Students join debate on intelligent design
Campus clubs set up to defend concept
By Lisa Anderson
Tribune national correspondent
Published November 25, 2005
ITHACA, N.Y. — Dappled with autumn leaves, the manicured campus of an Ivy League university in upstate New York may seem far from the cornfields of Kansas or the rural towns of central Pennsylvania, but it represents the newest of these battlefields in the growing culture war over the teaching of evolution.
The national spotlight recently has focused on school boards in Kansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere that are grappling with calls for including intelligent design, a concept critical of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, in science curricula. But a significant new front in this cultural conflict is opening in the halls of American higher education, spearheaded by science students skeptical of evolution and intrigued by intelligent design.
One of them is Hannah Maxson. A math and chemistry major at Cornell University, she founded an Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club here this fall. MORE
10 Replies to “IDEA Clubs”
This is a better report than most.
Peeking through is evidence that evolution defenders, in general, are afraid. They want to extinguish debate by authoritarian means: branding ID as religion, ridicule, straw polls amoung supporters.
Hannah Maxson appears inquisitive, open-minded, eager to explore ideas and unafraid. I loved the listing of Universities that have IDEA clubs. There are more now than there were. Looks like the IDEA is spreading.
I have suggested before the reason evolution defenders are afraid is because they see the weaknesses of the theory of evolution exposed and they have not been able to counter the assault of ideas except in heavy handed ways. To defenders, evolution is not just a scientific theory useful for pursuing new lines of inquiry. Evolution is the cornerstone of a faith, a worldview in which defenders are at the apex of the bold advance from the primordial soup. The fact that more than 70% in one poll in the story still believe that God creates or directs creation just proves to evolution’s true believers they really are on the cutting edge of all wisdom and understanding.
There is only one reason the president of Cornell, even an “acting” president, feels compelled to come out publicly and as forcefully as Hunter Rawlings chose to do–ID is a threat he’s taking seriously. He sees rivulets of real scientific inquiry starting to drip and spurt from the cracks in the dike. Challenges to worldview are visceral. It is time to panic.
Thank you for posting. For some reason, articles like this just don’t get printed in the Houston Chronicle.
The young generation might be what we need to oust Darwinism. Darwinists BEWARE!!!
Someone please arrest that girl. Doesn’t she know that Evolutionism is a fact?
Hats off to Lisa. I can’t believe the Chi Tribune, of all rags, would print a straight up piece on ID. It’s astonishing. Behe, Dembski, Johnson, the whole lot of them have made an actual dent in MSM newspapers.
Hey folks, that’s a story!
What do Darwinists have to beware of? I am not aware of a competeing theory for the spread of life on Earth.
I think that IDEA clubs are a good idea. Asking questions is the best thing college students can do and ID brings up many important ones.
[Here’s the full article for your reference. –WmAD]
SECTION: NEWS ; ZONE C; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1807 words
HEADLINE: Students join debate on intelligent design;
Campus clubs set up to defend concept
BYLINE: By Lisa Anderson, Tribune national correspondent
DATELINE: ITHACA, N.Y.
Dappled with autumn leaves, the manicured campus of an Ivy League university
in upstate New York may seem far from the cornfields of Kansas or the rural
towns of central Pennsylvania, but it represents the newest of these
battlefields in the growing culture war over the teaching of evolution.
The national spotlight recently has focused on school boards in Kansas,
Pennsylvania and elsewhere that are grappling with calls for including
intelligent design, a concept critical of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution,
in science curricula. But a significant new front in this cultural conflict is
opening in the halls of American higher education, spearheaded by science
students skeptical of evolution and intrigued by intelligent design.
One of them is Hannah Maxson. A math and chemistry major at Cornell
University, she founded an Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA)
Club here this fall.
“In my opinion, both intelligent design and Darwinian evolution are science.
Both have philosophical implications. Intelligent design implies the universe is
somewhat directed. Darwinian evolution implies a naturalistic worldview,”
Maxson, 21, said.
Darwin’s evolutionary theory, hailed as the cornerstone of modern biology by
nearly all scientists, holds that all life on Earth shares common ancestry and
developed through natural selection and random mutation. In science, a theory is
generally a principle developed from facts rigorously tested over time.
Intelligent design, or ID, posits that there are complexities of life not yet
explained by evolution that are best attributed to an unnamed and unseen
intelligent designer. Opponents, including every major U.S. scientific
organization, deride it as “neo-creo,” or a high-tech version of creationism,
the account of creation in Genesis in the Bible.
Cornell’s IDEA Club is one of about 25 such campus organizations across the
country, including a new club established at the University of Illinois at
The clubs operate under the auspices of the IDEA Center, founded in 2001 as a
non-profit educational organization whose goal is “to promote intelligent design
theory purely on its scientific merits,” according to the organization’s mission
statement. The center provides clubs with organizational help, books, videos and
primarily non-financial support, according to Casey Luskin, co-founder of the
center and the first campus IDEA Club begun in 1999 at the University of
California, San Diego.
He said the center, which has a budget of less than $10,000, remains separate
from and receives no funding from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based
advocate of intelligent design.
However, several institute fellows are on the center’s advisory board,
including such prominent ID advocates as William Dembski and Michael Behe, and
Luskin recently became the program officer for public policy and legal affairs
at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
“We have done a lot with very little. I attribute that to the fact there are
so many students out there who want to talk about this issue but are not given
the opportunity in their classes,” Luskin said.
David Masci, a senior research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public
Life in Washington, D.C., said, “As this issue has bubbled up into the national
consciousness over the last 10 years, it makes sense that it would have a
presence on college campuses.”
God does well in poll
Masci pointed to a March Gallup Youth Survey of teens age 13 to 18. It showed
that 38 percent believe “God created human beings pretty much in their present
form at one time within the last 10,000 years” and 43 percent agreed that “human
beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life,
but God guided this process.” Only 18 percent said humans developed over
millions of years without divine guidance.
Such numbers are nothing new for Will Provine, a biological sciences
professor at Cornell University. In his annual course on evolution for
non-biology majors, Provine hands out questionnaires asking students’ views on
Since he began the course in 1986, the number of students saying they
believed humans came about due to divine direction–whether through creationism,
intelligent design or simply God’s guidance–has fallen below 70 percent on only
two occasions, Provine said.
“I’m really thrilled to have everyone in the course, whether you’re a
creationist or not,” said Provine, who identifies himself as an atheist. “If
they are deeply religious, I don’t try to change their minds. I just encourage
them to sort it out.”
He said he differs from most in the evolutionary biology field because he
welcomes all views and ridicules none.
That kind of tolerance is too rare, said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at
the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va.
“I think many of the scientific organizations have felt they had to demonize
ID in order to win the argument. I think by ruling out ID in science journals
and science discussions, they have given the impression that they are not
willing to listen and really engage the other side,” Haynes said.
Cornell student Maxson said it was such derision and lack of knowledge about
intelligent design that led her to found her IDEA club, which quickly registered
about 60 members.
“I was surprised at how much interest there was,” said the junior from
She also was surprised at how much controversy ID is generating on campus.
On Oct. 21, about two weeks before Kansas redefined state science standards
to include the supernatural and while a Pennsylvania federal court heard a
landmark case concerning the constitutionality of teaching ID in public schools,
Cornell’s acting president devoted his entire state of the university address to
an impassioned attack on intelligent design.
Calling it an urgent matter “of great significance to Cornell and to the
country as a whole,” Hunter Rawlings said, “The issue in question is the
challenge to science posed by religiously based opposition to evolution,
described, in its current form, as intelligent design.”
He said bluntly, “ID is a religious belief masquerading as a secular idea.”
Shocked by Rawlings’ speech, Maxson shot back with a news release posted on
the IDEA Club’s Web site. She criticized Rawlings for his “blatant disregard for
the facts concerning intelligent design” and for “blasting the emerging
intelligent design theory as unscientific and religious in an unscrupulous,
Sitting over lunch in Cornell’s wood-paneled Ivy Room restaurant on a recent
rainy afternoon, the slight, soft-spoken Maxson said, “I expected it would be
controversial in that some people would be down on it, but not controversial to
the extent you would have the president of the university making a major speech
But Rawlings is not the only academic leader to affirm evolution and oppose
ID in recent weeks.
In September, Robert Hemenway, chancellor of the University of Kansas, sent a
letter to faculty and students in which he said, “The attack on evolution
continues across America and compels me to again state the obvious: The
University of Kansas is a major public research university. . . . As an
academic, scientific community we must affirm scientific principles.”
On Monday, the university’s religious studies department announced a new
course to be offered in the spring: Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent
Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies.
In October, Timothy White, president of the University of Idaho, sent a
similar letter to students and faculty saying, “I write to articulate the
University of Idaho’s position with respect to evolution: This is the only
curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences.”
Emphasizing that he has a “very high respect for people of faith,” Cornell’s
Rawlings said during a recent interview that his speech drew a strong positive
response from scientists as well as other university presidents.
“I think, perhaps, more academics will get involved in this debate, and I
think they should. [Earlier] they didn’t want to dignify intelligent design and,
second, they didn’t think they had to. They didn’t take this seriously as a
movement. But it is now gaining a place in many public schools, and that means
we’ll be dealing with the results for years to come,” said Rawlings, noting that
he welcomed the dialogue with Cornell’s IDEA Club.
“These IDEA clubs are going to face a lot of opposition on college campuses,
I would predict,” said Haynes of the First Amendment Center, who is an expert on
religious liberty and educational organizations.
“It’s a very interesting idea, so to speak, because it’s students saying,
`Let’s have the debate. If we can’t have the debate in the classroom, then we’ll
do it ourselves.'”
That was Jaclyn Wegner’s goal when she established the IDEA Club at the U. of
I. this semester.
U. of I. student’s opinion
“Just hearing about how the scientific community was handling [ID], it seems
that a lot of people are being kind of closed-minded, and it’s causing them to
be discriminatory against scientists who even question Darwin’s theory. That’s
what has driven me to start this club,” said Wegner, 21, a senior from Frankfort
in south suburban Chicago who is majoring in integrative biology.
Already, she said, a Darwin Club has popped up in response, headed by a
friend of hers.
“That’s really cool,” she said. “We are going to try to hold events together.
We are not competing. We’re all interested in the same issues. We are just
coming from different sides.”
– – –
IDEA club chapters around the world
Armstrong Atlantic State University (Georgia)
Boise State University (Idaho)
Braeside High School (Kenya)
California State University-Sacramento
Cornell University (New York)
Fork Union Military Academy (Virginia)
Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio)
George Mason University (Virginia)
Hillsdale College (Michigan)
James Madison University (Virginia)
Midwestern State University (Texas)
Myers Park High School (North Carolina)
University of Mississippi
Poway High School (California)
Pulaski Academy (Arkansas)
Seattle Central Community College
South Mecklenburg High School (North Carolina)
Stanford University (California)
Tri-Cities IDEA Club (Washington)
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, San Diego
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Missouri-Columbia
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
University of Oklahoma
University of the Philippines, Tacloban College
University of Texas at Dallas*
University of Victoria (British Columbia)
University of Virginia
Vanderbilt University* (Tennessee)
Wake Forest University (North Carolina)
Western Baptist College (Oregon)
Westminster College (Missouri)
Source: Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center
GRAPHIC: PHOTO: Cornell University’s Hunter Rawlings delivers his state of the
university address, in which he lambasted intelligent design. AP photo by Kevin
Rawlings makes no sense when he claims he has the highest repspect for religious students…his comments before contradict that, when he claimed that science has shown us that there is no point to life, no purpose for us being here, no meaning, no afterlife, etc.
Those are all unscientific claims that science couldn’t even begin to touch, yet he said them, and they’re clearly disrespectful to all people, let alone religious people.
He’s just trying to kiss butt to some and keep his real opinion for other venues and times.
Hey! There’s an IDEA club at Pulaski Academy! The Bruins were huge rivals of my high school, so I hate their guts. 🙂 But, still, I’m glad there’s a chapter in my neck of the woods! I hope they keep spreading! Like jmcd said earlier, groups like this are good. Students should be encouraged to think critically on all matters – including this one.
“What do Darwinists have to beware of? I am not aware of a competeing theory for the spread of life on Earth.”
I’m not aware of ANY theories for the spread of life on Earth. I’m aware of failed hypotheses for the spread of life on earth and I’m aware of untested hypotheses for the spread of life on earth, but no theories. The Darwinian “theory” is a member of the set of failed hypotheses.