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UVa faculty alarmed by ID’s presence on their campus

Is there another Guillermo Gonzalez in the making? Not quite, but there are some distressing signals coming out of UVa. This time the controversy surrounds the IDEA chapter and its faculty adviser, Bryce Paschal.

[For those who may not be aware, UVa is Paul Gross's school. Gross was co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse with Barbara Forrest. ]

The IDEA club at UVa had a meeting September 22, 2005 before 100 students (with me as invited speaker). Then, in the summer, an article referencing that meeting and the club’s activities throughout the year were highlighted in an article which I link to here: IDEA UVa adviser, molecular geneticist and biochemist doubts Darwin.

Apparently the UVa IDEA club’s humble activities caused quite a great deal of distress such that several faculty members took it upon themselves to sign a statement condemning intelligent design. This last insult is in addition to the fact Darwinist students have been involved in minor incidents of vandalism and heckling against the UVa IDEA club.

UVa Magazine

We were distressed by the article “Ultimate Questions,” not because it raised questions about scientific theory and observations, but rather because it failed to properly characterize the religious basis for an increasingly vocal attack on science. The article failed to state that the purpose of the IDEA Club is not merely to debate evolution and religion, but (as stated in their charter) to “promote, as a scientific theory, the idea that life was designed by an intelligent designer.” The argument that has been made is that gaps in scientific knowledge can be used to prove a supernatural and theological explanation for natural phenomenon. This is an attempt to disguise theology as science, and the simple conclusion would be that the less we know, the greater is the support for supernatural explanations. The great advance of the Enlightenment has been the search for natural explanations for natural phenomena.

While the article appears to represent a balanced view of the controversy, arguments from the proponents of intelligent design are presented without rebuttal. It might be assumed by a reader who is not an expert that valid flaws in evolutionary theory have been exposed. For example, a sidebar in the article presents the example of the bacterial flagellum, a seemingly complicated apparatus used for swimming that contains approximately 40 different proteins. According to the proponents of intelligent design, it “could not have started unless an intelligent agent put the right pieces in place, together at the same time. Proponents of intelligent design argue that the likelihood that such complexity, with so many dependent parts, arose randomly is virtually nil.” What the article fails to discuss is that the flagellar assembly is known to be homologous, that is to share common origins, with the bacterial Type Three Secretion System, and thus evolution can explain how a secretory system evolved into one capable of both secretion and motility.

We think that the attention given to ID is due to the lack of understanding about evolution. It is safe to assume that if the IDEA Club was constituted to promote as a scientific theory the notion that earthquakes are caused by God, and not by plate tectonics, it would receive less favorable coverage. Unfortunately, earthquakes are accepted by more people as a natural phenomenon than is biological evolution. According to the Pew Survey, approximately 50 percent of adults in the United States believe that humans first appeared on the earth in their present form within the past 5,000 to 10,000 years. The notion that humans actually evolved from more primitive life forms, supported by vast amounts of data from fields as diverse as paleontology and molecular genetics, is antithetical to those who do not accept evolution. If humans are the product of an intelligent design, should we also conclude that pathogens, such as Salmonella and HIV, responsible for killing millions of children every year, are also intelligently designed?

Why is the concept of evolution so troubling to proponents of ID? Not only does evolution clash with religious dogma, but it undermines the significance that some would like to give to the place of humans in the universe. Most people are unaware of the resistance 400 years ago to the notion that the earth revolves around the sun, a climate that led to Galileo’s public recantation of this notion under the threat of torture. The opposition to a heliocentric theory of the solar system was due to the conflict with religion, and was sustained by the desire to imagine that we occupy a special place in existence. It appeared more comforting to those who opposed Galileo to believe that we were the center of the universe, rather than that the earth is one of many planets that revolves around the sun, which is but one of many stars. It is quite disappointing that 22 percent of U.S. adults recently surveyed by the Washington Post (reported in the March 30 issue) thought that the sun revolves around the earth, rather than vice versa, so while progress has been made since the time of Galileo, it is not as rapid as one might have hoped.

The current conflict between the science of evolution and attempts to teach creationism or ID disguised as science can be seen in the same light as the resistance to a heliocentric theory of the solar system. It may be more comforting to some to imagine that we were created in our present form than that we share common origins with chimpanzees, mice and even bacteria. The article did a disservice to the extensive body of data in support of evolution by placing the religiously motivated remarks of a few on a seemingly equal footing with real observations and experiments. It was stated that “Few peer-reviewed scientific studies [in support of ID] have been published in the major scientific journals,” but a more accurate statement would be that no peer-reviewed scientific studies in support of ID have ever been published in any major scientific journal.

Jefferson recognized that reasoned debate and the free exchange of ideas constituted the very core of democracy in America. However, theories such as ID, that invoke religious themes due to a purported lack of scientific facts, have no credibility or standing in the teaching of science in the United States.

Signed
Adler, Paul N. – Department of Biology
Auble, David T. – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Bauerle, Ronald H. – Department of Biology
Beyer, Ann L. – Department of Microbiology
Bradbeer, Clive – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Brautigan, David L. – Department of Microbiology
Brown, Jay C. – Department of Microbiology
Bullock, Timothy N. – Department of Microbiology
Burke, Daniel J. – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
DeSimone, Douglas W. – Department of Cell Biology
Dutta, Anindya – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Egelman, Edward H. – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Fox, Jay W. – Department of Microbiology
Grigera, Pablo R. – Department of Microbiology
Hamlin, Joyce L. – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Hammarskjold, Marie-Louise. – Department of Microbiology
Horwitz, A. Rick – Department of Cell Biology
Kedes, Dean H. – Department of Microbiology
Khorasanizadeh, Sepideh – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Kupfer, Gary M. – Department of Microbiology
Lannigan, Joanne A. – Department of Microbiology
Ley, Klaus – Department of Biomedical Engineering
Li, Chien – Department of Pharmacology
Li, Rong – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Lindorfer, Margaret – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Lynch, Kevin – Department of Pharmacology
Macara, Ian G. – Department of Microbiology
Macdonald, Timothy L. – Department of Chemistry
McDuffie, Marcia J. – Department of Microbiology
Menaker, Michael – Department of Biology
Minor, Wladek – Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Moskaluk, Christopher A. – Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Nakamoto, Robert – Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Noramly, Selina – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Osheim, Yvonne – Department of Microbiology
Rissman, Emilie – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Rivera-Nieves, Jesus – Department of Internal Medicine
Roberts, Margo R. – Department of Microbiology
Ross, William G. – Department of Internal Medicine
Schwartz, Martin A. – Department of Microbiology
Smith, Michael F. – Department of Microbiology
Stukenberg, P. Todd – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Tamm, Lukas K. – Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Taylor, Ronald P. – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Thompson, Thomas E. – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Wertz, Gail W. – Department of Pathology
White, Judith M. – Department of Cell Biology
Wiener, Michael C. – Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Wotton, David – Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics

PS

Virginia has been a hot bed of pro-ID and pro-creationist activities:

ID at University of Virginia

ID at George Mason University

ID week at James Madison University

Anti-Darwin rally at Virginia Commonwealth: Textbook Controversy

And Liberty University’s Creation Mega-Conference, 2005.

And let us not forget the venerable Henry Morris was a professor at Virginia Tech. Morris has left a continuing legacy of pro-ID and pro-creation faculty and students at that school.

There are also cells of pro-ID science and biology students and faculty at Virginia’s William and Mary College, Longwood College, and Hampden-Sydney, Northern Virginia Community College, Patrick Henry College, and Medical College of Virginia. I suppose there are more, but those are the one’s I have contact with.

One other thing worth mentioning, Virginia has a high concentration of high-tech jobs. The county I grew up in Fairfax, which had the highest per-capita concentration of scientists and engineers of anywhere in the world. It has been called the “silicon valley” of the East. All this despite the fact Virginia gets a D- in Darwinism according to the Fordham report.

PPS

I was the invited speaker in the article in which the letters respond to: IDEA UVa adviser, molecular geneticist and biochemist doubts Darwin.

Here is an example of slanted reporting by the UVA radio station, September 22, 2005:
WTJU News Radio

Controversial speaker comes to U-V-A.

A rising voice in the movement to replace the study of evolution with that of an intelligent designer… Salvador Cordova … spoke to a crowd of about one hundred people last night at the University of Virginia. Cordova was a guest of the UVA chapter of Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Club or I-D-E-A.

The intelligent design movement asserts that certain features of the universe and of living things are too complex to be explained by an undirected process such as natural selection… and therefore must involve an intelligent designer. Although some proponents of intelligent design…such as Cordova…claim no interest in bringing the teaching of creationism into public schools…the intelligent design movement has been used by many as a way to present an alternative theory to evolution that may be more palatable than outright creationism. Corodova said in his talk “scientists supporting intelligent design are in a tough position because most of their donors strongly want creationism and intelligent design taught in public schools.”

In an hour-long lecture…Cordova repeatedly stated that the movement’s inability to identify who the intelligent designer is does not detract from movement. He spent the majority of his time reading quotes from many scientists on topics such as evolution and quantum theory…with the intent of suggesting that many scientists indirectly support an intelligent designer.

Following the lecture…there was a question and answer session. Students…faculty…and members of the public…denounced Cordova for his inability to present hard evidence supporting intelligent design. One U-V-A professor criticized Cordova for relying on out-of-context quotes from a few select scientists for his claims.

Even strong believers in intelligent design and fundamental Christians…I.D.E.A. co-founders John Copper…and Kristine Hereford…expressed some disappointment in Cordova’s lecture. Copper says…”I feel like he could have done a better job. There could have been more numbers and things like that.” Hereford says “There wasn’t much pointed evidence.” But both Copper and Hereford were very pleased with the large turnout…and the intense discussion that followed the lecture. “We started the club to put the information out there…and to generate discussion” says Hereford…”I was glad with the turnout…and with the diversity of people represented…and I find it interesting to see a different perspective.”

The lecture was held last night in Gilmer hall.

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42 Responses to UVa faculty alarmed by ID’s presence on their campus

  1. “What the article fails to discuss is that the flagellar assembly is known to be homologous, that is to share common origins, with the bacterial Type Three Secretion System, and thus evolution can explain how a secretory system evolved into one capable of both secretion and motility.”

    How often is this appeal to magic going to be repeated before people wake up and see it for what it is ?

  2. Wow, with so much pro-ID movement in the country and with the recent polls of Americans disbelieving Darwinism you’d think that somewhere somehow on national television there would be ID friendly channels and shows.

    Is there anything we can do about the liberal – biased media (though I know that some liberals are pro-ID, but you get my point)?

  3. (1) How often is this appeal to magic going to be repeated before people wake up and see it for what it is?

    To you, evolutionary explanations are “magical” — but of course, to the evolutionists, the explanations you prefer — designed by an intelligent agent whose identity is unknown and perhaps unknowable, designed by a process that’s unknown and perhaps also unknowable — also seem “magical.”

    We are dealing here with conflicts between worldviews, and such conflicts are almost always irresolvable, if history is any indication. What happens is either that one side destroys the other, or the conflict evolves into a different form. (For example, Catholics and Protestants no longer kill each other over different interpretations of the Eucharist.)

  4. 4

    If one could take a poll of those 49 professors, how many would admit some sympathy towards ID if they could remain anonymous?
    Also, does anyone know who is missing from this list?

  5. Carlos

    We are dealing here with conflicts between worldviews, and such conflicts are almost always irresolvable, if history is any indication. What happens is either that one side destroys the other, or the conflict evolves into a different form.

    At one level the ID/Evolution debate is a conflict of worldviews: naturalism vs theism, for example. But on another level, it is a conflict of scientific issues. Do the findings of science and what we actually observe in nature support the hypothesis that the neo-Darwinian mechanism of RM/NS explains what we observe? Is there evidence to support the many claims of neo-Darwinism in the biological data itself? Exploring these questions doesn’t require delving into the level of worldviews necessarily. Either the data of science supports the hypothesis or it doesn’t. I’m of the opinion that it does not, based on all that I’ve read and studied in biology over the years. My Christian worldview does not require me to draw that conclusion. The data does.

  6. It seems obvious that the fact that Information drives function at the cellular and sub-cellular levels is the silver bullet with which ID Theory will put Darwinism out of its deluded and eluding existence. Unfortunately, the ID movement has yet to formulate a cogent presentation of this fundamental fact in a way that leads to an A-hah! reaction from the public.

    That “failure” is one of the reasons we keep getting descriptions of ID Theory in the media like that of WTJU News Radio: “The intelligent design movement asserts that certain features of the universe and of living things are too complex to be explained by an undirected process such as natural selection… and therefore must involve an intelligent designer…”

    To the general public, the statement “things are too complex to be explained by an undirected process such as natural selection” sounds like an admission by proponents of ID Theory that they are unable to figure out material reality. But, ironically, it is ID Theory that has properly understood that the existence of information codes in living organisms demands a more sophisticated, rational, and empirical explanation than the convoluted and empirically unsupported speculations endlessly churned out by disciples of Darwinian random chance.

    The ID movement possesses the bullet. All that is needed is a weapon of the right caliber (a few succinct statements focusing on the origin of genomic information, for example) and a marksman to place a sure shot in the heart of Darwin’s terrible lizard.
    —–
    A past macroevolution is unsupported by the evidence; a present evolution indemonstrable.

  7. 7
    Michael "Tutu" Tuite

    I’ve attended two IDEA club events at the University of Virginia duing the last academic year. Neither event drew more than a dozen spectators, most of whom were clearly hostile to the ID cause. Although the events were billed as being about “intelligent design.” both presenters were unreconstructed young earth biblical literalists who were completely ignorant of the arguments set forth by ID proponents. They were certain, nevertheless, that ID supported their bible-based worldview. Is the effort to increase ID’s acceptance in academia well served by these representives?

    A note on the UVA student organizations web page says of the IDEA club: This organization is not currently active. It may be pending approval for the current school year, or disbanded entirely.

  8. “We are dealing here with conflicts between worldviews,…”

    That is precisely the problem. Worldviews. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of seeking to pad their worldviews, people engaged in the raw, unadulterated search for truth? Truth at any cost?

    And Emkay, you are too optimistic. If only it were so simple! People whose priority is the mutual padding of worldviews engage in much willful obtuseness and deliberate misrepresentation.

  9. avocationist: “If only it were so simple! People whose priority is the mutual padding of worldviews engage in much willful obtuseness and deliberate misrepresentation.”

    Perhaps, it is so simple — but no one is seeing the forest, only the trees. Perhaps it’s going to take one, or a few, not committed to padding their pet worldviews who will laser-lock on the Essential One Thing and make the irrefutable case that the presence of function-specific genomic information in living organisms defies random Darwinian chance, indeed precedes any kind of “selection,” natural or artificial.

    —–
    A past macroevolution is unsupported by the evidence; a present evolution indemonstrable.

  10. I wonder if those signees realize that Galileo, like Copernicus, was a Creationist. And that heliocentrism WAS a scientific idea put forth by the likes of Aristotle and formalized by Ptolemy.

    We think that the attention given to ID is due to the lack of understanding about evolution.

    Speaking for myself- I know it was a very good understanding of evolution and the data that led me away from evolutionism.

    If humans are the product of an intelligent design, should we also conclude that pathogens, such as Salmonella and HIV, responsible for killing millions of children every year, are also intelligently designed?

    Are atomic bombs intellgently designed? By their logic anything that can cause death can’t be intelligently designed. I guess we can get rid of homicide departments.

  11. (7) That is precisely the problem. Worldviews. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of seeking to pad their worldviews, people engaged in the raw, unadulterated search for truth? Truth at any cost?

    I don’t know what a search for truth would look like if it weren’t guided by some sort of question. And that question must presuppose some huge background of assumptions. Young children, who haven’t mastered that body of assumptions — i.e. culture, i.e. world-view — ask a lot of questions that are sometimes startling and sometimes inane. Maybe that’s what “the raw, unadultered search for truth” is like — being a young child.

    wonder if those signees realize that Galileo, like Copernicus, was a Creationist.

    That’s a cheap rhetorical gesture. There wasn’t any scientific alternative to creationism back then. (Some people here might say that there still isn’t.)

  12. Also, does anyone know who is missing from this list?

    You mean like the professors who attend the IDEA meetings? :-)

  13. 13

    I agree with Carlos that our behavioral and attitudinal differences cannot be easily reversed. Like every other aspect of our physiology, they are determined, innate and in my opinion were “prescribed” long ago.

    William Wright’s book “Born That Way,” published in 1998, demonstrates in excruciating detail that the battle between Nature and Nurture has been won by Nature hands down. What makes that victory all the more convincing is that the investigators certainly did not anticipate what their carefully crafted inquiry has revealed.

    “After only two decades of concerted research into this aspect of our makep, we can now address human dysfunctions, contradictions, and self-destructiveness armed with a grasp of an importnat new component, perhaps the most important of all: the powerful effect on behavior of the human genome, the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that produced our eyes, feet, and kidneys, and play a role in every aspect of our behavior.”
    Born That Way, page 273

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  14. wonder if those signees realize that Galileo, like Copernicus, was a Creationist.

    Carlos:
    That’s a cheap rhetorical gesture.

    Why would anyone say reality is cheap?

    Carlos:
    There wasn’t any scientific alternative to creationism back then.

    Ideas of evolution have been around as long or longer as ideas of intelligent design, which dates back at least to Aristotle. To say scientists did not have an alternative is like saying there wasn’t any scientists.

    The truth is scientists always have alternatives. It is just that the data pointed to intelligence as a cause. THAT is why Creation was so prevelant.

    I say if those great scientists were around in Darwin’s time “On the Origins of Species…” either wouldn’t have been published or it would have been laughed out of publication.

    I wonder if Carlos also thinks that the church is the entity that came up with heliocentrism…

  15. Chance worship is the end of science. ID is actually the only workable presupposition for science.

  16. I acknowledge that there were alternatives to the doctrine of special creation in antiquity, but these were not scientific alternatives.

    Let me provide a different sort of example of what I’m talking about. The pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus, around 500 BC, invented an argument for the existence of atoms. It’s not a bad argument — but it is merely an argument. There was no evidence for atoms — and so atomism did not count as a scientific option — until the work of John Dalton. True, Robert Boyle revived atomism (“corpuscularism”), but it remained a bit of metaphysical speculation until Dalton came along and gave it some experimental support.

    That’s the kind of distinction I was trying to make above, by saying that there was no scientific alternative to creationism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

    Besides which, Copernicus and Galileo were thoroughly immersed in a Christian world-view, to which the doctrine of creation is central. Although evolution was not unknown in Greco-Roman antiquity, it was regarded as part of the paganism that the early Christians had to reject.

    I’m willing to stand (or sit) corrected if I’ve gotten the history wrong.

  17. Ideas of evolution have been around as long or longer as ideas of intelligent design, which dates back at least to Aristotle.
    Interesting, source?

    I wonder if Carlos also thinks that the church is the entity that came up with heliocentrism…
    Accordingto Wikipedia, it was ancient Indians who figured it out:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliocentrism

  18. “What the article fails to discuss is that the flagellar assembly is known to be homologous, that is to share common origins, with the bacterial Type Three Secretion System, and thus evolution can explain how a secretory system evolved into one capable of both secretion and motility.”

    Note the abysmally low standard of evidence here, “…thus evolution can explain…” Say what? Has it been shown which mutations would be required to engineer the transformation, and has it been shown that these mutations have a reasonable likelihood of occurring? Without such a demonstration and such evidence, “evolution” explains precisely nothing.

    Blind acceptance of a hypothesis with such a low standard of evidence (i.e., nothing more than rank speculation based on presupposition), is the sign of pseudoscience.

  19. 19

    Emkay

    Thanks for all the free publicity but I don’t believe indemonstrable is a word.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution UNdemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

    Thanks anyway. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    I love it so!

  20. Oops- I goofed

    This- I wonder if Carlos also thinks that the church is the entity that came up with heliocentrism…

    should have been:

    I wonder if Carlos also thinks that the church is the entity that came up with geocentrism…

    D’oh

    Ideas of evolution have been around as long or longer as ideas of intelligent design, which dates back at least to Aristotle.

    Franky172:
    Interesting, source?

    Look up Greek Philosopher Epicurus (Epicurius)

  21. Epicurus did propose a version of materialism (though non-deterministic), but I don’t recall a theory of evolution (common descent through modification). Then again, I only read Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, and not very thoroughly.

    I wonder if Carlos also thinks that the church is the entity that came up with geocentrism.

    I don’t understand what this means or what’s being implied here.

  22. I wonder if Carlos also thinks that the church is the entity that came up with geocentrism.

    Carlos:
    I don’t understand what this means or what’s being implied here.

    The people who use the “geocentrism” argument usually atribute that premise to the church. They do so because they don’t understand reality- which is usually the same reason people don’t think Galileo and Copernicus were Creationists.

    Carlos:
    Epicurus did propose a version of materialism (though non-deterministic), but I don’t recall a theory of evolution (common descent through modification). Then again, I only read Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things, and not very thoroughly.

    Do you think that his version of materialism allowed for a separate creation of organisms?

  23. Joseph:
    “I wonder if Carlos also thinks that the church is the entity that came up with geocentrism.”

    The church didn’t come up with geocentrism, but was more than ready to adopt it and use plenty of references in the bible to support it. The church also defended geocentrism for a long time and gave scientists a hard time who were claiming otherwise. It is hard to accept the realization that the world does not revolve around humans.

  24. Is it appropriate for University Professors to be signng this sort of letter in their capacity as facutly members? They are taking a position against other faculty members and their own students. Can any of the professors here comment on whether such things are approriate?

    Salvador

  25. I’m fairly certain that I don’t understand reality. But reality doesn’t understand me, so we’re even.

    I know that geocentrism goes back at least to Aristotle, and was developed into an intricate astronomical system by Ptolemy. This isn’t my first barbecue, Joseph.

    Do you think that his version of materialism allowed for a separate creation of organisms

    Epicureanism doesn’t allow for any “creation” at all, since there’s nothing in the metaphysics which could do the creating. (There are gods in Epicureanism, but they don’t do anything — which is why they are not to be feared.)

    However, I think that Epicureanism is consistent with thinking that animals, plants, and humans arose independently from one another, as different conglomerations of atoms. (Random sticking together as they fall through the infinite void.) Lucretius tells a story about human cultural evolution, but to the best of my recollection — which is not very good — he doesn’t commit himself explicitly to descent with modification.

    I’d made a comment about the difference between metaphysical speculation and scientific theories — in response to criticisms directed toward my earlier criticism that there were no scientific alternatives to creationism in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Either the comment is stuck in the spam filter, or it got canned for reasons presently unknown to me.

    Part of what I’m trying to do in my limited interventions in these conversations is explore the problem-space of “science”, “metaphysics,” and “theology.” I want to show that one can accept full-blooded naturalism within scientific theories without being thereby committed to materalism as a metaphysical doctrine. One way of putting it would be that I’m interested in setting side by side — though without integration or fusion — a post-metaphysical science and a post-metaphysical theology. (The marriage of Dewey and Kierkegaard, if that makes sense.)

    Granted, this means that my agenda is not the IDA agenda. But I said from the beginning that I’ll gracefully bow out of the conversations if asked, and I stand by my word.

  26. Is it appropriate for University Professors to be signng this sort of letter in their capacity as facutly members? They are taking a position against other faculty members and their own students. Can any of the professors here comment on whether such things are approriate?

    As a college professor, my sense of things is that they didn’t cross the line. They would have crossed the line if they had said that the IDEA club should be banned. They would have crossed the line if they had resorted to personal attack. I think that university professors taking a stand against other university professors is a legitimate and healthy expression of academic freedom.

    The fact is that the vast majority of biologists do not consider intelligent design theory to be good science. If that situation changes, then all for the better — but that’s in the future, and there’s no reason why they should not be permitted to express their opinion at the present moment.

    If IDEA students actually experience reprisals from anti-ID professors, again, that would be crossing the line — and the university system already has procedures in place for dealing with grade petitions, unfair treatment of students by professors, etc.

  27. By the way, I’d like to salute the Douglas Taylor, Chair of the Biology Department at UVa, for not signing his name to the above letter. I further applad the fact his department award a Bacholor’s degree to the IDEA founder this past spring.

    Salvador

  28. Carlos,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m not so thinkinng that the professors violated any policy — for example, one can be rude and nasty and not violate any laws…..

    Though I don’t consider ID religions, let’s say for the sake of argument it is, isn’t it a little overboard to be then criticizing students religous views from one’s office? There are certain religions I don’t agree with. If I were a faculty member, I think I’d be a little reluctant to be going around and disparaging other people’s religion, even if I felt I was absolutely in the right.

    There are appropriate protocols for engaging and disagree and trying to refute. I don’t think using the good name of one’s office in a way that might even slighlty offend or marginalize students is conducsive to a university environment.

    Sure, they are free to speak their mind. What I question is whether they are bending the rules of good manners.

    Salvador

  29. re: Epicurus, very interesting.

  30. The anti-ID complaint isn’t merely that ID is religious, but that it is deceptive — that is religion dressed up as science.

    If I believed that, and I were a scientist, I could very easily see myself compelled to take a stand against it in public way.

    I don’t think using the good name of one’s office in a way that might even slighlty offend or marginalize students is conducive to a university environment.

    College students aren’t children who need to be protected and coddled. People disagree. That’s how public life is. That’s how the life of the mind is. Sometimes passions are aroused and feelings get hurt. “Offense” and “marginalization” are part of the package. Better that than totalitarianism and thought-police.

  31. ofro:

    Change that to “[Many scientists connected to] the church also defended geocentrism for a long time and gave [dissenting] scientists[, also within the church, ]a hard time who were claiming otherwise.” and I’d agree with you. The simplistic Galileo story now told in today’s education system fails to account for many points; political, personal, scientific. Even though Galileo correctly rejected the notion of the Earth as the center of the universe, he still believed that the planets moved in perfect circular orbits, when in fact these orbits were elliptical. The fact that the resulting data was so skewed was another reason why some thought he was wrong: he couldn’t get it to accurately predict the movement of stars so it could be used by sailors circumnavigating the globe. The Ptolemaic system was completely wrong, yet it could be used successfully by ships navigating the seas, though it required many adjustments over the centuries to correct for its errors. It took Kepler to correct the situation.

    Not to say that the church didn’t screw up itself–I feel no need to defend their actions–but I hate to see people distorting history in order to further their arguments. I did a quick google search and unfortunately the best article on the subject was from a Creationist site:

    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....alileo.asp

    That article brings up some points I wasn’t aware of. I was also surprised to find out there are still geocentrist organizations in existence today…

  32. Carlos aruged:

    College students aren’t children who need to be protected and coddled.

    A univeristy should seek to build the esteem and desire to learn in a university environment. Sure they’re free to insult the hardworking pro-ID biology and science students and make feel marginalized, but I see nothing good coming out of associating their own students with geocentrists.

    The IDEA president received a degree in biology, and at my encouragement I told her to study as much evolution as possible. I asked her at the end of one of her semesters, “what do you think, did your professor persuade you to accept evolution?

    She responded, “he’s a nice guy, he believes it, its all made up though. He couldn’t prove it.”

    The reson I mention this is that 49 faculty said, “We think that the attention given to ID is due to the lack of understanding about evolution.” But this is not the case for their own students they saw fit to award diplomas to nor faculty they saw fit to award teaching positions to. If that really wa the case, then that reflect badly on the university since they are awarding diplomas in biology and hiring facutly that lack understanding in evolution. I would counter that many pro-ID students understand the claims and the arguements offered for evolution, but they find them wanting. This sort of public disparaging, though well within their rights of academic freedom, I consider unhelpful to the advancement of knowledge, at best.

  33. Interview with Ron Numbers

    QUESTION: I’d like to move on, to talk about the Galileo case. Many people have a mythology that during his trial there was somebody down in the basement stoking the pyre and oiling the rack – that he was in imminent danger of losing his life. Is this a true representation of the case?

    DR. NUMBERS: Contrary to common myth, Galileo suffered very little abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church. He was never tortured, he never faced death. In fact, he was never imprisoned. His penalty was house arrest at a pleasant villa on the outskirts of Florence, Italy.

    Galileo’s problems with the church stemmed far less from his astronomical and physical views than from his lack of diplomacy, and from his impertinence in trying to instruct the church on how to interpret Scriptures, as some Protestants had attempted to do in the previous century. Furthermore, in writing his controversial book, Galileo had the impertinence to attribute the Pope’s views to a simple-minded character named Simplicius. This Pope [Urban VIII] had once been a patron of Galileo’s and had supported his scientific efforts, so such a lack of diplomacy turned even the Pope against his one-time friend.

    QUESTION: When the trial actually happened, what could have been the result if Galileo had refused to recant his view that the earth revolved around the sun? Was he in danger of death?

    DR. NUMBERS: Well, it’s hard to write counter-factual history about what might have happened if, but there seems no reason to believe that Galileo at any point faced the threat of death. There was never any indication in the court records of death being a possible penalty, and no other scientists were put to death for their scientific views.

    At issue with UVa and creationism and ID, is not whether someone is a creationist or IDer because of their cultural upbringing. At issue is whether it hinders scientific advancement. It is not a cheap rhetorical ploy to say Faraday, Maxwell, Newton, Kepler were creationists. The argument is not that it proves creation or design, but that such ideas do not hinder scientific understanding.

    I’m deeply bothered aspiring scientists are being marginalized by athesitic metaphysics with complicity form Theistic Evolutionists. I know doctoral and post-doctoral students who by all measures are thoroughly capable in their field. I even know professors. It bothers me that materilaist philosophy is affecting the progress of science and the progress of honest students of nature who find hard to believe the universe and life are a colossal accident.

    In addition to the letter by the UVa 49, there were numerous other references condeming attempts to put ID in public schools. IDEA chapters have really little relevancy to the public school issue, and in the all the IDEA meetings I been to on 4 campuses and the majority of their websites, I hardly see reference to the issue except as a news item (like Kansas and Dover). One does not see a lot of advocacy over the public school issue in IDEA chapters. It is a myth that ID=”soley a trojan horse to put creationism in public schools”. That is certainly a myth for students and faculty who are part of IDEA. These are people who are persecuted and may have their careers derailed because of over-zealous promoters of Darwinian evolution. And even if they don’t have their careers derailed, its frustrating to see pro-ID double and triple majors in science, master’s students, doctoral students, post doc, professors, engineers, vetrinarians, medical doctors, being denounced by unversity faculty as subverters of science. Those are false accusations. Even if ID were a religious belief (I say that only hypothetically), I think it poor taste for faculty members to use their office to denigrate someone’s religion.

    Salvador

    Salvador

  34. Even if ID were a religious belief (I say that only hypothetically), I think it poor taste for faculty members to use their office to denigrate someone’s religion.

    I’m afraid that you’ve missed my entire point from my (30). Anti-ID scientists couldn’t care less about “someone’s religion” (sure, there are exceptions like Dawkins, but who cares about him?). The point is about religion disguised as science. Anti-IDers don’t mind the religiousity — what gets their blood boiling is what they see as deception and hypocrisy.

    There are lots of quirky views out there which have a legitimate scientific presence but which haven’t filtered down to the public school system for one reason or another. Some scientists don’t think that HIV causes AIDS. Some scientists don’t think that there was a Big Bang. But we don’t teach those views in public schools, and I don’t see why we should. In the absence of an argument for why we should teach every quirky and off-beat scientific theory — all of which, I should add, deserve to be explored in the name in academic and intellectual freedom — I don’t see why the controversy (or metacontroversy?) between intelligent design and evolution deserves a place at the table in the public school system.

    I say this even though I also think that the Smithsonian’s treatment of Richard Sternberg was reprehensible.

  35. ofro:
    The church didn’t come up with geocentrism, but was more than ready to adopt it and use plenty of references in the bible to support it.

    Why wouldn’t they? Think about it- the science of the time told them it was so. Then those who promoted the idea just used interpretations of Biblical passages to re-inforce that view.

    IOW the Aristoleans at the universities used the church for THEIR reasons.

    To Carlos,

    I, for one, don’t want you to bow out of anything- that is unless YOU want to.

    The point I was making is that people ALWAYS gloss over the fact that Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Kepler and other very prominent scientists were Creationists. And the point in that is Creationists of today are “limited” to be the scientists they were- which seems to be a very good proposition.

    Carlos:
    The anti-ID complaint isn’t merely that ID is religious, but that it is deceptive — that is religion dressed up as science.

    That is a false complaint.

  36. Well, perhaps it is false, and in any event it’s not one that I’m endorsing here. But that is where they’re coming from. And if it is false, it’s up to ID theorists and advocates to convince them that it is false, and that their fears are not justified.

  37. Carlos wrote:

    But we don’t teach those views in public schools, and I don’t see why we should. In the absence of an argument for why we should teach every quirky and off-beat scientific theory — all of which, I should add, deserve to be explored in the name in academic and intellectual freedom — I don’t see why the controversy (or metacontroversy?) between intelligent design and evolution deserves a place at the table in the public school system.

    Carlos,

    I don’t know why your dragging the public school issue into this discussion. I can understand perhaps that you may believe ID and this weblog are 90% about the public school issue. But that is not the case. The public shool issue has almost nothing of relevance to the issue at hand which I summarized as:

    Apparently the UVa IDEA club’s humble activities caused quite a great deal of distress such that several faculty members took it upon themselves to sign a statement condemning intelligent design. This last insult is in addition to the fact Darwinist students have been involved in minor incidents of vandalism and heckling against the UVa IDEA club.

    IDEA, Bryce Paschal, and myself have little to do with promoting ID into the public school system. We are a group of individuals with a common bond:

    1. students of science
    2. doubter’s of Darwin
    3. collectively feeling persecuted

    IDEA was the one ways for these individuals to meet each other and no longer feel alone. I’m personally ambivalent to the public school issue, not because it is not important, but I simply am undecided.

    What was at the heart for many of these students (and faculty) is the fact they must function in an environment where their most important ideas are denigrated. They take classes in evolutionary theory and just find hollow assertion after hollow assertion. These are students who will go on to med school or graduate school in biology related fields or other disciplines of science.

    I personally could not function in an environment where clearly suspect theories are taken as fact. Some of them can articulate evolutionary theory as well or better than most….it doesn’t mean they buy one iota any more than a professor of Greek mythology would pray to Athena in time of distress.

    IDEA is there in part to help them. The public school issue is the low on their priorities.

  38. Davison

    “Thanks for all the free publicity but I don’t believe indemonstrable is a word.”

    You don’t have to believe it. It IS. Check with Encarta – or any good dictionary – and it will tell you that INdemonstrable is the word that means “Impossible to show conclusively,” and “Impossible to prove or demonstrate.” Which exactly describes the fiction, macroevolution.
    —–
    A past macroevolution is unsupported by the evidence, a present evolution indemonstrable.

  39. From the statement by UVa faculty:

    According to the Pew Survey, approximately 50 percent of adults in the United States believe that humans first appeared on the earth in their present form within the past 5,000 to 10,000 years.

    So what? ID is not Young Earth Creationism.

    The notion that humans actually evolved from more primitive life forms, supported by vast amounts of data from fields as diverse as paleontology and molecular genetics, is antithetical to those who do not accept evolution.

    So what? ID is not an argument against evolution per se.

    If humans are the product of an intelligent design, should we also conclude that pathogens, such as Salmonella and HIV, responsible for killing millions of children every year, are also intelligently designed? Why is the concept of evolution so troubling to proponents of ID? Not only does evolution clash with religious dogma, but it undermines the significance that some would like to give to the place of humans in the universe.

    Why are scientists making theological statements in the name of their profession? And again, the problem is not “evolution.”
    ——————————

    When told of publication of the book One Hundred Authors Against Einstein, [Einstein] replied, “Why 100? If I were wrong, one would have been enough.” (http://www.time.com/time/time1.....ela6d.html )

    “The lady protests too much, methinks.” –Shakespeare, Hamlet

  40. [Once again, with blockquotes fixed:]

    From the statement by UVa faculty:

    According to the Pew Survey, approximately 50 percent of adults in the United States believe that humans first appeared on the earth in their present form within the past 5,000 to 10,000 years.

    So what? ID is not Young Earth Creationism.

    The notion that humans actually evolved from more primitive life forms, supported by vast amounts of data from fields as diverse as paleontology and molecular genetics, is antithetical to those who do not accept evolution.

    So what? ID is not an argument against evolution per se.

    If humans are the product of an intelligent design, should we also conclude that pathogens, such as Salmonella and HIV, responsible for killing millions of children every year, are also intelligently designed? Why is the concept of evolution so troubling to proponents of ID? Not only does evolution clash with religious dogma, but it undermines the significance that some would like to give to the place of humans in the universe.

    Why are scientists making theological statements in the name of their profession? And again, the problem is not “evolution.”
    ——————————
    When told of publication of the book One Hundred Authors Against Einstein , [Einstein] replied, “Why 100? If I were wrong, one would have been enough.” (http://www.time.com/time/time1.....ela6d.html )

    “The lady protests too much, methinks.” –Shakespeare, Hamlet

  41. Carlos:
    But that is where they’re coming from.

    I know and it is sad.

    Carlos:
    And if it is false, it’s up to ID theorists and advocates to convince them that it is false, and that their fears are not justified.

    That is hard to do when the anti-IDists cover their ears and shout “Nah, nah, nah, nah” while reality is being explained to them. Judge Jones had to sit and listen to IDists and he didn’t get it.

  42. [...] In my post, UVa faculty alarmed by ID’s presence on their campus, I wrote about my concerns that another witch hunt was in the making. [...]

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