Intelligent Design

My correspondence with Eugenie Scott on ID in the universities

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Salvador Cordova: Do you oppose the offering of courses on Intelligent Design and/or Creationism in the Philosophy and Religion Departments of secular universities?

Eugenie Scott: No.

They are quite appropriate for such courses. In general, in American universities, Religion departments offer scholarly analysis of religion, rather than devotional study, for which one would seek a seminary. Certainly the c/e controversy is a public controversy that bears studying as a public controversy (that’s why I wrote my book, after all!) Whether ID is a valid scientific or philosophical or theological approach can also be determined at the university level, and certainly is more appropriately determined there than by the local school board.

I think ID is more likely to be taught in philosophy and religion departments than in science departments

The above was from a public exchange Eugenie Scott and I had last year. I have no strong position on ID’s place in public school science classes, but I do have strong position on ID in the universities. This correspondence occurred after she and I were mentioned in the April 28, 2005 edition of Nature: Who has designs on your students minds?

The full correspondence can be found at the ideacenter website at : Part II : Correspondence Between Salvador Cordova and Dr. Eugenie Scott

Despite the fact her organization has been a major opponent of ID and creation science, and the fact her organization was involved in the Richard Sternberg affair, I was very much grateful for her courtesy in responding to me regarding ID in the universities. I was very flattered when she recognized me immediately when she came to give a talk at George Mason in December 2005. She’s a truly charming individual, and it’s too bad we’re on other sides of some bitterly fought issues.

Though I believe ID’s rightful place is eventually in the science curriculum, for the time being I would be glad to see it get a broader hearing in the universities under philosophy, religion, or special topics.

Salvador Cordova

PS
Some things have happened since that correspondence. I indicated to Dr. Scott that there were not complaints from students in our IDEA chapters regarding professors. That has since changed…

22 Replies to “My correspondence with Eugenie Scott on ID in the universities

  1. 1
    Benjii says:

    Well, Salvador, as an infrequent blogger on this site, I must say, I’m pretty impressed with your assessment of ID. However, why do you feel we have to wait another 10 to 15 years before ID is actually taught in the university level?

  2. 2
    scordova says:

    It can be taught at the university level today, but just not in the science classes. One serious consideration is that we (I and some people brainstorming the idea) don’t necessarily want biology students having a blackmark on their transcripts for having taken an ID biology course. We’d rather they receive on their transcripts credit for a humanities course such as “special topics in philosophy”. They get college credit for taking the time to learn, but are not singled out as ID sympathizers.

    For example, look at this course in communications:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/881

    Salvador

  3. 3
    russ says:

    But if it’s taught in philosophy/religion class, it won’t be taught by scientists, will it? And where would the bacterial flagellum fit into this philosophy class? Will the head of the religion department at the University of Iowa (an active atheist and ID opponent) allow his subordinates to go on about science without any science credentials?

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    “But if it’s taught in philosophy/religion class, it won’t be taught by scientists, will it? “

    It depends on the college. Some PhD’s and MA’s outside of acadmia are itching for the chance to be a term professor on the subject.

    Oh, we’re (sal and friends) brainstorming some interesting issues with quality control. How about mostly self-teaching materials, or remote learning?

    I’m trying to persuade college administrators and religion department heads that there is a financial incentive to offer these classes so as to attract and retain students. Controversy is good for attracting students. I think every knows a class like this, if taught well, will be packed out.

    A course with a good bit of self-teaching will allow students to tailor their learning of the subject to their tastes (i.e. pro or anti-ID). They’ll have the option to take tests which will reflect their preferences. The grades will be based on multiple choice exams measuring their knowledge of the claims in their area of specialization.

    The thing about universities, is that an experimental course can be offered. We can try and find out. It won’t take an act of the state legislature or a school board to make it happen. Just an organization within a secular school that is willing to give it a try….

    My role in all this is just to remind people, that the public school issue is not the only issue at hand. The universities are probably a more important place to be thinking about getting students exposed to ID.

    If universities realize that this will be a far more interesting course than some of their typical humanties courses, and that this could help attract and retain students, well, ID will have a chance at getting more broadly discussed and get a more fair hearing than it’s getting in the mainstream media.

    Salvador

  5. 5
    aldo30127 says:

    A topic like ID is perfect for an interdisciplinary course, perhaps team taught by a philosophy/religion professor and a biologist. There needs to be more interdisciplinary courses taught in general, and this topic naturally lends itself to that kind of course.

    A course with a good bit of self-teaching will allow students to tailor their learning of the subject to their tastes (i.e. pro or anti-ID). They’ll have the option to take tests which will reflect their preferences. The grades will be based on multiple choice exams measuring their knowledge of the claims in their area of specialization.

    I don’t, however, agree with. Any student coming in with a pre-concieved notion about which position is the right one will learn nothing if he only gets to study and delve into one side. This is the exact wrong approach to any lessons. The down-side to both pro- and anti-IDers is that they risk “losing” members of their own team. I’m personally confident that, if presently as fairly as possible, ID will lose. Although it would be very interesting to see ID given a fair shot in a philosophy class.

    How do you figure? ID has been legally excluded from public education for 60 years. Meanwhile NeoDarwinian evolution has been given exclusivity in public schools to the point where even criticisms are censored by way of conflating criticism of it with law regarding an establishment of religion. Despite this, a majority of the graduates still don’t buy the prehistoric claims of NeoDarwinian theory. NDE already lost, pal. If you dare even mention ID in public school the loss will only grow worse. This is why the atheist dominated academia are willing to use legal chicanery to censor ID. Ain’t that a laugh – using judges to decide what’s science and what isn’t? What a pathetic, desperate display of no-confidence. 😆 -ds

  6. 6
    worldsoyster says:

    It is maybe not good that ID is taught as religion. The teaching makes people think that we are religious. That is wrong and it is a big problem. It is important to be sure that it is taught by philosophy not by religion.

    What would a course in ID look like? I want to study but I do not know what are the boundaries of ID.

    Salvador: I am not sure it is good to have a nice opponent. It feels not as good when you win!

  7. 7
    mattison0922 says:

    Finally… in my personal and professional opinion (Ph.D. Molecular and Cellular Biology),

    I’ve taught bio at the university level for some time now…

    Sorry, but you’re going to have use your real name if you want to claim those credentials. -ds

  8. 8
    scordova says:

    worldsoyster,

    I think you have a reasonable point. I think of “Intelligent Design: Bridge between science and theology”. How’s that for a course title? I can already think of a recommended title by that name 🙂

    That said, what would we teach in that class? Ooooh, more than I ever dreamed. In fact, I asked some anti-IDists what they would want covered, and I was amazed how much agreement there was as to what should be covered.

    I mean, the basics. What did Darwin claim? What is Abiogenesis? What is creationism? What is ID?

    For example, what would be a fair test question about ID?

    Q1. What is ID according to Barbara Forrest and other critics of ID?
    Answer: Creationism’s Trojan Horse, and a means for the religious right to start a theocracy

    Q2. What is ID according to the IDEA center?
    Answer: The theory of intelligent design……

    Salvador

    Q3 bonus question: What is ID according to PZ Myers?
    Answer: (censored for vulgarity) :=)

  9. 9
    ctaser says:

    Are non-christians allowed to join IDEA now?

  10. 10
    scordova says:

    ctaser,

    non-Christians have always been allowed to join IDEA. Recently, the requirement for Christians being IDEA OFFICERS has been dropped. Some of the info on the ideacenter website may not have been changed to reflect this fact.

    If you find things on the website that are in need of revision, please write the ideacenter. I know PZ Myers complained about some of this. Oh well, his criticisms were not high on our list of priorities…..

    Salvador

  11. 11
    worldsoyster says:

    Salvador

    “I think you have a reasonable point. I think of “Intelligent Design: Bridge between science and theology”. How’s that for a course title? I can already think of a recommended title by that name”

    I think that maybe that sounds too religious. I think that ID is not half between science and theology. It is a “socket” and religion is the “plug”. ID just makes science not a problem for religion. It is not religion.

    Do you think “Intelligent Design: Reverse-engineering life” is a good title?

    Also, who is PZ Myers?

  12. 12
    scordova says:

    As far as content, I can think of how at least one of the 14 weeks in the semester should be spent. The students will watch these videos:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/882

    Another set of material would be derived from ideas by Barrow and Tipler:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/852

    And then elements of Michael Denton’s book and then elements of Bradley, Thaxton, and Olsen’s book.

    If the students wished to get a little bit of creation science with no theology in it, there is an online book by a PhD from MIT, Walter Brown: http://www.creationscience.com

    For the anti-ID side: Charles Darwin, Eugenie Scott, Barbara Forrest, Edis and Young, Mark Perakh, Ken Miller Talk Origins Website, or anything the other side really wanted to get aired….

    I would then let the students watch several debates (there are some video taped ones, my favorite was Mark Ryland and Peter Folger) and then ask if they feel the participants used any of the slimy tactics described here:
    http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html

    That would be more than enough for a semester.

    Salvador

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    Salvador:A course with a good bit of self-teaching will allow students to tailor their learning of the subject to their tastes (i.e. pro or anti-ID). They’ll have the option to take tests which will reflect their preferences. The grades will be based on multiple choice exams measuring their knowledge of the claims in their area of specialization.

    aldo30127: I don’t, however, agree with. Any student coming in with a pre-concieved notion about which position is the right one will learn nothing if he only gets to study and delve into one side.

    This is to avoid complaints by the students that attempts of indoctrination were made by either side. There will be a certain amount of core learning (learning definitions and claims by each side), and then they have the freedom to specialize. I will blog about a certain course in Alabama that allows just that.

    If the student wants to fill his mind with Barbara Forrest (abbr. BarFo) conspiracy theories, let him do so. If the students want to digest the misrepresentations and flawed logic of Charles Darwin, Ken Miller, Mark Perakh, Edis and Young, etc. they can do so.

    On the other hand if they want to learn good science, they can study ID in the class…

  14. 14
    mattison0922 says:

    DS,

    I have read your moderation policy, and it is not my intention to ‘debate your policy’ so to speak. However, I did have a comment… more of a question followed by a comment, actually.

    With respect to my credentials: I posted anonymously for a very specific reason. I am employed in an untenured capacity at a stste university currently… doing a post-doc actually. More than anything… I am following MB’s advice of keeping my head down and my mouth shut, so to speak. Does this seem unreasonable to you?

    Now… if it’s a just a matter of confirming my credentials in an off the record manner, then that’s a different story. I can certainly do this for you.

    Please feel free to email me at mattison0922@yahoo.com. Thanks.

    Register in our database using the .edu address assigned by the school where you teach. Only 5 people in the world including myself and Dembski can see it. If you’re going to use argumentum ad verecundiam I’d rather everyone knew who you are but I understand your desire to use a pen name in this circumstance so you’ll at least have to let the editors know. -ds

  15. 15
    Joseph says:

    It wouldn’t bother me what “classroom” ID started out in, as long as at least the first week consisted of Take the 3-hour ID challenge.

    That, along with a dose of ID and Creation reality, would be very welcome at every level of education.

    This thing where NDEists say it’s okay to teach ID in an elective philosophy class is a red herring. When a teacher actually tried to do that in California recently she was stopped via lawsuit so fast it made my head spin. -ds

  16. 16
    mattison0922 says:

    DS,

    Understood. Just for further clarification: I wouldn’t call my position argumentum ad verecundiam, as I didn’t appeal to my authority. I was relating my experiences as a biology teacher to the topic of origins science and education. I was in no way making an ‘argument from prestige.’

    Also, isn’t the argumentum ad verecundiam an appeal from an improper authority, ie: one commenting outside their area of expertise? Since no one offers a degree in ‘Design Theory’ other than being Dembksi, Johnson, Behe, Wells, etc. what are adequate credentials to comment with authority on IDT?

    And one additional clarification: I am NOT anti-ID. In fact, I believe that with respect to its status as a science, IDT is at least equivalent to NDT… hence my desire to post under my pen name. I just don’t think it should be legislated into public schools. That being said… I don’t believe it should be legislated out of public schools either. And while I don’t support the teaching of IDT as philosophy, I think that the recent events in CA are over the top, ridiculous, and perfectly illustrate why I am closeted supporter of IDT.

  17. 17
    Joseph says:

    To DaveScot,

    I have my doubts if the California case is relevant. It appeared to me it had much more to do with YEC than ID.

    My proposal would (should) prevent that kind of nonsense from happening again.

    I would also offer the Rev. Barry to either take the 3-hour ID challenge or shut up.

    Those who refuse to take the challenge and continue their agenda-driven “ID=religion” spewage are intellectual cowards and pimples on the butt of progress.

    And, I agree- don’t legislate it into the schools- take the challenge…

  18. 18
    SChen24 says:

    As a philosophy and political science double major, I think teaching the controversy of intelligent design in such classes is all right. However, design is a science and it ultimately should be taught in a science class. My fear is that by not aiming for design to be taught in a science, we’re compromising with the evolution movement.
    Certainly, I understand the backlashing that could result from teaching design in science classes. I hosted Michael Behe in my high school and suffered consequences unthinkable to a student. However, it was because of what I endured that I pushed forward with the ID movement. I don’t find it proper to back off and compromise because the evolution movement poses a threat. What type of message does that send?
    Teach intelligent design in philosophy? Sure, there are many aspects of the the controversy that are better discussed from a philosophical approach. Don’t teach design theory in science (at least on a university level)? That is bad policy, especially for designists to embrace.
    Finally, perhaps Dr. Scott is a friendly person, but it is her work and her National Center for Science Education (NCSE) that helped harrass me in high school and continues to attack other students who wish to be inquisitive (since we all know that asking questions in schools is the worst crime ever known to man). I find her debates and talks to be illogical and silly and I find her to be driven by a desire to destroy the education of students like myself with lies about evolution. Do not tell me she is a good person when this is what drives her.
    Teach design as a science and quit compromising.

  19. 19
    scordova says:

    SChen24,

    I’m honored to hear from you. What you endured was surley heroic and example to everyone in the cause of truth. I point out to the readers:

    Open Letter from Samuel Chen

    I understand your distaste for the NCSE and the Darwinist establishment and the injustices they have committed. I’m not here to defend that, but merely to point out that one of our opponents has pointed to an area which IDists should consider exploring…

    Regarding ID as science, my view is what Stephen Meyers had to say
    Can There Be a Scientific “Theory of Creation”?:

    the question whether a theory is scientific is really a red herring. What we want to know is not whether a theory is scientific but whether a theory is true or false, well confirmed or not, worthy of our belief or not.

    I do believe ID’s place will be in the sciences one day, but it will be a long difficult road. I invite others to try to get it in the science class, but I and my friends have only run into brick walls trying to do so. Not the least of which are frighted science professors and administrators at risk of losing their jobs for being marginally fair to ID.

    My goal is to get it taught right in the philosophy classes first, that goal is attainable in the near future. The ideal situation would be having ID in both contexts: science and philosophy.

    SChen24 wrote:

    I don’t find it proper to back off and compromise because the evolution movement poses a threat. What type of message does that send?

    I can understand your desire for justice here. However, the Darwinists are in power today and dealing out their form of justice. We can insist that ID is science all we want, but they will not give one inch. The goal then is to get the word out through channels which Darwinists do not control. It is not a matter of compromise, but rather a matter of what is the most effective method to expose students to the truth given the constraints we are facing.

    I should point out what happened in Dover was a disaster. They wanted to put 1-minute of ID before about 250 students in the school district. Look at the outcome. In contrast, the IDEA chapters in Virginia have reached almost a thousands students in 1 year, and gave them quality exposure to ID. The grass roots work was a far more cost-effective approach to getting the word out.

    The fight to bring ID to every person in this nation might have to be a house-to-house campaign (figuratively speaking) rather than some act of congress, state legislature, school board, or even college board of trustees.

    I do believe we can win a house-to-house campaign. IDists already are as evidence by the
    Zogby Poll

    Good luck to you SChen24. You’re an inspiration to many.

    Salvador Cordova

  20. 20
    SailorMon says:

    SC: “non-Christians have always been allowed to join IDEA. Recently, the requirement for Christians being IDEA OFFICERS has been dropped. Some of the info on the ideacenter website may not have been changed to reflect this fact.”

    Why would a group interested in exploring science ever need a religious requirement in the first place?

  21. 21
    scordova says:

    “Why would a group interested in exploring science ever need a religious requirement in the first place? ”

    I was not involved in the decision so I can’t answer except to speculate that it was to bring science to the Christian community and to be completely open about the personal biases of the IDEA leadership.

    You’re question is a leading question, we did not need the requirement, it was something that was an extra. That extra is no longer there…

  22. 22
    scordova says:

    Oh, the other thing is that IDEA was not an organization that talked only of science, it discussed the philosophical and religious issues as well. That is in their mission statement.

    Salvador

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