The Cornell Political Coalition presented a debate in a crowded Kaufman Auditorium yesterday questioning if “intelligent design should be taught in public schools as part of the science curriculum.” The Cornell chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued against the theory being taught in public schools while the Intelligent Design Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club, a newly formed group at Cornell, argued in its favor.
Intelligent design is a recent theory that explains how complex biological structures came to be in the modern world. The theory explains that an intelligent force played a major role in designing these structures. The major controversy involved in the debate is whether or not intelligent design is a religious belief. Teaching religious beliefs in public schools is considered a violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The IDEA Club was created for the purpose of educating students about the problems of only teaching the theory of evolution for the origin and evolution of life. Additionally, the club seeks to challenge assumptions about Darwinism, naturalism and materialism.
“This is not a debate about religion,” said Michael Dill ’07. “Ideas do not go to church. We offer the merits of the ideas, not the people who purport them. Intelligent design explains natural changes that evolution does not. Evolution does not explain all the facts.”
The Cornell ACLU claims that the presence of intelligent design undermines both science education and religious freedom because it is a religious belief, not a scientific principle.
“Intelligent design is not a science,” said Everet Yi ’08. “It is a religious idea. If it is imposed upon people, it is a sign of religious dominance in a country and society which values religious freedoms. The Constitution forbids it.”
“Many different forms of evolution are not taught in public schools,” said Chris Lipa grad, “because there is not enough scientific presentation just as there is not enough scientific evidence to support intelligent design.”
The debate garnered a large, very involved crowd. Question and answer sessions lasted far longer than the allotted time and many people still had their hands up when moderator Katilyn Van Ardell ’08 ended the session. IDEA clubs have developed strong support across the country as, according to a Gallup poll, over three-quarters of United States teenagers believe that some intelligent force played a role in the origin of life.
The debate on the theory of intelligent design is occurring on the local, national and international levels. The state of Kansas has already approved the teaching of intelligent design, and a current trial in Pennsylvania is centered on an attempt by parents to stop the teaching of the new theory in public schools in their district. Outside the United States, countries such as the Czech Republic and Australia are also grappling with this issue.
Archived article by Alex Lebowitz