The Christian Legal Society at Southern Methodist University is co-sponsoring “Darwin vs. Design”, a presentation on the always-controversial subject of intelligent design (ID). In the best spirit of the university being a marketplace of ideas, representatives from the departments of anthropology, biology, and geology will be on hand to counter the viewpoints espoused by ID proponents with a presentation of their own, focusing on ID’s lack of coherence as a scientific theory.
Sounds good, except only one of the two sentences I just wrote is true. Guess which one?
Science professors upset about a presentation on “Intelligent Design” fired blistering letters to the administration, asking that the event be shut down. […]
“These are conferences of and for believers and their sympathetic recruits,” said the letter sent to administrators by the department. “They have no place on an academic campus with their polemics hidden behind a deceptive mask.” [emph. added]
Similar letters were sent by the biology and geology departments. […]
While some who are leading the protest acknowledge the need for free speech and academic freedom, they say this event doesn’t qualify. [emph. added]
“This is propaganda,” said Dr. John Ubelaker, former chairman of the biology department. “Using the campus for propaganda does not fit into anybody’s scheme of intellectual discussion.”
Other biologists compared the conference to a presentation by Holocaust deniers. [emph. added] Would the university allow that to happen?
No sir, we academics never engage in polemics.
I’m no fan of ID, and like a lot of people I don’t put stock in it as a scientific theory. But there’s no denying, even among the scientists, that ID raises important questions which are best dealt with by reasoned responses from skilled scientists. The CLS here is offering an opportunity for just such a thing (whether it realizes it or not), and at least one professor in the article is encouraging his students to attend and think critically about the content.
To instead cast aspersions on the intentions of the conference organizers, act as gatekeepers for what students may and may not think about, and then pull out the handy-dandy “Holocaust denier” card to complete the character assassination of the conference organizers, rather proves the point of those who say that academic scientists are merely afraid of holding discussions on things that contradict their beliefs. If I were someone questioning about ID, I’d be thinking: What are these scientists afraid of?
As for the “if we let them in, we legitimize them” canard, realize that intelligent design is already “in” — in the sense that your students and faculty have heard about it and are thinking about it. The faculty had best start acting like scientists and teachers, and get the university thinking about ID in critical and scientific ways. You can’t hermetically seal a university campus against ideas, despite the intentions of SMU faculty to determine what “qualifies”.