Intelligent Design vs. science
February 23, 2004
MSSU's Black speaks out

No point of view should be stifled, according to Dr. Bill Black, assistant professor in the biology department of Missouri Southern State University and an instructor directly involved in teaching about the origin of the species in his classes. He was referring to the concept of Intelligent Design that lawmakers in the Missouri House of Representatives are considering for inclusion in public school biology classes under HB911 and the hue and cry of those opposing it.

In stating his case for the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the science curriculum, Black pointed out that "evolution didn't just happen." He suggests that a "divine force" has to be credited with the first proteins and the sequence necessary for creating the very first living organisms. He doesn't believe that it was left to biological or chemical chance. He called attention to the simple cell paramecium with its hundreds of proteins found in sequential order, which he labeled, "a mathematical impossibility."

In discussing the constitutionality of the law, Black said that it was "absolutely preposterous to keep religion out of the state" and that disallowing the concept of Intelligent Design would be an "absolute abridgement of freedom of speech." Like Ed Emery, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, Black adopted a historical approach to justifying his viewpoints, calling attention to the pilgrims who settled on our shores for the purpose of keeping the "state out of religion." He said that this original concept accepted by our founding fathers got all turned around until it became unconstitutional for there to be any mention of religion in the state.

Black made it clear that he didn't know the nuances of the proposed law, but he was adamant that educators shouldn't exclude the concept of Intelligent Design simply because they didn't agree with it. He surmised that changes probably would have to be made to the law to make it workable.

MU professor voices his opposition

Opposed to the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the science classroom is Dr. Frank Schmidt, professor of biochemistry at the University of Missouri. Schmidt is known for his long-standing interest in active-learning methods in science education.

Calling the proposal of HB911 a huge "publicity stunt," Schmidt seemed assured that the legislation wouldn't make it to the hearing stage in the House. Beyond that democratic Senators would stage a filibuster in regard to it, he said, or that Governor Bob Holden would certainly veto it.

Calling HB911 part of a "narrow religionist agenda," Schmidt said that there's no way intelligent design can be considered "science." What Schmidt fears the most is that the bio-tech companies, that the State is currying favor, will look on us as a "bunch of yokels." Schmidt said that there was a "real push" for attracting bio-tech companies to bolster the state's economy. Any perception by these companies that Missouri would not be able to supply "educated people" for their workforce would send them looking elsewhere.

"Intelligent design would never be an issue in states like Massachusetts or California," Schmidt said. "Unfortunately, Missouri has a lot of common sense it doesn't always follow," he added.

MSSU biology department instructors basically 'silent' on the issue

While over 350 scientists and educators have signed a petition voicing their opposition to even consideration of legislation that would mandate the teaching of intelligent design in biology classrooms, no one from Missouri Southern to date has joined the opposition. While not openly opposed, Dr. Dorothy Bay, an associate professor in the biology department commented that the bill was "unconstitutional."

Dr. James Jackson, who teaches evolution at Southern as well as courses in molecular, radiation and general biology, believes that his students should arrive at an understanding of the unconstitutionality of the law on their own rather than based on his having entered the public arena against the idea. "Authority is a bad reason for paradigm acceptance," Jackson said.

To read an article by Dr. Stephen L. Timme, click here.

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