Intelligent design vs. evolution on campus

Class takes on debate of Intelligent Design and Evolution in public policy

By Tom Iacuzio

The legal and ethical fistfight between God and Charles Darwin has been fought for decades. Today, that battle continues on the fourth floor of Kenan Hall.

The official title of Dr. Nicholas Marziani’s class is “Darwin, Intelligent Design and Public Policy.” Marziani came up with the idea for the class after presenting a paper on the subject at the Oxford Round Table at Oxford University this past summer.

“The purpose of this class is to introduce students to the scientific, religious, legal and political issues that surround this topic,” he said. “I really believe that this controversy needs to be taught, discussed and debated at all levels of our society.”

Marziani thinks this class has the ability to show that the “rigid lines of antagonism that exist between extreme partisans on either side are destructive, but also unnecessary.”

Dr. Timothy Johnson, liberal arts chair, is ecstatic about the opportunity that this class presents the students. “I was pleased to support Dr. Marziani when he came to me and asked if he could offer the course,” he said. “[The course] deals with important questions of science and faith in an academic manner.”

The creationism vs. evolution dilemma is a hot-button issue not only on college campuses, but in the courtrooms of law and public perception as well.

To understand the dilemma, one must first understand the topic. Creationism is the belief that God, or a supreme being, created everything in our world in his image. Evolution is the belief that everything in our world evolved from single-celled organisms that changed based on the environment in which they were found.

The newest belief system on the market is called Intelligent Design. Proponents of this theory believe in a mixture of both trains of thought. The theory states that an intelligent designer played a role in some aspect of the evolution of life on earth. Many scientists feel that this is a thinly veiled version of creationism. Therein lies the problem.

The concept of evolution and its role in schools has been debated heatedly since the days of John Scopes and the so-called “Monkey Trial” in 1925. Over the past five years, the courts have already been inundated with cases regarding this debate.

In 2005, a United States federal court ruled that a public school district requirement for science classes to teach Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution was a violation of the First Amendment. This case is simply the latest to rule in favor of evolution due to the religious nature of its opposing theories.

Johnson was quick to point out that this is not a class that supports one set of beliefs over another.

“This kind of honest approach does not force students to accept or reject a specific scientific or faith perspective,” he said.

Marziani said the class is already serving its purpose.

“Gauging from their first reaction paper and the very lively class discussions, I’d say that we are succeeding in raising consciousness and levels of insight among the students enrolled in the course,” he said.

William Heigel, a student enrolled in the class, agrees. He said that the point of the class is “enlightening students about the many approaches and ideas concerning the subject.”

“It seems to beg students to question what they know and help to possibly reaffirm it,” he said.

Johnson believes this progressive mesh of religion and critical thinking will continue at Flagler College.

“We plan on offering a course on Taoism in the spring of 2007,” Johnson said. “Flagler College always wants to promote academic integrity and the honest search for the truth.”

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