September 28, 2007
Panel discusses intelligent design
The discussion followed a lecture by Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, as part of the Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society's program, "Intelligent Design Theory: You're Going to Teach it Where?"
The program was based on a federal court case that started in Dover, Pa. In Kitzmiller v. Dover, the Dover Area School District required that ninth grade biology teachers read a statement framing evolution as just one theory among many others, including the idea of intelligent design. A group of parents sued the school board, charging that the mandate violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The court ruled that the school board's actions did violate the First Amendment. Miller was the lead witness in that case for the prosecution.
The panel discussion that followed Miller's lecture included Roberto Refinetti, professor and academic dean at the University of South Carolina's satellite campus in Walterboro, S.C.; Warren Funk, professor of philosophy; Thomas W. Martin, assistant professor of religion; and Matthew Persons, associate professor of biology. It was moderated by the Rev. Mark Wm. Radecke, university chaplain.
Miller said that he is Catholic, but still believes in evolution because he is also a scientist. He said that science and religion are not opposites, but that some proponents of intelligent design frame the situation as if the ideas can't coexist.
Martin said that religious people fear the ramifications of believing in evolution. "The opposition that many believers feel comes more in the idea that evolution is final and irrevocable proofe that God doesn't exist. That's taking it a step beyond what the scientific data is saying," he said.
Miller said the case in Dover "was an attempt by the administration to force the biology teachers to teach something they knew was not science."
Persons said that intelligent design fails as science because it is not falsifiable and relies on supernatural explanations, adding that "intelligent design is an intellectually dishonest form"
of both philosophy and religion.
The panel members all acknowledged the importance of debating religious ideas, but said that debate should not occur in biology classes. Other options discussed included history, sociology and literature classes.
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