Merits of Intelligent Design debated during Challenge Week

The annual Challenge Week symposium came to a close Thursday on the University of Central Arkansas campus with a snappy question and answer session that focused on the complex theory of Intelligent Design.

Held in the Student Center Ballroom, the event drew a large audience and featured Dr. William A. Dembski, associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University and a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, and Dr. Michael Ruse, professor of philosophy at Florida State University and a leading critic of the theory.

Dr. Dembski and other proponents of Intelligent Design attribute evolution to a guiding intelligence instead of random variation and natural selection, while Ruse and other critics call it another form of Creationism that infuses science and religion.

The exchanges between the two were friendly and seemed to fully support the oft-cited Darwin statement from ?On the Origin of Species? that ?A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.? (As a matter of fact, the two men are currently working together on an edited collection entitled ?Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA.?)

Asked where Intelligent Design would fit into the public school system, Dembski said the topic would be appropriate to examine in the classroom if the subject comes up in discussion. But he favors pushing the movement as a research program and not spending time on educational issues.

Ruse, meanwhile, countered that he feels it “entirely appropriate” to talk about the issues at public schools and universities, but they are “not appropriate for teaching at biology levels.”

But he also admonished his audience to “be careful about teaching what parents want. What parents want and what educators should teach are not necessarily the same thing.?

“My purpose is there is a theological agenda (to Intelligent Design) here,” Ruse continued, while Dembski replied, “There is a scientific core to this Intelligent Design position.?

Both speakers had presented lectures on their positions of Intelligent Design earlier in the week.

Prior to Thursday’s Q&A session, Honors College Director Rick Scott presented both men with sweatshirts from the Honors College. Dr. Ruse pulled off his regular shirt at the podium and put on his sweatshirt to the delight of the audience.

Challenge Week has been a regular event presented by the Honors College for nearly a decade. Challenge Week 2003 was funded in part by a grant from the UCA Foundation and the Honors Center Society and co-sponsored by the Biology Department.

“It was one of our very best Challenge Weeks,” Scott said.

-Tommy Jackson