Over 3,600 Floridians were treated to a unique presentation of intelligent design as a scientific theory challenging the reigning Darwinian evolutionary paradigm last Friday night. The Sun Dome at USF in Tampa Bay was the locale for Darwin or Design, featuring three noted ID scientists: Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. Jonathan Wells and Dr. Ralph Seelke.
As sometimes happens, there were those who were not excited about the public presentation of intelligent design. A number of faculty sent a memo school-wide, announcing the event. Immediately, the spouse of another faculty member complained to the President of USF. That person, who was not a faculty member, had a number of problems with the USF community being alerted to a pro-ID presentation.
Here are the serious concerns I have with the “Darwin or Design” memo:
1. The memo creates the impression that this event is underwritten by
USF or is supported by a significant number of its faculty.
2. The memo’s authors do not clearly state their positions or their
biases with respect to the topic of the memo.
3. The memo suggests that its authors–all affiliated with USF and in
possession of advanced degrees–either do not understand the difference
between science and philosophy, or feel that advancing the “Intelligent
Design” agenda is more important than maintaining USF’s scientific
The complainer then goes on to cite Judge Jones’s ruling in the Dover decision to prove his point.
In fact, as Republican judicial appointee John Jones pointed out in his
landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District decision, the ID
movement is neither a recent phenomenon nor one that has ever been “led”
It may have escaped the complainer’s notice that the event featured some of the leading ID scientists in the world. You may not like or agree with what they are saying, but you can’t argue with the fact they are indeed scientists.
Fortunately, one of the original faculty supporters of the event, a co-signer of the memo which so upset the spouse of another faculty member, replied with a letter responding to each point. Because it was such a cogent response, I’m pasting the text of it in its entirety below.
Thank you for your comments regarding the upcoming event “Darwin or Design” that will be taking place at the Sun Dome on Friday, September 29, 2006. I appreciate your comments but wish to correct some factual errors in your e-mail.
First, your Point 1 that states that the memo gives the impression that the event is underwritten by USF and/or supported by a significant number of its faculty. If you will read the postcard carefully, you will notice that it specifically states that the event is sponsored by “Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity” and nowhere in the narrative does it state that USF is the sponsor. Other than the mention of the location at the USF Sun Dome, there is no mention of USF anywhere else. I find it difficult to believe that any person reading the narrative would get the impression that the event is a USF event, rather than just an event taking place at USF. It is obvious that you are reading more into the narrative than what is there. Also, with 8 individuals “signing” the memo, I find it hard to believe that any person reading the memo would assume that 8 persons represent the hundreds of academic faculty on the Tampa campus of USF.
In Point 2, you make another false assumption regarding the “positions or their biases with respect to the topic of the memo.” Clearly while you advocate scientific inquiry and integrity, you seem to believe that only what you believe to be scientific is relevant or correct. If you would take the time to investigate the academic credentials of the two main speakers at the event, you will find that their records are impeccable. They are “world class” academic scholars and well regarded in the scientific community. As to the supposed biases of the memo’s authors, I suppose all persons, including the memo authors and yourself, would be considered biased in one way or another. In an environment of academic freedom, people may express their views on a variety of subjects and the authors of the memo wish to express their views on this subject, at least from the perspective of having open-minded people listen to the scientific arguments for the intelligent design position.
Finally, your Point 3 totally misses the point regarding scientific inquiry. As academics, we recognize all facets of education and learning. Science and philosophy are subjects taught independently, although there is a long history of the blending of both. If you examine the area of “philosophy of science” of which there are numerous PhD-level courses at most universities with this title, you will find that the majority of individuals who devoted their lives to science were also somewhat philosophers themselves. This goes all the way back to Bacon who is considered the father of the scientific method. All great scientific researchers have some type of philosophy based on their individual world view. Obviously, this program goes against your worldview and/or personal philosophy, and that’s OK. But to provide the false notion that everyone hearing about this program or perhaps attending it will be somehow drawn away from scientific exploration of issues is grossly exaggerated. If you would listen to the speakers on Friday (and you are certainly welcome to attend) or read some of their published articles, you would be provided with scientific, not philosophic, arguments supporting intelligent design. People can make up their own minds regarding the scientific reliability and believability of the positions espoused by the speakers.
As a final point, if you will examine the Chronicle for Higher Education and other academic related publications, you will find that the discussion of intelligent design versus Darwinian evolution, is in fact, an issue being discussed on college campuses. Your blanket statement that this is not an issue being discussed shows a lack of awareness of what is taking place on college and university campuses in North America.
As a personal point, I find it interesting that you refer to “a Republican judicial appointee” in your quote regarding the court decision you cited. Am I to assume, as you have in your response to seeing the Darwin or Design memo, that you are “biased?” Why not simply refer to the case without the reference to the political appointment process for naming this judge? Does it matter? Apparently it did to you since you mentioned it. Are you assuming that all of the signers of the memo are Republicans? Why should it even matter? Scientific inquiry is not a political issue, although you, by implication, try to make it one. I truly feel sorry for you and your limited perspective regarding the search for truth through scientific investigation.
Darwin or Design went on as planned, and by all reports was an excellent event. There were between 3,500 and 4,000 people in attendance, which shows that there is a thirsty public anxious to learn more about the theory of intelligent design. The sponsors at PSSI have indicated that they will be selling DVDs of the presentations at a future date. In the long run, many more people will learn about intelligent design than were in attendance last Friday, and there’s no amount of complaining that will stop that from happening.