Backing Intelligent Design, Some Try to Oust Darwin
Debate on Campus Mirrors National Controversy Over How to Explain the Origin of Life on Earth
BY Cristina Bautista
Monday, October 10, 2005
As the debate surrounding evolution and intelligent design in public schools reaches a fever pitch, UC Berkeley faculty and students is at the center of the action.
A minority of UC Berkeley students and faculty are activists within the intelligent design movement, which argues, contrary to Darwinist theories of natural selection, that the development of living things was guided by an intelligent agent.
“When you look at the evidence, was it a natural, unintelligent and purposeless process that brought everything into existence or does it point to some intelligence that was at work to bring into existence?” said Phillip Johnson, an emeritus law professor at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. “The evidence points to some intelligent force behind it all.”
Since before his retirement from Boalt Hall in 2000, Johnson has been a prominent activist in the intelligent design movement.
In 1991, Johnson published “Darwin on Trial,” the first of his many books critiquing evolution. He is program advisor for the Center of Science and Culture in the Discovery Institute, a national conservative Christian think tank that lobbies for the inclusion of intelligent design in science curriculums.
Johnson is not alone in his views. According to a Pew Research Center report released in August, 83 percent of Americans believe that a higher power created life on earth, 64 percent support teaching creationism along with evolution in public schools and 38 percent of Americans believe that creationism should replace the teaching of evolution in public schools.
At UC Berkeley, however, public opinion does not reflect the views of the scientific community.
“Intelligent design is not science. The way the world looks right now is the result of natural selection and other processes operating,” said Carole Hickman, integrative biology professor and curator of the UC Museum of Paleontology. “There is no supernatural being or force behind this process.”
Some professors are even actively working to stop intelligent design activists from successfully enacting educational policy within public schools.
UC Berkeley integrative biology professor Kevin Padian is currently working as an expert witness in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, where he is assisting 11 parents from Dover, Penn. who argue that the school district is violating their First Amendment rights by imposing religious beliefs through the inclusion of intelligent design in their children’s science curriculum.
Still, despite the views held by his colleagues, Johnson said he did not feel ostracized for his belief in intelligent design during his 35-year teaching career at UC Berkeley.
While both his colleagues and students were receptive to his views, students at all levels of education need to be exposed to the controversy to a greater degree, he said.
“The evidence is not as one-sided as people like to claim. Be candid about the controversy. I don’t think universities should be afraid of minority viewpoints that challenge status quo,” said Johnson, whose belief in intelligent design stems from his own investigations into evidence used to support evolution.
Student advocates of intelligent design, however, say that the UC Berkeley community has not been as welcoming of their ideas.
As a part of a philosophical minority on campus, senior Tom Kim started up the UC Berkeley chapter of Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness this fall to provide a forum for like-minded students on campus to openly discuss their views without fear of insult.
Rather than researching the merits of intelligent design on their own, opponents of the movement often go along with political arguments against it and are easily swayed by media influence, Kim said.
“I think before people reject intelligent design, it should be examined by careful study where they consider the primary resources themselves rather than listen to what they are told by others. It should be considered with a fully informed mind that has thoroughly considered both sides,” Kim said.
Contact Cristina Bautista at email@example.com.
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