Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Southern Methodist University teaches ID too!

While academic freedom is being stifled for some, as I noted in an earlier post, others are free to teach courses that claim ID is pseudoscience.

Southern Methodist University is offering a course entitled, “The Scientific Method-Critical and Creative Thinking (Debunking Pseudoscience)“. Intelligent Design will be included in this course along with “aid deniers”, “flat earthers“, “astrology“, etc., etc.. The course will include parodies from "The Onion", “Evolution for ID-iots” on YouTube, and several other like items that are aimed primarily at ridiculing ID and providing a one-sided argument in order to convince students that ID is something to laugh at rather than to be taken seriously.

At some point, these type of courses are going to backfire. Students who are interested enough in this controversy will eventually attend a lecture given by an ID proponent such as Dembski or Behe, and find that what they’ve been sold is not an accurate portrayal of ID in many cases. I saw this happen at both Behe and Dembski’s lectures here in Kansas. I questioned and listened to several students after Dembski's lecture, and they appeared to be surprised by what they heard as they seemed to be expecting a religious argument. Behe’s lecture also had those I talked with interested in learning more about ID.

Back to this particular course at SMU...

This link provides the class schedule for the course being taught by Professors John L. Cotton and Randall J. Scalise. That site links to another site which lists information about the ID portion of the course.

I am actually more than a bit shocked at the choice of words and snide remarks used in the course outline that I’m assuming, as seems to be indicated, is meant for use by the students.

The term BS or bullshit is used throughout. For example, consider the course description:

This course will provide you with an understanding of the scientific method sufficient to detect pseudoscience in its many guises: paranormal phenomena; free-energy devices; alternative medicine; intelligent-design creationism; and many others. You will learn to think critically and to question outlandish claims, hype, and outright BS. Expect to do a lot of reading, writing, and, most of all, thinking.

I certainly don’t remember my college professors using that type of language in their course descriptions. My how things have changed, and to think this is a *Methodist* university.

Let me share a few more little gems...

You don't have to teach both sides of a debate if one side is a load of crap.

He repeatedly uses the word “Id(iots)” when referring to ID supporters. He puts the initials ID=BS at the bottom of the link, and when referencing a list of ID books, he includes a heading that states “or read these and get stoopider“, along with a section titled, “Quotations from ID proponents (IDiots)”.

He references PZ Myers' blog, Pharyngula, along with AntiEvolution.org which both cater to atheists and agnostics. PZ Myers, as most readers know, is a self proclaimed “militant atheist” who rants about religion and ID, as well as conflating the two on a daily basis at his website. My concern is not that these are atheist sites, but rather if they can be considered unbiased, reliable, open-minded sources. Will the students be asked to critically analyze these topics or, as seems to be indicated, will they be told *exactly ~what~ to think about ID?

Do you suppose SMU monitors these course description websites? This one is more than a little over the top. If my child brought home a course description with words like “bull shit", “stoopider”, “IDiots”, etc., I’d wonder if the Professor of the course had lost his mind. Honestly, when I first glanced at those links, I thought perhaps this was some kind of parody website!

Now I understand why there was such a ruckus over the Darwin vs. Design conference that was held at SMU. The science department had a fit over the fact that the conference was being held at their university, and when asked if they would like to participate in a debate over the issues, they flat out refused rather than give their students the chance to consider both sides in an open debate. It would seem that if they have such solid arguments against design, they'd show up to debate the ID proponents into the ground. Evidently, their case against ID is not as reliable as they would like to have us believe.

HT: Casey Luskin, EN&V