Evolution Intelligent Design

Evolution Indoctrination Minor at Northwestern University

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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 program’s director. One thing it won’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
http://www.dailynorthwestern.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/09/23/433397c7eb682?in_archive=1

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 program’s director.

One thing it won’t include is the theory of intelligent design.

“It’s an understanding of what constitutes science, what constitutes religion and what’s appropriate to teach in a science curriculum,” 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 it’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.

“The fact that the two are so heavily debated is really the reason they should be taught in the first place,” she said. “Students in college should be able to learn both sides of the argument and make their own decision.”

Fruth said although she grew up in a scientific household in rural Indiana, the Bible clarified her ideas about the origins of life.

“I can’t look around and think that this all just happened,” she said.

Adam Safron, Weinberg ’05, said he thought the intelligent design theory is “intellectually dishonest.” 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.

“It doesn’t say anything scientific about the universe,” he said.

A theory makes predictions and can be tested, Rivers said, and intelligent design “does not meet those kind of criteria.”

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, “it would be simply best to present scientific evidence and to be honest about genuine differences in interpretation,” she said.

Traina said she was skeptical about both evolution and intelligent design theories.

“Both of them are faith claims,” she said. “It is a claim about a truth that cannot be proven scientifically.”

Reach Lauren Pond at l-pond@northwestern.edu

13 Replies to “Evolution Indoctrination Minor at Northwestern University

  1. 1
    crandaddy says:

    Daily Northwestern quoting Cristina Traina: “When it comes to science classes, ‘it would be simply best to present scientific evidence and to be honest about genuine differences in interpretation,’ she said.

    Traina said she was skeptical about both evolution and intelligent design theories.

    ‘Both of them are faith claims,’ she said. ‘It is a claim about a truth that cannot be proven scientifically.'”

    These are very wise words. Her colleagues at Northwestern (e.g. Teresa Horton and Andrew Rivers) would be wise to listen to her.

    David

  2. 2
    jboze3131 says:

    funny how the student who claimed ID is dishonest was the VP of the humanist society on campus!

    i mean, i was shocked! (yes, that was sarcasm).

  3. 3
    russ says:

    Like so many press reports, this one would seem to leave the casual observer confused about evolution, ID and creationism and what ID supporters want. Here are some examples:

    “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 it’s not scientific.”

    “Andrew Rivers, a physics and astronomy lecturer, said he respects religion but would not teach intelligent design in his classroom.”

    “A theory makes predictions and can be tested, Rivers said, and intelligent design ‘does not meet those kind of criteria.'”

    I wonder if it would help to promote a set of “talking points” on ID, not to “spin” the facts, but to clarify them. The same misconceptions, stereotypes and evo-spin appear over and over, and the rebuttals are generally long and complicated explanations that are hard for laypersons to internalize and repeat when the subject arises with friends, coworkers and news reporters.

  4. 4

    Evolutionary Indoctrination

    A few quick points:

    1.) Universities already serve as a haven for evolutionary indoctrination — that is, until you question professors behind closed doors about the current pitfalls of Neo-Darwinian Theory.

    2.) If science is going to be define…

  5. 5
    johnnyb says:

    jboze:

    It’s always very difficult to debate someone who is willing to stoop low to defeat you. This is a bit offtopic, but how do the rest of you handle the situation? Calling someone a liar and manipulator seems bad form, and the current social climate seems to only favor the evolutionist side in such exchanges. How do the rest of you handle it? There seems to be no end of innuendo and plain falsehoods — pointing out the individual falsehoods seems to be running around in circles, but pointing out the general pattern of fact-manipulation seems to be bad form. What to do?

  6. 6
    anteater says:

    “It’s always very difficult to debate someone who is willing to stoop low to defeat you. This is a bit offtopic, but how do the rest of you handle the situation?”

    When they stoop low, you appear higher. Just keep on hammering the facts in a friendly disarming way. Develop a good reputation (for instance, if you are a student at a University, strive for A+s and be the most diligent at your lab). Then people will think twice before attacking you.

  7. 7
    jboze3131 says:

    i just have to wonder why they want to keep pumping out the talking point that darwinism isnt inherently atheistic with its claim of lack of purpose and goals and meaning…yet the ones always attacking ID or even creationism or even other competing ideas (or semi-competing ideas) to darwinism are humanists, atheists, and the like. atheist barbara forrest, atheist richard dawkins, atheist eugine scott- of course dawkins says that religion is basicailly evil, but the other two and many like them want to always use religion more than any IDer ever would, claiming that- golly, darwinism’s lack of purpose, goals, meaning, etc. isnt in any way anti-religious, when it clearly is.

    if something is purposeless and goal-less, and meaningless…thats the very opposite of all major world religions! theyd do better to get a christian out there who falsely believes that no purpose somehow equals god, but those folks are rare and it seems that the brunt of those pushing the non-guided darwinism model are in fact humanists, atheists, and others like them.

    then, you have the dishonesty factor as has been mentioned. its hard to make any progress in science in general ANYTIME ANY dogma takes hold. the dogma currently in place is the antithesis to science.

  8. 8
    jasonng says:

    “Fruth said although she grew up in a scientific household in rural Indiana, the Bible clarified her ideas about the origins of life.”

    Once again setting up the illusion that it’s really science vs. religion in disguise.

    What’s with the media and their obsession with one sentence soundbites? There’s no discussion of evidence whatsoever; it’s just another routine dismissal of ID as religion.

  9. 9
    DaveScot says:

    >Both of them are faith claims,’ she said. ‘It is a claim about a truth that cannot be proven scientifically.’”

    I think “cannot be proven scientifically” should be replaced with “has yet to be proven scientifically”.

    I really don’t like placing any kind of knowledge permanently outside the scope of scientific inquiry.

  10. 10
    dancingphil says:

    Sorry, I couldn’t find an appropriate email address to point this out, so I went for this forum– salon.com’s main article today is about ID. Any comments? The readers seem pretty annoyed at Salon for publishing it…

  11. 11
    crandaddy says:

    DaveScot: “I think ‘cannot be proven scientifically’ should be replaced with ‘has yet to be proven scientifically’.”

    There is very little that science is able to “prove” absolutely; in fact, one can argue that there is nothing at all that it can prove. Both naturalistic evolution and Intelligent Design theory are inductive generalities drawn from empirical evidence. Actually, every scientific “theory” is such a generality. This is the only way our minds can make sense of empirical data. To establish an absolute truth is something science cannot do. I like to use a mathematical analogy to express this concept: Scientific knowledge is like a function which can run infinitely close to the asymptote of absolute truth but can never touch it.

    David

  12. 12
    jasonng says:

    If we establish a reasonable target for origins theories to meet (enough evidence for it to be “true” for practical purposes), then both naturalism and ID are provable and also can be falsified (in theory).

  13. 13
    DaveScot says:

    When I say or read “proof” in a scientific or legal context I always assume it’s shorthand for “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

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