Major events planned on intelligent design

Both sides of the intelligent design controversy are now planning major events in Lawrence this month. But they won’t mingle.

Kansas University’s Campus Crusade for Christ will host William Dembski, a science professor from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a leading ID proponent. The free event, called “The Case for Intelligent Design,” is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Lied Center.

“Dr. Dembski is a distinguished scholar and a leading authority on intelligent design,” Mark Brown, director of KU’s Campus Crusade for Christ, said in a statement. “Much of the press and discussion has been more name-calling and caricature than substantive. We wanted to bring in an author that could present the academic and scientific perspective.”

It will be a busy week for those watching the state’s duel between intelligent design proponents and their critics who agree with a federal judge’s recent ruling that intelligent design isn’t a scientific theory but gussied-up creationism.

Days after Dembski’s visit, on Jan. 28, the plaintiff’s attorneys who successfully fought to keep intelligent design teaching out of schools in Dover, Pa., are set to speak at the Dole Institute of Politics.

Declined invitations

Dembski is the author of “The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design” and a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle.

Organizers asked three Kansas University scientists critical of intelligent design to also speak at the event, but all declined.

Brown said organizers could have used corporate funds distributed by the university for the event if there had been KU scientists on the roster. Brown said he offered to change the speaking format to make the invitation more attractive to the KU professors, but that didn’t work.

“It’s been frustrating that we didn’t have more interest from the professors’ side,” he said.

The event is being paid for with private funds from churches and Campus Crusade for Christ, which is using money from outside donors, Brown said.

KU is not supporting either of the events on intelligent design slated for that week, KU spokesman Todd Cohen said.

Avoiding a ‘circus’

Leonard Krishtalka, director of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, said he was one scientist who declined an invitation to debate Dembski.

“There is nothing to debate,” Krishtalka said. “Intelligent design is religion thinly disguised as science and does not belong in the science classroom.”

Krishtalka said debates are rarely about truth, but about winning.

“In order to win, one has to get down and dirty in these debates,” Krishtalka said. “I refuse to make either science or religion into a circus or into cheap entertainment.”

Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, a group critical of intelligent design, said he volunteered to speak at the Campus Crusade event. Krebs said he told organizers he would not defend evolution at the event, but rather take a broad perspective and discuss, for example, his view that evolution need not conflict with religion. But Krebs said he was turned down.

“I think it’s revealing that they want to ‘teach the controversy,’ but they only want to teach the controversy in the way that they see it,” Krebs said.

Brown said he wanted professors to speak at the event. Krebs is not a KU professor. He teaches math at Oskaloosa High School, where he’s also technology director.

John Calvert, director of the Intelligent Design Network, which played a key role in the Kansas State Board of Education’s recent adoption of science standards critical of evolution, said he wasn’t surprised KU scientists declined invitations.

“That’s consistent with the boycott of the Kansas hearings,” he said.

Mainstream scientists refused to participate in the board’s hearings, saying they weren’t really about science.

Calvert said scientists’ refusal to compete with intelligent design proponents in a public forum made it difficult to know who is right.

“You can’t know they’re better unless they engage in a competition,” he said.