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(corrected post) Cornell’s Evolution and Design Seminar draws glowing praise

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(Due to earlier technical difficulties with the comment section, I deleted the earlier thread on this same topic. This is a repost of that thread but under a different title.)

I wish to salute Allen MacNeill for his BioEE467 course “Evolution and Design Seminar”. It is one of the few college courses in the USA that has seriously studied ID literature in a science classroom setting. Here are some of his thoughts immediately after the course came to a close:

The notorious “evolution and design seminar at Cornell” has now ended. The final research papers have been submitted, final grades have been posted to the registrar, and the participants have departed for the four corners of the world…for now.

Having reached this stopping point, I want to say once again how much I enjoyed our time together this summer. When we went around the room last night and “summed up” what we had learned, three things seemed to have occurred to each of us:

* we learned how to construct and use logical arguments, supported by evidence;

* we learned how to respect each other and argue forcefully, without attacking each other as persons; and

* we came to clarity on what we thought about the issues presented in the course.

Everyone deserves praise for accomplishing this, and for persevering in what has been a sometimes complicated and difficult endeavor.

One person in particular deserves special mention: that is, of course, Hannah Maxson, without whom I suspect we might not have achieved anything like what we eventually did. She helped us all immensely in understanding and wrestling with these issues, faithfully attended every class session despite not being an enrolled student (the only “invited participant” from either side to do so), consistently presented an example of how to respectfully but forcefully argue for one’s positions, and spent uncounted hours setting up and moderating the two websites associated with this course, while at the same time holding down a demanding day job. For all of us, I humbly say “thank you, Hannah.”

And to the rest of you (enrolled students): my hat is off to you as well! I have taught many courses at Cornell (and elsewhere), and learned a lot from my students, but you were without a doubt the best yet. Your papers were outstanding (some actually had me gasping in surprise and admiration), and will be posted to the website soon. Thank you for being who you were, and for making this summer one of the most enjoyable I can remember. Have a great August, and good luck in whatever you do this coming year. And if you’re online or near G-24 Stimson Hall (the Biology Learning Skills Center) at Cornell, stop by the website or my office for a chat. And if you have a free hour this fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:10 to 11:00, stop by Call Auditorium in Kennedy Hall, where I will once again be assisting in Will Provine’s evolution course. We’ve still got a lot to talk about!

Which brings us to the rest of the story. This “conversation” is most emphatically not over yet, not by a long shot. I will be posting many of the final research papers submitted for the course to this website, for your enlightenment and delectation. Everyone worked hard at these, and all of them were interesting. A few were flat-out brilliant, as you will see for yourselves when you read them. I consider this website to be a place where “peer-reviewed” publications are presented to the wider public, because the research papers presented here by the students enrolled in the course have literally been reviewed by their peers – by all of us who sat together all those long, balmy nights in the Whittaker Room, dissecting each other’s arguments and challenging each other’s evidence. If possible, I would like this website to continue to serve that purpose; to be a place where people with perspectives from all sides of this debate can publish their ideas and get feedback from their peers. As we learned in our course this summer, this is how we can come to clarity on complex and difficult issues.

So, for all of you reading this, please stop back here, as often as you like. We will keep the doors open and welcome conversation and debate on these issues for as long as you continue to participate. And when you do, keep in mind the “rules of engagement” that made our summer together so productive and rewarding:

• Attacks of any kind against a person are never allowed, and anyone making them will be cast forever into outer darkness; however…

• Reasoned attacks against a person’s arguments, backed up by evidence, are required, and anyone participating here should be ready to defend their positions with all of the logic and evidence at their disposal; and

• Each of us should be our own most implacible critic; clarity comes not from mindless agreement nor disagreement, but from an open, honest, and unprejudiced exchange of views, backed up by evidence.

Following these rules (plus the more detailed list found under the “Rules of Engagement” link on the front page of this website) is everyone’s responsibility. That is how we built our little “community of scholars” this summer, and how we will continue to build it here.

So, thank you for all of your dedication and hard work, and let the conversation continue!


Thank you Allen MacNeill and thanks to the Cornell IDEA Club founder, Hannah Maxson.

Greetings all, I don't know what Allen has in mind, but I would be very interested to see the papers. He seemed to be very enthusiastic about what happened, and I hope that enthusiasm will spread. Salvador scordova
It appears that way. I can't wait to read them. EJ Klone
Posted to the Web-I mean. apollo230
My understanding from Allen's blog is that student papers from the course will be posted. Is that your understanding, Mr. Cordova? Best regards, apollo230 apollo230

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