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Monday, February 13, 2006

The Smackdown

Even with all the Intelligent Design hype, the proportion of American adults who believe in the creation story has held consistently at about 50% for decades. Despite the evidence we get from the media, even many Christians don't see a real "controversy" that needs to be settled publicly. From Science (I think subscription is required, sadly):

[Randy Moore of the University of Minnesota] says students don't necessarily know how to define ID, which asserts that there must be a "designer" because life forms are too complex to have arisen solely from the process of random mutation and natural selection. But when Moore presents them with a range of beliefs, 15% to 20% side with the ID movement. And "virtually none" has changed his or her mind by the end of the semester, he notes. Colbert [Iowa State University] agrees that although postcourse surveys show students have learned a good deal about evolution, they tend to stick to their views on God's role in creating humans.

This is likely because people view their faith as a personal issue and if there is any controversy between ID and evolution, it is a personal struggle. When I teach evolutionary concepts, I give my students the evolution smackdown without remorse. I've found most students keep to themselves and don't really care to express what their personal beliefs are because they are personal beliefs and don't belong in a science class. My experience seems to be the norm:

But teachers say they rarely have in-class clashes with such students. Rather, says biologist Robert Dillon of the College of Charleston in South Carolina, students will come by "several times a semester" to express their concern that "if there was no Adam, that means Christ died in vain for our sins. We'll have a theological discussion," he says.

Wooo-hooo! My alma mater mentioned in a science magazine article! I actually took a genetics class with Dr. Dillon at CofC and I recall one lecture where he had to field some crazy questions from an outspoken member of the Campus Crusade for Christ. (Too bad I can't recall any of the questions.) He did a great job of keeping his own faith out of the classroom (I got the impression that he was Christian when he showed up to a test review session in his Boy Scout's Uniform and sang campfire songs to us. Maybe I'm wrong.)

Lately, some representatives of my home state have embarked on their own ID escapade, endorsed by Governor Sanford. United Press International:

"The idea of there being a, you know, a little mud hole and two mosquitoes get together and the next thing you know you have a human being is completely at odds with, you know, one of the laws of thermodynamics."

But College of Charleston physics professor Bob Dukes and biology associate professor Robert Dillon Jr. criticized the governor for his statements. They told the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier there aren't "chinks in the armor of evolution," and Sanford's citation of the second law of thermodynamics was also incorrect.

Well, even though I have to claim nativity of a state where people think humans may have descended from mosquitoes, there are at least some liberal (i.e. intelligent) safe-havens like CofC, which had the decency to expand the Darwin Celebration to more than just one day. It's currently hosting its 6th Annual Darwin Week.