" for KU to offer a course on intelligent design in its religious studies - rather than science - classes.
David Shulenberger, provost and executive vice chancellor, issued the statement in response to story in the Journal-World and other publications about the class, which will be called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies."
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"It is unfortunate that the course title's reference to 'mythologies' has been misconstrued. The terms 'myth' and 'mythology' are common in the academic study of religion and not an affront. A myth refers to the common use of stories or rituals to symbolize in a meaningful manner the core beliefs of a religion; it does not refer to any religion as a whole," Shulenburger wrote.
The course will be taught by Paul Mirecki, chairman of KU's religious studies department, who said that intelligent design is an "American mythology."
The course has angered some intelligent design advocates, including John Calvert, an attorney and managing director of the Intelligent Design Network, based in Johnson County. Calvert and other supporters of intelligent design were advocates of changing the science standards used in Kansas public schools so that they will challenge and criticize evolution.
The following is the full statement issued by Shulenberger this afternoon:
"Teaching about controversial topics is a role all universities play, and the current debate over intelligent design certainly qualifies. We would be remiss to ignore it. We believe it is especially appropriate that intelligent design and creationism be treated as academic subjects in a religion class. This class will study intelligent design and creationism along with other explanations of human origins that come from various religions and belief systems.
"At KU, we instruct our teachers to create a classroom environment that encourages intellectual inquiry and civil discussion that helps students master the subject matter. This religious studies course will be held up to the same standard. All views will be respected and rights to freedom of expression will be fully observed. This university welcomes students of all religious faiths and prides itself on maintaining a climate of openness and tolerance.
"It is unfortunate that the course title's reference to 'mythologies' has been misconstrued. The terms 'myth' and 'mythology' are common in the academic study of religion and not an affront. A myth refers to the common use of stories or rituals to symbolize in a meaningful manner the core beliefs of a religion; it does not refer to any religion as a whole.
"Religious studies, a department at KU since 1907, examines the forms in which religious experience has been described, organized and practiced in history and in varying cultures. The courses are designed to give students the appropriate methods for the objective study of religion. The topics and titles of courses in religious studies are not intended to promote or debunk any particular beliefs but instead encourage students to explore religion and its place in the world.
"Professor Paul Mirecki joined the KU faculty in 1989 and is presently chair of religious studies. He has a doctor of theology degree from Harvard University and is an expert in ancient Mediterranean cultures, languages and religions; and ancient Greek and Coptic manuscripts. He found an ancient manuscript in 1991 in Berlin's vast Egyptian Museum and verified it as an authentic early account of the teachings of Christ. The manuscript offered 'lost gospel' containing conversations between Christ and his disciples written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language that uses Greek letters."