Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Biologists, Fear For Your Lives! Or, Maybe Not...

WorldNetDaily recently ran a story announcing that Cornell University's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology will offer an interdisciplinary summer course on evolution, and will include material covering the idea of intelligent design.

From the article:

The Ivy League school's course "Evolution and Design: Is There Purpose in Nature?" – aims to "sort out the various issues at play, and to come to clarity on how those issues can be integrated into the perspective of the natural sciences as a whole."

The announcement comes just half a year after Cornell President Hunter Rawlings III denounced intelligent design as a "religious belief masquerading as a secular idea."

At first glance, the excerpt makes the course out to be something out of an Intelligent Design proponent's wish list. The statement from Cornell's current President, Hunter Rawlings, only solidifies that sentiment.

But wait, that's not all!

The university's Intelligent Design Evolution Awareness club said that while it's been on the opposite side of MacNeill in many debates, it has appreciated his "commitment to the ideal of the university as a free market-place of ideas."

"We have found him always ready to go out of his way to encourage diversity of thought, and his former students speak highly of his fairness," the group said. "We look forward to a course where careful examination of the issues and critical thinking is encouraged."

Wondering just what drugs Cornell's faculty must have consumed to greenlight a course with ID in the curriculum? Well, breathe a sigh of relief, it's not an actual science course.

From the university's summer session website (see the BIOEE 467 link at the bottom of the page):

This seminar addresses, in historical perspective, controversies about the cultural implications of evolutionary biology. Discussions focus upon questions about gods, free will, foundations for ethics, meaning in life, and life after death. Readings range from Charles Darwin to the present. Discussion is the class format.

Really, it's just a course focusing on the impact of evolutionary theory upon both religious and secular culture alike. The course has nothing to do with pushing ID as accepted science, and everything to do with understanding how some people want ID to be an issue at all. WorldNetDaily simply blew this story out of proportion.

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-Changed a bad link
-Reworded the first paragraph
-As suggested by a commenter, a more complete description of the course can be found here, in the Professor Allen MacNeill's blog


Anonymous CornellReader said...

Just a few corrections from the ground :).

The course in question isn't a "course on evolution for no-Biology majors". The nearest I can guess is that you extrapolated that from the fact that the instructor is teaching a course on evolution as well as the one on intelligent design?

You didn't link to the EEB department, but to a tuition page :) from the Summer Session. I think you probably meant to link to the course description from the summer session; regardless, you can find a much more detailed course description on the instructor's blog, here.

Calling it a "history of science" course is a great over-simplification; it is interdisciplinary, and credit is available through four departments: ecology & evolutionary biology, biology & society, history (of science), and science & technology studies.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Inebriated Arsonist said...

The course in question isn't a "course on evolution for no-Biology majors".

-Quite right, I had accidentally referenced a course description from BIOEE 207, found on course page linked from this page.

The description for BIOEE 207 included the notation reminding students that:

Intended for students with no background in college biology.

Thus the wording in the leading paragraph. Changes to the paragraph will be made to reflect that.

As for the bad link, I'm not sure what happened there. I'm not exactly a master in HTML, so I don't know why the link points toward the tuition page, rather than the BIOEE 467 course description that appeared in my browser window.

And while you may believe that refering to the course as a "history of science," please remember that your own university named BIOEE 467 as "Seminar in the History of Biology." Apparently I'm not the only person you have to lecture about precision. ;)

7:55 PM  

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