Steven Verhey, a biologist at Central Washington University, had an idea: try to teach his Basic Biology class a little bit about how scientists actually think, by presenting arguments both in favor of evolution (as embodied in Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker) and creationism/intelligent design (as embodied in Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution). Verhey is no creationist himself, but thought it would be a good way to teach the students some critical-thinking skills along with some biology. Interesting discussions at The Panda’s Thumb and Pharyngula.
As far as whether or not a discussion of creationism/ID is a smart thing to have in an introductory biology course, there are good arguments on both sides; it is a nice example of the difference between real science and ideology, but on the other hand it takes a lot of time that could be spent teaching the actual core material. I have no strong feelings either way.
But I couldn’t help but highlight two sentences from Verhey’s description of one event in his class. The Discovery Institute, main propaganda machine for ID, is located in Seattle, not far from CWU. So Verhey actually invited Jonathan Wells to come talk to his class, and Wells agreed.
Since Ellensburg is just 1.5 hours east of Seattle, home of the Discovery Institute, that first time I also invited Jonathan Wells to speak to my class and to give a special university-wide seminar. He was accompanied by a handler from the PR department at DI, who passed out DVDs.
You know, I give lots of talks about various scientific topics, and in all honesty, it has never even occured to me to be accompanied by a handler from the PR department at my university. Do you still wonder why we keep insisting that there is no science going on here, just public relations?
On the other hand, I’m open-minded and willing to learn. Maybe I’ll start showing up at talks accompanied by my own PR person. Those DVD’s aren’t going to hand out themselves.