After the recent events surrounding statements made by University of Kansas professor Paul Mirecki, the question of whether classes should be offered to examine intelligent design has been a hotbed of controversy.
At the current time, there are no classes being offered at Washburn that study intelligent design, and a proposal has yet to be brought before anyone in the science or any other department.
“I think I speak for most people in the sciences when I say that we don’t consider intelligent design to be a science,” said Lee Boyd, chair of the Biology Department at Washburn. “For something to be considered a science, the process known as the scientific method must be used in its process of finding and proving facts, which intelligent design does not use,” said Boyd.
According to Boyd not only does it not qualify as a science, intelligent design does not fit the scientific definition of what is considered to be a theory.
“Mostly people use the word theory to mean hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess or opinion which needs to be substantiated. It’s the process of substantiation that makes something a science. Theories in science are things that have been well documented, have not been refuted and have very broad explanatory power,” said Boyd.
The main argument for advocates of intelligent design is that there are things, such as the process of evolution, which are simply too complex to have come about through a process other than that of being made by a creator. Some things had to have been consciously and intentionally designed.
While intelligent design is mentioned in evolution courses being offered at Washburn, there are no plans to create any courses specifically for the study of intelligent design anytime in the near future.
Such a movement had been set into motion at KU, but the actions of Mirecki have caused the class to be recalled for the time being.
The controversy started when Mirecki, chair of the Religious Studies Department at KU, offered to teach a class on intelligent design and creationism, and stated that he would present material on both subjects as mythology.
On Nov. 19 Mirecki posted a message board for the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, of which he is faculty advisor. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, messages posted on a student message board during the past three years by Paul Mirecki were circulated among activists and university faculty. They depicted a man highly critical of Christians, especially Catholics.
“The fundies [Christian fundamentalists] want it all taught in a science class, but this will be a nice slap in their big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category ‘mythology,'” wrote Mirecki.
Consequently, he has since withdrawn his proposal to teach the class, and plans for a course on intelligent design at KU have been postponed.
Boyd said she has no objection to a class examining intelligent design at Washburn.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to a course that examines that and many other ideas. It just shouldn’t be taught out of the science department. Probably it would be more appropriately discussed in something such as a religion class, or perhaps philosophy.”
Boyd agreed wholeheartedly with Mirecki’s right to think and say what he wanted, but believed that it was not the most prudent thing to have done at the time.
“If a student asks me about what I think about a political candidate, I won’t hide that, I’ll tell them but I don’t volunteer it because that’s not usually the subject of the course. In this case his comments were a little more germane since he was going to be teaching that course. But trying to suggest that it was going to be a balanced view or discussion might have made some people think that he is not as impartial as he should be,” said Boyd. “Science has brought us a lot of discoveries, a lot of new knowledge, and I don’t see intelligent design doing that. I see it as an attempt to explain things, but I don’t see it being productive.”