The Teaching of Intelligent Design

Tue Jan 25, 2005

As long-time readers know, I taught a course last semester called “The Rhetoric of Evolution in America.” This course was organized into three sections, with last two focusing on debates without and within evolutionary theory. As you might expect, in the fomer I taught selections from intelligent designers along with even YECs. One of the student comments on the course evaluation complained that I only taught “well-written articles from an evolutionist perspective and poorly written creationist ones” or something similar. That might be true, but I fear it’s not selection bias which explains it. You’re going to look bad rhetorically next to Dawkins, Gould., and Lewontin even if your argument has scientific merit.

I find intelligent design theory to be of considerable sociological interest, however. I don’t think you could teach a course on the aforementioned subject without talking about it, so I disagree somewhat with the attitude taken by this Academe article on the subject. Of course, I was not teaching it as science; but it is inevitable that, however carefully you present the opposing evidence, that students predisposed to be skeptical of evolution are going to find intelligent design’s scientific veneer comforting, especially if they’re of a mechanical mind.

I have to say that I was disturbed to learn that Alvin Plantinga and Frank Tipler were sympathetic to the Discovery Institute.