Drawing a Line in the Academic Sand

Two recent articles in Inside Higher Ed News are presenting a good overview as to how academics view Intelligent Design.

Drawing a Line in the Academic Sand and Common Ground on Intelligent Design

The first article discusses the statement by the President of the University of Idaho.

President White wrote:

“Because of the recent national media attention on the issue,” reads President Timothy P. White’s letter, “I write to articulate the University of Idaho’s position with respect to evolution: this is the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences.” The short letter goes on to allow for the teaching of “views that differ from evolution” in other courses, like religion and philosophy, but not as a scientific principle, which is “testable and anchored in evidence.”

They quote Harold Gibson, a University of Idaho spokesperson

Gibson said that if he were a faculty member interested in “intelligent design,” he would actually feel better because of the letter. “It clearly states there is a place for teaching of views that differ from evolution, as long as they’re in faculty approved curricula,” he said

Predictably, the Discovery Institute (DI) was not amused and through senior fellow DeWolf, they argued “viewpoint discrimination”. DeWolf hoped that the “American Association of University Professors (AAUP)” would recognize this. However, the AAUP responded that

Jonathan Knight, director of the Office of Academic Freedom and Tenure at AAUP, isn’t worried. “Academic freedom is not a license to teach anything you like,” Knight said, noting that the letter says “views that differ from evolution may occur in faculty-approved curricula” outside the physical sciences. Knight said that the way to determine if something is scientifically grounded is “by what the community of scholars determines by decades of testing.” He added that if a professor “wants to teach that the Holocaust did not occur following writing of David Irving folks in the history community would say that’s not well grounded in historic facts.”

Scott Minnich, a well known Intelligent Design (ID) supporter and a tenured professor at the University of Idaho, accepts that the University has certain responsibilities but wants to clarify with White that addressing questions about intelligent design raised in class is not prohibited.

Minnich wrote:

Minnich said he thinks the university has “a right to oversight,” and that “the president has a right to show the public that we haven’t gone off the reservation here,” he said.

Seems that the ‘complaints’ by the Discovery Institute are falling mostly on ‘deaf ears’ even among its own supporters.

In a latest development, University of Idaho president White was admitted to hospital after complaining of chest pains and underwent emergency heart catherization. He is in serious but stable condition

The second article titled Common Ground on Intelligent Design describes how more and more faculties around the country are expressing their opinions on Intelligent Design.

The heads of the Universities of Kansas and Idaho recently declared in open letters that “intelligent design” is not appropriate material in science classrooms.

While scientists agree, many faculty members in natural science departments around the country see little need for an administrative decree, because, as Neal Simon, chair of biological sciences at Lehigh University, put it: “The scientific community has recognized that this is a social and political issue … and that this is not science.”

The article interviews various academics. It makes for an interesting read. Especially the comment section which contains a statement by Earle Holland, Senior Director Research and Communications of Ohio State University

As we have pointed out repeatedly, your statement in this story and in one previously that “Ohio State called off a dissertation defense by a graduate student whose work sought to legitimize intelligent design, and whose committee had the only two faculty members who have spoken in defense of intelligent design,” is factually incorrect!

The student’s dissertation defense was postponed by the student’s advisor with the student’s agreement. The university took no action delaying that process. The dissertation defense has so far not been re-scheduled.

Disilvestro is one of three faculty on the student’s dissertation committee. None of the three faculty have positions in the science education program. Program requirements mandate that two members of the committee must be on the science education faculty.

The faculty’s opinion on intelligent design have little to do with this situation.

Lastly, your characterization of the student’s research that “sought to legitimize intelligent design,” is invalid since the dissertation is still a confidential student record until it is approved by the dissertation committee. Only the student and his committee are aware of what the dissertation actually entails.

And a new word for the day, thanks to jmg

ID = Infallible Drogulus?

The Oxford University Press offers a daily “weird word of the day” by e-mail. Today’s happened to be this, which was a happy coincidence given the ongoing discussion of the “intelligent designer” who has no detectable physical effects:

drogulus [DRAH-gyuh-lus]

Something the presence of which cannot be verified, usually a disembodied being, because it has no physical effects. Coined by the philosopher A. J. Ayer, possibly by association with dragon.

For more information about drogulus:

drogulus (‘drQgjUl@s). [Coined ‘on the spur of the moment’ by A. J. Ayer perh. by subconscious association with dragon + L. -ulus as in dracunculus.] An entity whose presence is unverifiable, because it has no physical effects. Also transf.

1957 A. J. Ayer in Edwards & Pap Mod. Introd. Philos. 608 Suppose I say ‘There’s a “drogulus” over there,’ and you say ‘What?’ and I say ‘Drogulus,’ and you say ‘What’s a drogulus?’ Well I say ‘I can’t describe what a drogulus is, because it’s not the sort of thing you can see or touch, it has no physical effects of any kind, but it’s a disembodied being.’ 1959 L. S. Penrose in New Biol. XXVIII. 98, I had difficulty in finding a suitable name for the activated complexes produced in these experiments. On showing one of them to Professor A. J. Ayer, I inquired whether it perhaps might be a ‘drogulus’… He replied that it was undoubtedly a ‘drogulus’.