|Darwin vs God: the philosophy of biology|
by Lucas M. McWilliams
U of R takes the issue to the classroom
On Nov. 8, 2005, the state of Kansas ratified a law that would teach the theories of intelligent design alongside the basic precepts of evolution.
The debate has been raging in the U.S. for several years now, but with the ratification of the law, the biology community has been thrown into a tempest of worry. Many scientists see the intelligent design community as a direct threat to biology, claiming that scientific theory is backed up by factual evidence, whereas intelligent design is a thinly veiled attempt at forcing scripture into a classroom setting.
Against that backdrop, the University of Regina recently stepped forward to begin teaching a course on intelligent design and evolution. The difference between Regina and Kansas is that the U of R is teaching it as a philosophy course.
Dr. H. Korté, the professor of the class in question, plans to stress the controversy that has existed since Darwin first published The Origin of the Species. Though it is a philosophy of biology course, Dr. Korté plans to spend time dealing with the nature of God, as well as the newer concepts that have come to the forefront of the argument, such as cosmic fine-tuning and irreducible complexity.
Korté plans to raise questions concerning the nature of intelligent design, and whether or not it intrinsically needs to undermine the argument set forth by Darwin, as well as the concepts of ethics and sociobiology.
Far from being a clear-cut issue, this debate is highly contentious. Even when the law was passed in Kansas the decision was split, as the board passed the ballot with a vote of six to four. Janet Waugh, a Kansas democrat and sitting board member said, “this is a sad day. We’re becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that.” She is also quick to point out that all six positive votes came from republicans who lean to the far right.
Counter to this, the republican voters are pleased with the outcome, claiming a victory over the scientific community. John Bacon, a predominant republican board member is thrilled, claiming it will lead to the abolition of “a lot of dogma that’s being taught in the classroom today.” Such dogma includes the shifting of the definition of science away from the discovery of natural explanations for unexplained phenomena.
President Bush has stepped forward personally to endorse this teaching of supernatural phenomena in biology classrooms, lending weight to the argument in the process.
Dr. David Elliot, head of the philosophy faculty at the department of R stated that the reason for teaching the class as philosophy opposed to biology was that “this should be an intellectual debate, and where better to hold one of those than in a philosophy classroom?” According to Dr. Elliot, the burden of proof is on the new theory to gain credibility in the scientific community, and as such, it does not need to be taught alongside biology at this early stage.
The course plans to deal with the traditional issues of the philosophy of biology while placing special emphasis on the current heated debate between Darwinists and Creationists. The debate is an important one, and this class is taking an interesting vantage point from its position of being neither theological nor biological, but a discussion on the relative merits of both sides.
The course, which is being offered in the Winter 2006 semester, still has space, and you can visit Dr. Korté’s website at http://phil.uregina.ca/korte/phil-biology/phil-biology.html for more information, as well as the required pre-requisites.