October 21, 2005

Rawlings Condemns Intelligent Design

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“Intelligent Design is a religious belief masquerading as a secular idea,” said Cornell’s Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III today in his State of the University Address to a joint session of the Board of Trustees and University Council.

In the absence of new major University initiatives, Rawlings took the speech as an opportunity to condemn the teaching of Intelligent Design as science.

“We should not suspend, or rather annul, the rules of science in order to allow any idea into American education. Intelligent Design is a subjective concept. It is, at its core, a religious belief,” Rawlings said.

“I am convinced that the political movement seeking to inject religion into state policy and our schools is serious enough to require our collective time and attention,” he said.

Drawing on the traditions of University founders Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, Rawlings said that Cornell has a responsibility, as a non-sectarian university, to promote inquiry into issues of science, humanities and faith.

However, he cautioned that “when religion moves beyond the private realm and into the public square, it must do so with great care, otherwise it creates serious potential dangers to the civic polity and to religion itself.”

“We have at Cornell great intellectual resources to deal with the current attacks on science and reason,” Rawlings said, asking Cornell academics to “venture outside the campus to help the American public sort through these complex issues.”

“When professors tend only to their own disciplinary gardens, public discourse is seriously undernourished,” he added.

Board of Trustees Chair Peter Meinig ’62 said that the speech was “outstanding” and that “it is great for a president to present a topic of great interest.”

“From time to time the presidents of major universities should make major statements,” he added.

Please see Monday’s Sun for full coverage of Trustee-Council weekend.

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein
Sun Managing Editor
Michael Morisy
Sun News Editor