IA and ID in the WSJ; update on CfS
AMES, Iowa -- With a magician's flourish, Thomas Ingebritsen pulled six mousetraps from a shopping bag and handed them out to students in his "God and Science" seminar. At his instruction, they removed one component -- either the spring, hammer or holding bar -- from each mousetrap. They then tested the traps, which all failed to snap.
"Is the mousetrap irreducibly complex?" the Iowa State University molecular biologist asked the class.
"Yes, definitely," said Jason Mueller, a junior biochemistry major wearing a cross around his neck.
That's the answer Mr. Ingebritsen was looking for. He was using the mousetrap to support the antievolution doctrine known as intelligent design. Like a mousetrap, the associate professor suggested, living cells are "irreducibly complex" -- they can't fulfill their functions without all of their parts. Hence, they could not have evolved bit by bit through natural selection but must have been devised by a creator.
"This is the closest to a science class on campus where anybody's going to talk about intelligent design," the fatherly looking associate professor told his class. "At least for now."
Overshadowed by attacks on evolution in high-school science curricula, intelligent design is gaining a precarious and hotly contested foothold in American higher education. Intelligent-design courses have cropped up at the state universities of Minnesota, Georgia and New Mexico, as well as Iowa State, and at private institutions such as Wake Forest and Carnegie Mellon. Most of the courses, like Mr. Ingebritsen's, are small seminars that don't count for science credit. Many colleges have also hosted lectures by advocates of the doctrine
At the end of the article, they present one of Ingebritsen's tactics:
On a brisk Thursday in October, following the mousetrap gambit, Mr. Ingebritsen displayed diagrams on an overhead projector of "irreducibly complex" structures such as bacterial flagellum, the motor that helps bacteria move about. The flagellum, he said, constitutes strong evidence for intelligent design.
One student, Mary West, disputed this conclusion. "These systems could have arisen through natural selection," the senior said, citing the pro-evolution textbook.
"That doesn't explain this system," Mr. Ingebritsen answered. "You're a scientist. How did the flagellum evolve? Do you have a compelling argument for how it came into being?"
Ms. West looked down, avoiding his eye. "Nope," she muttered. The textbook, "Finding Darwin's God," by Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University, asserts that a flagellum isn't irreducibly complex because it can function to some degree even without all of its parts. This suggests to evolutionists that the flagellum could have developed over time, adding parts that made it work better.
During a class break, Ms. West says that Mr. Ingebritsen often puts her on the spot. "He knows I'm not religious," she says. "In the beginning, we talked about our religious philosophy. Everyone else in the class is some sort of a Christian. I'm not." The course helps her understand "the arguments on the other side," she adds, but she would like to see Mr. Ingebritsen co-teach it with a proponent of evolution.
Ms. West and other honors students will have a chance to hear the opposing viewpoint next semester. Counter-programming against Mr. Ingebritsen, three faculty members are preparing a seminar titled: "The Nature of Science: Why the Overwhelming Consensus of Science is that Intelligent Design is not Good Science."
I think that's a *course,* not a one-time, hour-long seminar, if I'm not mistaken. Or at least, a similar one was/is in the works there. Additionally, for those of you who are in Iowa, there also will be a seminar on Feb. 2nd at ISU:
Why Intelligent Design Is Not Science - Robert M. Hazen
02 Feb 2006, 8:00 PM @ Sun Room, Memorial Union - Robert M. Hazen is the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, and a scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Geophysical Laboratory. He received his M.S. in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from HarvardUniversity. Dr. Hazen is the author of over 240 articles and 16 books, including the most recent Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin; Why Aren't Black Holes Black? and the best-selling Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy, which he co-authored with James Trefil. Dr. Hazen has recorded the acclaimed lecture series, The Joy of Science, with the Teaching Company (www.Teach12.com), which provides a fresh and definitive overview of all the physical and biological sciences.
Finally, again for those of you in the Hawkeye State, the Iowa Citizens for Science group now has a website: http://www.iowascience.org. It's still a bit rough, but I'll be updating it with events like these as I find out about them, so keep an eye on it--and drop me an email (iowascience AT gmail DOT com) if you'd like me to add you to the email list for even quicker updates.