UI faculty sign on against intelligent design in science
By William Dillon, Staff Writer
More than 150 faculty members at the University of Iowa have signed a statement denouncing the use of intelligent design in science.
UI is the last of Iowa’s three state universities to issue such a statement, joining a combined 250 colleagues at Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa in an effort to reject “all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor.”
“We are concerned about this going on at (the University of) Iowa,” said Tara Smith, one of the seven UI faculty circulating the statement.
“We realized that if we circulated the statement, we would be the first set of regent universities that had all circulated the same petition to show faculty support for teaching good science and keeping intelligent design out of science classrooms.”
But for some scientists at the regent universities, being open to the possibility of intelligent design is a part of good science.
Fred Skiff, a UI professor of physics, has not practiced or taught intelligent design, but he says that scientists need to be open to the possibility that an intelligent cause or agent had a hand in the makings of the universe.
“It’s part of science to consider what blinders you might be wearing,” Skiff said. “Materialists put conditions on science that things can only exist if they satisfy materialism. I think that is a mistake.”
He said scientists need to be open to the possibility of God and the idea that the world could be “bigger than their imagination.”
“They say that can’t be true because it doesn’t fit into their conception of the world,” he said. “That’s not science’ that’s metaphysics. It’s not looking at the world around you. It’s closing your eyes and saying that ‘Nothing can exist except for things that can fit into my theory.'”
Skiff said he believed the statement is intimidating to him and his colleagues who are open to intelligent design because it institutes the philosophy of materialism as the definition of science.
“They are saying that anyone who doesn’t have our point of view isn’t a legitimate scientist,” he said. “That’s coming on pretty strong.”
Smith said the statement was not meant to alienate Skiff or others open to the use of intelligent design.
“We are against the idea, not against the people who support that,” she said.
Hector Avalos, an associate professor of religious studies at ISU and one of the three original authors of the statement that started at ISU, said the UI statement will “affirm the solidarity of the faculty of the three regent institutions in fighting the efforts (of intelligent design) proponents to undermine evolutionary theory through the use of sectarian theology.”
“Any reference by (intelligent design) advocates to so-called ‘(intelligent design) research’ in Iowa universities will now be counterbalanced by the knowledge, now widespread thanks to our efforts, that major scientists and scholars at Iowa’s universities don’t see (intelligent design) as science,” he said.
The near 400 signatures accounts for about 10 percent of the faculty at the three universities.
The UI statement, as well as links to the ISU and UNI statement, can temporarily be found at http://euplotes.biology.uiowa.edu/web/ID.
William Dillon can be reached at 232-2161, Ext. 361, or William.Dillon@amestrib.com