March 16, 2006

Weisberg Addresses I.D.

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A CBS News Public Opinion Survey in Oct. 2005 found that only 15 percent of Americans think that humans evolved and God did not guide the process, according to Prof. Michael Weisberg, philosophy, University of Pennsylvania. Weisberg presented a lecture on the topic yesterday, attempting to address the question of why many people do not accept the notion of evolution.

Weisberg spoke about the heated evolution and intelligent design debate, focusing on how educators and students can work to combat the intelligent design movement and promote the public’s acceptance of evolutionary theory. He emphasized the importance of increasing scientific literacy in America. He also noted that understanding of evolution is decoupled from acceptance of evolution.

“You can teach all you want; that’s not going to do it,” Weisberg said.

Instead, he advocated not only telling people about the details of evolution but also inspiring them with the ideas.

According to Weisberg, “exciting people and showing geeky documentaries like Life on Earth to your friends” will make a big difference. Weisberg advocated increasing the positive associations with evolutionary theory by focusing on the things that are “beautiful” about Darwin’s idea, such as the tree of life and the notion that all of life is unified.

Weisberg did not accept the explanation that poor scientific reasoning, lack of understanding and perceived negative consequences completely explains the rejection of evolution.

The solution, therefore, lies not only in education but in doing outreach and going out to the communities, according to Weisberg. He was a consultant on the Dover, P.A. intelligent design case. In 2004, the Dover School Board required that a disclaimer be taught with regards to the gaps in evolutionary theory and the existence of other options to explain the origins of life. The federal lawsuit against the Dover School Board ended with a “resounding victory for the enlightenment,” according to Weisberg, as the judge decided that intelligent design is not a science.

“I.D. has basically been put into the grave by the Dover case,” Weisberg said.

Khullat Munir ’09 provided a different perspective.

“I.D.’s list-serve is one of the most active ones on campus. It’s scientific and ties into people’s core beliefs.” She was glad “to hear a person with actual authority talk about the subject.”

“He is very intelligent and is articulate at explaining what was at stake at a great public moment, and we have a responsibility to consider the implications,” said Prof. Michele Moody-Adams, director of the program on ethics and public life, which sponsored the lecture.

Adam Becker ’06, a philosophy and physics major, echoed this sentiment.

“We have an intellectual responsibility to discuss this sort of thing, especially in a representative government,” Becker said.

Archived article by Tamar Weinstock
Sun Contributor