Pictured above is an early version of the IDEA Center's logo. The current logo (see graphic at top left), designed by Justin Kerr at Newfangled Web Factory, was implemented in 2003.
The Origins of the IDEA CenterFrom the very beginning, the purpose of Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) clubs has been to facilitate debate, says Casey Luskin, who founded the first IDEA Club at the University of California, San Diego, in 1999. “We want to inform everyone about all sides of the issue, so we actually invite Darwinists to the clubs to talk about natural selection,” says Luskin, who now runs the IDEA Center, a small non-profit organization in San Diego that helps set up new groups on US campuses.
The Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization dedicated to promoting intelligent design theory. The Center has existed since 2001, but has its roots in the pre-existing Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club at the University of California at San Diego.
The "IDEA Club at UCSD" was a student-founded club that endeavored to foster good spirited discussion over intelligent design theory among students, faculty, and others. The club itself began in May of 1999, after UC Berkeley law professor, Phillip Johnson, known for his books critiquing evolutionary theory and his leadership in the "Intelligent Design Movement," lectured at UCSD on intelligent design. At the close of the lecture, students, community members, and professors alike were engaged in conversations throughout the ballroom. The students who ultimately founded the club noticed the intensity of these conversations--although some were tame and one-sided, others were heated to the point of shouting! The IDEA Club's founders soon started the IDEA Club with hopes to channel this passion in a positive manner through friendly dialogue over origins issues among people of many viewpoints. Thus, the IDEA Club was born with the aim of promote intelligent design theory to people with diverse backgrounds and beliefs in a spirit of camaraderie, community, open discussion, and unclouded personal reflection.
The IDEA Club at UCSD enjoyed the benefits of this enthusiasm as membership grew to over 75 people, and weekly discussion meetings drew people with many viewpoints. The club also hosted a variety of lectures on campus that drew hundreds of attendees. In April of 2001, the IDEA Club was mentioned in a front page Sunday New York Times article on intelligent design. This article brought IDEA to the attention of many, and through this exposure, it soon became evident that others were interested in seeing the vision of IDEA spread to their respective academic institutions.
Near the end of the '00-'01 school year, the IDEA Club's organizers were about to graduate from UCSD and were exploring the possibility of taking IDEA off-campus. Two IDEA Club members, including Eddie Colanter, coincidentally then approached the club's president Casey Luskin, about the possibility of starting a non-profit organization in the same spirit of the IDEA Club. Starting an "IDEA Center," with an expanded mission and leadership, seemed like a perfect and timely opportunity! Thus, the IDEA Center was born, with the aim of helping people promote intelligent design on other campuses, churches, community groups, and anywhere interest exists.
The Early Diversification of the IDEA Center
In the summer of 2001, the new IDEA Center sought out leadership and established an Administration Staff and a Board of Directors. Additionally, the Center formed a distinguished Advisory Board that includes key members of the intelligent design movement: John Baumgardner, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Mark Hartwig, Phillip Johnson, Jay Wesley Richards, Dennis Wagner, and Jonathan Wells. By the end of 2001, the IDEA Center had been discussed in Family Voice Magazine and the Chronicle for Higher Education, had created a website, and had founded one new IDEA Club at another university.
From the beginning, the IDEA Center focused on helping students to promote intelligent design on their own campuses. The small volunteer staff worked hard to design and produce materials through which students could learn about how to form an IDEA Club, and then promote intelligent design.
Success to Date
It is a matter of public record that the IDEA Center has accomplished much in its short existence. Since 2001, IDEA Club Chapters have spread around the world and have successfully achieved many things on prestigious university campuses including Cornell, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Vanderbilt, Ole’ Miss, the University of Oklahoma, George Mason University, University of Texas Austin, the University of Victoria, and the University of Virginia. IDEA Clubs have gained recognition through favorable media coverage in venues such as The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New Yorker, NPR, and New Scientist.
But none this exposure compares to the international recognition given to IDEA when it was featured in the cover story of the world’s top scientific journal, Nature. In 2005, when Nature published a feature-story article on ID, it did so by focusing on various leaders in the IDEA student movement. As the article stated, “despite researchers’ apparent lack of interest, or perhaps because of it, the movement is catching on among students on US university campuses.” The article further stated:
(Geoff Brumfiel, “Intelligent design Who has designs on your students' minds?,” Nature, Vol. 434:1062:1065 (April 28, 2005).)
To date, over 40 IDEA Club chapters have been founded spanning four continents, including chapters on over 25 university campuses, with many more chapters on the way. Aside from educating thousands of students worldwide about intelligent design, IDEA Clubs have inspired students to pursue careers doing scientific research into intelligent design and even sparked the first major intelligent design course taught within a secular university biology department (at an Ivy League College, no less). In all, IDEA Clubs have reached thousands of students by informing them about the scientific evidence for ID and encouraging them to think for themselves in the scientific debate over origins.
The Future of IDEA
In early 2008. Dr. Caroline Crocker became the first Executive Director of the IDEA Center. Dr. Crocker left the Center in the summer of 2008 to pursue other endeavors. However, in the summer of 2008, the IDEA Center hired Brian Westad as its first IDEA Club Director to oversee the IDEA Club Program. Mr. Westad has also moved on to pursue another profession. While these may make you wonder if we're still active, we are proud to say the IDEA Center still has an active staff to help you start an IDEA Club, hold an event, teach a class, or answer your questions about ID!
The IDEA Center hopes that in the coming years it will continue to grow, thereby educating, supporting and protecting still higher numbers of students. In time, we would like to see regional coordinators in place, so that individual IDEA clubs can receive more personalized attention. In addition, because the climate for Darwin-skeptics is also growing increasingly hostile in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, we would like to establish even more IDEA chapters overseas. Finally, opportunities to teach classes have not been rare, and we plan on improving and expanding our teaching activities. Our hopes are that one day students and scientists around the world will be able to make informed decisions about their lives, research, and origins based upon a full and uncensored knowledge of the scientific evidence surrounding the debate over intelligent design and evolution.
The IDEA Center has received many opportunities, and could not exist without the support of many people. Thanks for reading about our history and we hope you will enjoy exploring the rest of our website.