I reported in September about Northwestern University’s new indoctrination minor in evolutionary theory (go here for my earlier post on this blog). Here is a follow-up article about that new minor. The article notes, “The program will examine evidence for evolution from paleontology, anthropology and biology, according to Teresa Horton, the programÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s director. One thing it wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t include is the theory of intelligent design.” Having taught a course at Northwestern in 1992 on evolution and intelligent design (I was a post-doctoral fellow at the time in history and philosophy of science), I’ll be watching this program with interest.
Evolution minor will focus on science without religion
by Lauren Pond
September 23, 2005
Northwestern began offering an evolutionary processes minor this fall, which throws it into the nationwide debate about the theories of evolution and intelligent design.
The program will examine evidence for evolution from paleontology, anthropology and biology, according to Teresa Horton, the programÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s director.
One thing it wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t include is the theory of intelligent design.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an understanding of what constitutes science, what constitutes religion and whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s appropriate to teach in a science curriculum,Ã¢â‚¬Â Horton said.
The debate over intelligent design has been a hot topic for the past few months as several school systems across the country are considering including challenges to evolution in their curricula.
The intelligent design theory holds that the world is too complex to be explained by evolution alone and states that a higher being must be involved. Supporters argue that it should be taught alongside evolution in U.S. schools. Opponents say itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not scientific.
Students and professors expressed mixed opinions about whether intelligent design was appropriate for the classroom.
McCormick senior Stephanie Fruth, a leader with Campus Crusade for Christ, said it made sense to present both evolution and intelligent design, especially at the college level. She said she would like to see some of each taught in both the science and religion departments.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The fact that the two are so heavily debated is really the reason they should be taught in the first place,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Students in college should be able to learn both sides of the argument and make their own decision.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Fruth said although she grew up in a scientific household in rural Indiana, the Bible clarified her ideas about the origins of life.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look around and think that this all just happened,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said.
Adam Safron, Weinberg Ã¢â‚¬â„¢05, said he thought the intelligent design theory is Ã¢â‚¬Å“intellectually dishonest.Ã¢â‚¬Â But Safron, a former vice president of the New Humanists of NU, a now-defunct philosophy discussion group, said NU should teach the theory so students would realize that the theory is flawed.
Professors were similarly divided. Andrew Rivers, a physics and astronomy lecturer, said he respects religion but would not teach intelligent design in his classroom.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say anything scientific about the universe,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
A theory makes predictions and can be tested, Rivers said, and intelligent design Ã¢â‚¬Å“does not meet those kind of criteria.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Cristina Traina, a professor of religion, said teaching intelligent design would be most appropriate in the history and philosophy departments.
When it comes to science classes, Ã¢â‚¬Å“it would be simply best to present scientific evidence and to be honest about genuine differences in interpretation,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said.
Traina said she was skeptical about both evolution and intelligent design theories.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Both of them are faith claims,Ã¢â‚¬Â she said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a claim about a truth that cannot be proven scientifically.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Reach Lauren Pond at firstname.lastname@example.org