Saturday, November 26, 2005


IDEA Clubs

"The national spotlight recently has focused on school boards in Kansas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere that are grappling with calls for including intelligent design, a concept critical of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, in science curricula. But a significant new front in this cultural conflict is opening in the halls of American higher education, spearheaded by science students skeptical of evolution and intrigued by intelligent design," reports Lisa Anderson in yesterday's Chicago Tribune.

Anderson's assertion that the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Clubs represent a "significant new front" is thinly supported. It seems to be based on interviews with Casey Luskin, a founder of the clubs and now a staff member at the Discovery Institute, Hannah Maxson, a math and chemistry major at Cornell University, and Jaclyn Wegner, a senior majoring in integrative biology at the University of Illinois.

Anderson's article cites questionnaires collected by Will Provine, a biological sciences professor at Cornell University, that show about 70 percent of university students at Cornell believe human beings were created by God -- a figure that's remained consistent since 1986.

Anderson also reports Maxson's assertion that the Cornell IDEA Club has 60 members. She even provides a list of IDEA Clubs at the end of her article.

Red State Rabble finds the article to be quite interesting. We urge our readers to take a look for themselves, however, we are skeptical that the IDEA Clubs represent quite the "significant new front" that Anderson apparently believes they are.

Not long ago, we read a New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein and David D. Kirkpatrick reporting that more evangelicals are turning up in elite schools:
... these days evangelical students... are becoming a conspicuous presence at Brown. Of a student body of 5,700, about 400 participate in one of three evangelical student groups - more than the number of active mainline Protestants, the campus chaplain says.

Perhaps, the IDEA Clubs are part of the infrastructure of that movement. Certainly, biblical literalists -- of both the creationist and intelligent design variety -- are making a concerted effort to place young believers into science, much as the Rev. Sun Myung Moon placed Jonathan Wells into a PhD biology program in 1978 in order that he might devote his life to destroying Darwinism.

While we don't think that the number of biblical literalists is growing. We do believe they are moving into new territory, as the NYT article seems to indicate. They are energized and ready for a fight. They believe their time is now.

That is why, although the number of activists may still be quite small, it is time to act.

Not long ago, Hunter R. Rawlings, Cornell's Interim President, in his State of the University Address said, "I am convinced that the political movement seeking to inject religion into state policy and our schools is serious enough to require our collective time and attention," he said.

"When professors tend only to their own disciplinary gardens, public discourse is seriously undernourished," Rawlings added.

Perhaps more important than just calling attention to the problem, Rawlings committed the resources of the university to combating the problem.

This, it seems to us, is exactly right. The issue of creationism, intelligent design, and separation of church and state are bigger than science. Scientists and educators, who until now, have too often fought this battle alone, need support from all the disciplines in our universities. They need support from mainstream churches. They need support from citizens who see the danger of injecting religion into governmental policy.

We need to consciously enlist students in this battle as well. Anderson's article also reports that a Darwin club sprang up at the University of Illinois in response to the IDEA Club, there. That is something we need to encourage.


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