Archive for Wednesday, November 23, 2005

KU official responds to course critics

Provost tries to put class in context; conservatives threaten to attack funding for higher education

November 23, 2005


A Kansas University official tried Tuesday to calm critics of a new religion class that labels intelligent design as "mythology," but conservatives said they might take aim at the university's funding.

"It is unfortunate that the course title's reference to 'mythologies' has been misconstrued," Provost David Shulenburger said in a written statement released Tuesday afternoon. "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."

But some conservatives, such as Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, were unmoved.

"Why poke a stick in somebody's eye if you don't have to?" she said. "If you're going to have an intelligent design course and call it mythology, I think in the very least it's a slap in the face to every Judeo-Christian religion that's out there."

And John Altevogt, a conservative columnist and activist in Kansas City, said Tuesday that state officials should require the university to change the name of the Department of Religious Studies to the "Department of Religious Intolerance."

"If we can't do that," Altevogt said, "maybe we settle for some cuts in spending."

'About education'

Tuesday's comments came after news broke that the university will offer the new class, "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies."

'Serious course'

Paul Mirecki, the religious studies departmental chairman behind the new intelligent design class, is a tenured professor who joined the faculty in 1989. He holds a doctoral degree in theology from Harvard University and specializes in ancient Mediterranean cultures, languages and religions, and ancient Greek and Coptic manuscripts.

The course will explore intelligent design, the idea that life is too complex to have evolved without a "designer," presumably a god or other supernatural being. It will cover the origins of creationism, why it's an American phenomenon and why Americans have allowed it to pervade politics and education.

That concept is at the heart of Kansas' new public school science standards that critique the theory of evolution.

Paul Mirecki, chairman of KU's religious studies department and the course's instructor, said he had received about a dozen calls and several e-mails after the class was publicized.

"They're overwhelmingly positive," he said of the e-mails.

Mirecki addressed the issue of the term "mythology."

"Mythologies are important," he said. "but they do not address scientific solutions, but rather impressionistic solutions to help people address their place in the universe."

Shulenberger, KU's executive vice chancellor, said that on Tuesday he felt the need to put the class in context.

"This is a serious course, and Mirecki is a serious faculty member," he told the Journal-World. "My hope is the students who take the course will end up with a good foundation concerning the various creation stories and intelligent design. That's it. That's what we're about. We're about education."

In his statement, Shulenburger further described the objectives of religion classes at KU.

"The courses are designed to give students the appropriate methods for the objective study of religion," the statement said. "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."


Altevogt was still angry.

"There's nothing intellectually honest about this at all," he said Tuesday. "This is purely hate-mongering, just for the purpose of hate-mongering. It's not a religion class. It's a class of religious intolerance."

Sen. Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, said he doesn't believe KU's move to offer the course should have a negative effect in the Legislature as long as the course is handled in a serious and intellectually honest way.

"They should be commended for taking the challenge - if it's done in that manner," Pine said.

But O'Connor said anything was possible in the Legislature.

"If they press forward in this area and continue to kick sand, the ultimate will be a negative of some sort," she said. "I don't know what the negative will be ... You can't kick sand in someone's face and then expect a positive. And that's what this is - a sand-kicking contest."


jayhawk2000 12 years, 6 months ago

I get SO riled up by Christians bleating they are being persecuted when at the same time they are tormenting people with beliefs contrary to theirs. So much for 'treat others the way you want to be treated.'

And what exact type of persecution they are claiming? It's KU, not Caligula. It's a classroom, not a lion's den.

Will someone please explain the separation of church & state to this state senator?

And will someone PLEASE explain how the Republican Party can lay claim to this moral high ground?? Because the Bible is so full of support for the capitalist system...Jesus chucking the market stalls out of the temple, feeding people for free, championing the meek, that type of thing.

Remind me, which taxes would Jesus cut? The ones that fund education, obviously!

fossilhunter 12 years, 6 months ago

"Why poke a stick in somebody's eye if you don't have to?" -- what does she think happened to everyone who knows anything about biology or paleontology with the whole ID thing?!

akuna 12 years, 6 months ago

All I want to say is thanks to Dr. Mirecki and KU on the whole for taking this topic head on. Religion and spirtituality are very important to well over half of the people in our fair nation and the world. Putting perspective and academic rigor on intelligent design is nothing short of what the university and academic community should do. Thanks.

akuna 12 years, 6 months ago

After reading the entire article, I am thinking that our legislatures are nothing but babies. I don't know why they're having such a hissy fit. Maybe they are scared that the world will find out IDs dirty secret: its not science and doesn't belong in a science classroom.

I also find it a bit ironic that they threaten to cut funding to KU because of the course. Whenever your ideas can't stand up to intellictual scrutiny, cut the funding so there can be no scrutiny. I like this. What power. I should get a job as a legislature.

ive_got_my_ascot_n_my_dickie 12 years, 6 months ago

Paul Mirecki and Kay O'Connor BOTH look like intolerant fools. Sad, really.

fossilhunter 12 years, 6 months ago

ascot - why do you say Mirecki looks intolerant?

tir 12 years, 6 months ago

Once again the religious conservatives remind us all by word and deed that they are the ones who are intolerant and narrow-minded. 'Nuff said.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

"I guess if you can't win in the marketplace of ideas, then you assert your economic / political force......"

This is what Mirecki, Krishtalka and Shalenburger have done. They didn't even attempt to make an argument during the BOE hearings. They knew they had the power and the means to subvert whatever the board decided anyway. Such is the arrogance of a government entity that has unchecked power.

BTW, I took a class in Eastern Civilizations at KU in the early 70's. It was offered as a substitute to Western Civilization. It a liberal arts and sciences course, not a religion course. I sat through two semesters of studying the religions of the East. At that time, apparently, KU felt that religion was a legitimate influence on civilization. I do not recall the prof ever referring to the eastern religions as "myth."

The atmosphere of tolerance and respect for the diversity of religious beliefs has certainly changed at KU.

fossilhunter 12 years, 6 months ago

"Such is the arrogance of a government entity that has unchecked power." -- KU is an all-powerful government entity?! Wow. Didn't know that one.

ive_got_my_ascot_n_my_dickie 12 years, 6 months ago

Fossilhunter, I think Mirecki looks intolerant because he decided to introduce this course right after the Kansas BoE's ridiculous ruling. I don't believe religion has any place in public grade schools, but part of Mirecki's objective here seems to be to push the buttons of the fundamentalist nuts. I believe in tolerance. If someone wants to believe that evolution exists, which I think it does, so be it. On the other hand, if someone believes that we didn't come about "by chance" but rather were designed by a higher power, that's their right as well. Either way, I hope everyone has a good turkey day regardless of how you believe the turkey came into existence.

fossilhunter 12 years, 6 months ago

Ascot - thanks for clarifying. I don't think Mirecki looks intolerant. Quite the opposite, actually. The timing is very appropriate. The BOE's ridiculous ruling is picking up steam. (I'm already having discussions with a Missouri State Representative that is introducing a bill requiring all textbooks in schools include criticisms of evolution in the next session. She tried to require 50/50 teaching of ID/evolution last year, but failed.) It is appropriate for ed leaders to lead education. It is doubly important for a leader of religious education to want to put a discussion of hot religious topics in the curriculum. The ID people are in a huff because their bluff was called and ID "science" is being taught in a religious setting rather than ID religion being taght in a science setting.

mom_of_three 12 years, 6 months ago

Let's have Intelligent Design in the classroom as long as the state representatives want it and support it, but when KU offers a class where ID will be discussed, it's a whole different story. I smell a hypocrite.
Evidently, the state school board, and those mentioned above, have never read the letter from the Chancellor discussing ID and KU's responsiblity as a scientific research institution. It is posted on KU's webpage. I think it is an excellent representation of how it ought to be viewed.

Jamesaust 12 years, 6 months ago

Much ado about nothing - who gives a flying fig what Kay O'Connor thinks?

Senator Pine is more the bellweather here. His district includes a small sliver of Lawrence but is mainly the rural areas north of town. As noted on the LJW's recent opinion poll of varoius BOE districts, the area north of Lawrence is among the most critical of evolution. That puts Pine in an excellent place to be the 'canary in the mine' as he serves both a more liberal constituency in Lawrence and a more conservative one without.

IF we can trust the reporter's summarization of Pine's comments, then none of this matters. As (I believe) the Berbers say -- the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 6 months ago

jamesaust: Agreed. O'Connor is clearly out of the main and should not be taken seriously. There remains a real threat of financial punishment to KU, however. This could also be a sh*&storm that will blow over, but it must be taken seriously.

KU needs to divorce itself from the State of Kansas. KU could go without state assistant by simply raising tuition (about double), aggressive fundraising (which would be aided by the separation), and actively seeking external research grants with overhead funds (usually about 40% of the grant total from most government institutions).

We only need the state to "donate" to KU the buildings and the lands on which they sit.

ive_got_my_ascot_n_my_dickie 12 years, 6 months ago

Fossilhunter, Good post. I certainly don't think that ID belongs in a science's faith, not science. It belongs in an elective religious course, but I think Mirecki did himself a disservice by calling it a mythology class. I respect peoples' religious beliefs and neither I nor anyone else is fully qualified to say whether Buddha, Yaweh or Allah are mythological creatures or legitimate spirit beings. Perhaps he should have called it "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Beliefs." Despite what David Shulenburger said, the term "mythology" is an affront to some people. If the fundamentalist nuts taught a course called "The Myth of Darwin's Theories", they be called intolerant...and rightly so. Mirecki may have put together an interesting course here, but labeling it mythology looks like a petty jab at the Kansas BoE. I would have preferred to see Mirecki take the higher ground rather than resorting to their tactics.

wonderhorse 12 years, 6 months ago

But some conservatives, such as Sen. Kay O'Connor, R-Olathe, were unmoved.

"Why poke a stick in somebody's eye if you don't have to?" she said. "If you're going to have an intelligent design course and call it mythology, I think in the very least it's a slap in the face to every Judeo-Christian religion that's out there."

If this quote is correct, then it sounds like she believes not only that ID is religion-based, but a Xtian religion-based concept. The heck with the majority of the world.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

KU is unchecked in its area of operation. There is no taxpayer oversight. Whatever KU and its profs want to do in education and research, they can. Taxpayers foot the bill but have absolutely no avenue for input into how the money is spent. That is unchecked power.

The arrogance displayed in this particular situation is appalling. As a KU alum, I am embarrassed for my alma mater.

wonderhorse 12 years, 6 months ago

Godot--There should not be any taxpayer oversight on KU in matters of education and research. That is the whole point about having the university system with tenure--the ability to study subjects, even controversial subjects, without fear of retribution.

Densmore 12 years, 6 months ago

ascot-Great post. I don't believe that ID has a place in a science class, but why stir up trouble with such an inflammatory course name? What's next, a course on "St. Thomas Aquinas and his Belief in the Mystical?"

Brian Laird 12 years, 6 months ago

Godot -

A few points:

1) The article focuses on the response of one legislator - and a particuarlly wacky one at that - this is an objective statement - anyone (especially a woman) who views the 19th amendment as unfortunate can objectively be viewed as wacky in the 21st century. I seriously doubt that if Ms. O'Connor tried to get the state legislature to back a funding cut to the university over this course, she might get the support of the 1/3 of the leg. who are also wacky, but would be laughed out of the building by the 2/3 of the legislature who are rational - It would also give the national and international community one more reason to laugh at us. I say let her "bring it on" - if the powers that be in this state cannot resist her attacks on the university and decency, then this state really doesn't deserve a university and we should shut it down.

2) The state does have oversight at KU through the board of regents, which is appointed by the governor. This is a mechanism that was set up by the legislature. If the legislature no longer is happy with this set up - they are free to change it. As a general policy, the regents have to approve degree programs, but they do not get involved with every individual course.

3) In addition, the fraction of the university operating budget that comes from the state is not that large - about 30% and falling. The question is how much micromanagment does this buy in your opinion?

4) Courses like this typically make a profit for the university because the tution recouped exceeds the cost of instruction. Also, because they are electives they are only offered because there is enough student demand to justify opening a section.

6)You view KU as being arrogant in this; however, the arrogance lies with the state BOE, who decided it upon themselves to change the definition of science to include the supernatural. The people involved with this change do not give a rat's behind about science - they are only trying to promote their own religious agenda by using the power of the state to force change in science that they are unable to do through experiement and reason.

Jamesaust 12 years, 6 months ago

"As a KU alum, I am embarrassed for my alma mater."

No doubt the feeling is mutual.

At what point has there been taxpayer oversight (a/k/a, micromanagement of academic content) of KU? Please name a university without such an academic barrier? (Reminds me of the PRC insisting on appointing their bishops not the Vatican's.)

If the State wants more of a say, they can start funding the University. Presently, the State barely pays the light bills (God knows how KU maintenance manages with only half of positions filled) but has a long list of demands on 'how things must be.' In reality, Kansas hasn't fully funded its universities since they allowed Kansas State College to expand to KSU back in 1955 and WSU was taken on in 1964. KU should have demanded a guarantee of funding before those additional burdens were taken on. Indeed, KU should consider a 'divorce' from the State.

Perhaps we could just junk the curricula and sit around and memorize Bible verses. No doubt, that would please O'Connor. The State can change its oversight of its universities anytime they want, just as the accrediting organizations can disassociate themselves from KU anytime they want. Let's see how well received a diploma from KU is then.

Once again: who cares what O'Connor thinks? (Was Susan Wagle not available for wacky 'sound-bite' quotations?) Even her ideological brother Mays has been forced out of the Governor's race after failing to win over the moderate GOP. Why does the LJW believe that 'balance' requires finding an extremist to quote?

mcontrary 12 years, 6 months ago

If ID is not religious, as claimed by supporters, then ID as myth should offend no one. The nature of the responses by supporters of ID indicate that it is rooted in religious belief and therefor does not belong in a science curriculum. So what else is new?

badger 12 years, 6 months ago


The course, and its name, are appropriate to the current state of affairs, not just in Kansas. The debate over how we teach the origins of life has been reignited in the past ten years in several states, and it's utterly apropos to address that popular shift.

With the recent effects of the debate, now is a perfect time to examine it. With the recent debate as personal experience for most students, something they've been talking and thinking about for weeks, what better time to address it on a larger scope and get them to consider what shift in American thought has brought this about? Most people just think this came up because the school board wanted it to, but it reflects a lot of interesting things about social changes in the last 20 years.

As to calling it a myth, Mirecki has explained fairly extensively that the word 'myth' is not meant as derogatory, that it is simply the term used to designate a collection of beliefs integral to a way of viewing life. Christians should no more be upset to have ID referred to as a 'myth' than evolutionists should be to have evolution referred to as a 'theory' because in their different fields, they mean essentially the same thing.

We're dealing with academic language, not common usage, in the course title. Both 'myth' and 'theory' essentially boil down to things that you believe are true because you accept a certain base truth, whether it's the foundations of evolutionary science or the validity of the Bible. None of ID stands if you refuse the absolute truth of the Bible as a reference. None of Darwin's theory of the origin of species stands if you refuse the absolute truth of divergent evolution of species and the origin of the first organic life forms as reference. 'Myth' is used to designate a collection of unproven and likely unprovable ideas in the philosophical realm, where 'theory is used to designate a collection of unproven and likely unprovable ideas in the scientific realm.

And if someone set up a course titled, "The Darwin Mythos: An Examination of How Faith in the Missing Link has Influenced a Century of Science," in a philosophy department, I'd want to be first in line to sign up.

cwrist 12 years, 6 months ago

"This is purely hate-mongering, just for the purpose of hate-mongering. It's not a religion class. It's a class of religious intolerance."

Altevogt should try attending a class before calling it hate-mongering. I took Dr. Mirecki's Understanding the Bible class at KU a few years ago and found it to be thoroughly interesting. He understands that as part of the separation of church and state law, he can't teach it as a religious text, so he addresses it as a purely historical document. I was a bit skeptical about the class when I signed up for it, but it was very interesting and Dr. Mirecki did a honest, respectful analysis of everything in there. Conservative columnist and activist John Altevogt likely never has taken a class by Dr. Mirecki or observed one of his class sessions. He should do so and see for himself so he can form an educated opinion before smearing a great professor as a "hate-monger."

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

How many times in the past has KU issued a press release to announce the addition of a new, elective class? This was a calucated, political move designed to inflame an argument.

The only honest way to have this class would be to invite one of the many biologists who question evolotion to conduct the class, and it would not have the word "myth" in the title, and it would not be associated with the School of Religion. It is KU that is making the connection between ID and religion. That is where the insult happens, from Christians who see that their religion has been ridiculed as a myth by a public institution, and from ID proponents who do not believe their questioning of evolution theory has anything to do with religion.

I repeat, I am embarrassed that my alma mater would stoop to such tactics.

grace 12 years, 6 months ago

The mere fact that Ms. O'Connor believes that the word "myth" is equivalent to "lie" or "falsehood" speaks volumes about her education, or lack there of. I have a degree in Religious Studies. The word myth is never meant to be derogatory. It is academic language. Dr. Mirecki refers to ID as a myth in the same was as he would refer to any other religion's creation story as a myth. Check out Merriam Webster. Mythology - "A collection of myths about the origin and history of a people and their deities, ancestors, and heroes." It is as simple as picking up a dictionary and educating yourself. It is absolutely outrageous that someone who holds a public office is so incredibly ignorant.

Horace 12 years, 6 months ago

Mirecki should know that the classroom isn't the appropriate forum for axe grinding. He should stick to his "Intro to the Bible" class and the "Lost Gospel of the Savior."

This just makes him look childish.

fossilhunter 12 years, 6 months ago

Godat - "one of the many biologists who question evolotion" -- umm those would be who? Many biologists do not question evolution.

"It is KU that is making the connection between ID and religion" -- no. The entire world connects ID with religion. It's "Creationism Lite"

"from ID proponents who do not believe their questioning of evolution theory has anything to do with religion" -- again, name 1

wonderhorse 12 years, 6 months ago


I, too, am ashamed of our alma mater. It seems she let you graduate without taking a course in logic. If ID is not about religion, how can "Christians...see that their religion has been ridiculed as myth" just because ID is being examined in a class with myth in the title? I didn't even see the word "Christian" in the title of the course. Or are you trying to say that ID is about religion, and a christian religion at that?

Mr_Christopher 12 years, 6 months ago

Intelligent Design appears to be a theory in crisis!

Hey you guys are missing out on some very good Intelligent Design information. Google "dover transcripts" and you'll find all the transcripts from the trial. It is fascinating reading and the ID nonsense becomes very transparent when under oath.

Those transcripts will also show you just how intellectually dishonest and devious the ID camp really is. Read it yourself.

Also the Univeristy of Idaho has a class on ID and an ID lecture planned for 06. Both of those are classes designed to portray ID for what it really is (NOT science if you know what I mean)


yourworstnightmare 12 years, 6 months ago

Godot and other IDiots,

There already exists a class at KU called "Evolution", which covers the science of evolution. Take it. You might learn something about which you have already been expounding.

IDiots always claim that there are "many biologists who question evolution". This is an outright fabrication. Period. The vast, overwhelming majority of scientists, not just biologists, accept the theory of evolution.

ID does not belong anywhere near a science classroom. It is clearly creationist myth (in the academic sense) and therefore belongs in a religion, philosophy, or politics class.

I agree with Grace about the logic class. You demand that ID is not about religion, but then become offended as a christian when ID is "attacked". (BTW the class is apparently not an attack on ID). Huh?

yourworstnightmare 12 years, 6 months ago

Mr christopher is right about the transcripts of the Dover trial. Hilarious.

The morning of Oct 19th, cross examination of Behe, is particularly enjoyable.

Behe introduces a new one to me, "slow design", to attempt to explain the evolutionary relationship between the bacterial type III secretion apparatus and the bacterial flagellum. I guess the designer sometimes takes his time designing things and tinkers with precursors and progenitors.

Behe does a remarkable job of refuting his own vapid "irreducible complexity" argument and makes a good case for evolution.

BOE 12 years, 6 months ago

"If you're going to have an intelligent design course and call it mythology, I think in the very least it's a slap in the face to every Judeo-Christian religion that's out there."*

  • Sen. Kay O'Connor -

A very typical statement from RW idealogues who claim to speak for all of Christendom, and just as typically, not even close. Guess she missed the "memo".

Vatican official: 'Intelligent design' doesn't belong in science class The Associated Press

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

It's one thing that she's oblivious to that reality, but when you consider that the official position of the KSBOE 6 and the ID political movement for supernatural science standards, is "ID is science", it would be more accurate to state that:

"If you're going to have an intelligent design course and call it mythology, I think in the very least it's a slap in the face to every __ scientist that's out there."

:) I hope KU follows-up by covering the ID movement in a political science class.


Mr Christopher

The Dover ID board sadly missed the memo to assimilate the traits of serpents.They'll be back, more "serpent clever" than ever.

Bank on it.


  • At a conference called "When Christians and Cultures Clash," held Oct. 19 at the Pennsylvania Evangelical School of Theology, Randy Wenger, an attorney and representative of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, warned participants that Dover school board members should not have brought up religious motivations at their meetings.

"Give us a call before you do something controversial like that," Wenger said. "I think we need to do a better job at being clever as serpents." *

BOE 12 years, 6 months ago


And the notion "clever"...I mean, doesn't anybody notice all them squished serpents on the highways? :)

CCer Ralph Reed (definitely a clever guy) made a very similar statement, something about slithering thru the grass, clever, etc. Now he's caught up in the Abramoff tribal funds scandal, and Sen McCain (the guy he helped slime in the 2000 primaries and elsewhere) is in charge of that probe.

More at home with "wise as an owl", or "crazy like a fox", myself.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

"Godot and other IDiots,

There already exists a class at KU called "Evolution", which covers the science of evolution. Take it. You might learn something about which you have already been expounding."

First, I am not an IDiot. I don't favor either evolution or ID. ID is a new concept to me. However, evolution is not. I did study biology, I did take a course that included evolution - 30 some years ago. Many of the "knowns" that were taught then have sinced been disproved. New theories, creatively imagined by my peers, no doubt many of whom were not even ranked in the top 10% of their class, have taken their place.

I suppose if one is to "believe" in evolution, one must be continually re-educated. Kind of like going to church. Every time somone comes up with an argument that proves the "myth" of evolution is fallable, we must to the source - " A Scientist, any Scientist, regardless of his/her credentials" - to hear the newest, latest truth.

By the way, I don't go to church, either, for the same reasons mentioned above.

I have joined this argument because I am offended by the arrogance and hypocrisy of the establishment, publicly funded scientists, educators and administrators who have taken on the defense of Evolution with the zeal of someone who is defending a religion, while not only condemning, but actually attacking dissenters for their religious beliefs.

Again, it is KU who made the connection between ID and religion by their choice of class title, instructor and sponsoring department. There is no denying that. And there is no doubt that the entire premise of the course is "anti-ID."

To you who ridicule me and others for saying that the use of the word "myth" is derogatory, go to google, then to "news" then search the word "myth." In common language today, used by liberals and conservatives alike, "myth" is synonymous with "lie."

ralphsantos 12 years, 6 months ago

There is an opportunity for KU here. One could turn that whole funding cutoff threat around. If the scientific departments were to embrace Intelligent Design, and play their cards right, they could be rolling in dough. Curry the favor of religious conservatives, get lots of funding rolling in, and since experimental rigor doesn't seem to be a huge priority in the ID movement, think of all the money you'd save on lab supplies.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 12 years, 6 months ago

In an acedemic context, it's considered OK to call a belief a "myth". It creates a bias-free context for studying belief systems. The first time I heard my faith being called a "myth", it didn't sit well with me either, but I got over it.

Godot 12 years, 6 months ago

Attack me, rather than defend your ideas.

I don't defend or attack Pat Robertson. I have never alluded to him or anyone like him. You are the ones who make generalizations and associate all who question the absolute truth of evolution with Christian religous zealots.

I go on the offense when I observe the actions of hypocritical bullies who use the cloak of academic freedom, while funded by taxpayer dollars, to attack, denounce and silence anyone who dares to question the credibility and the validity of the thought processes that promulgate the infallibility, the supremacy, of a theory that is, curiously, constantly "evolving."

ralphsantos 12 years, 6 months ago


I won't deny that there can be bad behavior on the part of evolution defenders. However, one must differentiate between the social dynamics surrounding a subject and the subject itself.

Intelligent Design proponents want ID to be treated as a scientific theory. The claim is that it should be treated as a theory on par with evolution, because evolution is a flawed theory. What does that mean? Well, perhaps we can get a handle on this by comparing both evolution and ID to another scientific theory. For the purposes of discussion, let's use Newtonian mechanics, the sort of physics one learns in high school physics class. This is a particularly useful example, because it too is a flawed theory.

How do we judge a theory? Well, we judge a theory based on how well it explains things we see around us. Also, we judge a theory by making predictions with it and testing those predictions.

Newtonian mechanics works pretty well for things we see every day. It explains lots of things, like why cars move, why we come back to the ground when we jump up. By thinking about the masses and motions of cars and human bodies, and the forces acting upon them, we can make all kinds of predictions, many of them quite accurate. Evolution and natural selection don't explain as much, but it does provide a way to think about various creatures, and how those creatures will change over time as they respond to competition and challenges from their environment. Intelligent Design, though, is pretty exclusively focused on one problem, which is the origin of life. Furthermore, it's hard to use the idea of an intelligent agent directing the long-term evolution of species, since there's no indication of what the intelligent agent is doing or how it is doing it.

Then there's testability. Evolution is fallible. There are gaps in the fossil record, there are inconsistencies. However, there are also points of fallibility in Newtonian Mechanics. There was a wobble in the orbit of the planet Mercury around the sun which wasn't explained until Einstein's theory of relativity came along. It also doesn't explain properly what happens when you go very fast (i.e. near the speed of light), or what happens at very small scales, around the size of an atom. Does the fallibility of Newtonian Mechanics invalidate all the predictions is does properly make? No. What does ID predict? The closest thing I've seen to a positive case for ID can be found here:

The one prediction made here is that junk DNA will turn out not to be junk. However, it doesn't say how, it doesn't say why, it just says that the DNA won't be junk. How does one test such a claim?

It's hard to treat ID like a scientific theory because it doesn't have much of what one expects a scientific theory to have. If one really wants to see it treated like science, it needs to be made more like science.

Citizen 12 years, 5 months ago

When reading about this entire incident, I find myself not knowing how to react--I literally cannot believe what I am reading here. As an outsider (I'm not from the United States) this makes Americans look like idiots and fools. Is it any wonder that respect for America is diminishing internationally? Those of us from outside the U.S. look at what is happening in your country and wonder if the entire lot of you have lost your minds!?

Bob Forer 12 years, 5 months ago

Our university administrators are spineless. No wonder a bunch of arrogant thugs think they have the right to determine and control beliefs in our state.

Here's the scenario. the hearings are concluded and the new educational standards already in place, so the discussion is over (assuming the fundies had any intent of serious inquiry before making their decision). Then, the course is developed, and it central administratiom and is briefed and gives approval. And then it is announced. Question: why is Altevogt so angry, because they have concluded standards without having taken any action on ID. I would suggest that is already done later, as the fundies stratregvy is to impklement incremently.

But the broader questin is this: altenvogt demands the removal of the course. Since when does a religious zealot have the right or termerity to demand removal of a class thats already been approved. Outrageous. And hed is an educated man. He shows absolute contempt for the 'first amendment, which is especially disquietig on a university campus, which is the example par excellance of the free discussion of ideas. And the provost engages him in discussion, as if the request is legitimate. WTF. An individual comes in and demands censorship. You explain to him that we defeated fascism 50 years ago, and show him the door.

And then this tyrannt suggests that funding should be cut. An obviois attempt to quell free speech. He doesn't even live in the state. and the administration debates him in the press as if he has a legimate interest. These people are dangerous. Any american intellectual would be ashamed to ask a university to censor a class where the content is protected. OUr entire state is the laughing stock of the world. We let a bunch of religious fanatics push us around. No wonder this out of state citizen makes public threats to affect funding. Because he knows he can get away with it. We need to get rid of Hemmenway. If he cannot neutrralize a two bit nazi thought thug who arrogantly attempts to censor a major university, we are in deep trouble

Commenting has been disabled for this item.