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Affirmation of Brumfiel's "Natural Divisions" Article: IDEA Membership, Goals, and Philosophy

by Casey Luskin (with help from other IDEA staff)

This photo of the UCSD IDEA Club appeared in Natural divisions, in the April 28, 2005 issue of Nature.
Above is the photo of the UCSD IDEA Club which appeared in Natural divisions in the April 28, 2005 issue of Nature. Here, Casey Luskin draws a graph explaining a critique of the "Lenski Paper." Photo Copyright by Brit Colanter (2005).
The April 28, 2005 issue of journal Nature had a cover story entitled "Who has designs on your students' minds?" (by Geoff Brumfiel, Vol. 434, pg. 1062). A sub-article entitled "Natural divisions" discussed the IDEA Center, and IDEA Clubs in general, and quoted Oklahoma University IDEA Club Leader Russell Hunter, and UCSD IDEA Club founder Casey Luskin. IDEA is grateful to reporter Geoff Brumfiel for putting together this accurate and balanced sub-article about IDEA.

The Purpose of IDEA Clubs:
In "Natural divisions," Mr. Brumfiel quoted IDEA Center Co-President Casey Luskin noting that "From the very beginning, the purpose of Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) clubs has been to facilitate debate." With a minor qualification, this is an accurate statement. IDEA is a student-founded, student-run phenomenon dedicated to friendly, informal, and informed discussion over intelligent design and evolutionary theories. Debate often takes place at the clubs, but typically not in the form of "public, formal" debate--but rather in the form of cooperative student investigation and discussion among many people of various different viewpoints.

The founders of the original IDEA Club at UCSD were science majors who realized that there was much more to the story regarding Neo-Darwinism and biological origins than students were being taught in most science classes. Students--both evolutionists and creationists--wanted to have a venue to learn about and discuss evidence which challenged Neo-Darwinism and supported intelligent design. The IDEA Club naturally followed as an answer to this desire students had to do debate and question evolution. Students were attracted to this forum because it provided opportunities they were rarely given during class.

IDEA Clubs: A Place of Diversity, Disagreement, Friendship, and Cooperative Inquiry:
Brumfiel also quoted Casey Luskin as follows: “We want to inform everyone about all sides of the issue, so we actually invite Darwinists to the clubs to talk about natural selection.” Again, Nature's reporter Geoff Brumfiel got it correct. IDEA Clubs are meant to be a place which is inviting to people of many viewpoints. This is why IDEA Club mission statements always say that their purpose is to "Facilitate discussion, debate, and dialogue over these issues in a warm, friendly, and open atmosphere where individuals feel free to speak their personal views."

Setting this standard, the original IDEA Club at UCSD had many members who were evolutionists, intelligent design proponents, creationists, and everything else in between. Religiously, IDEA Clubs today are composed of atheist evolutionists, non-theist ID proponents, theistic evolutionists, theist ID proponents, and creationists of various stripes. This is why our How to Run an IDEA Club Meeting Page states: "Club meetings are meant to be diverse places with people of many viewpoints attending. Most of our clubs have little trouble in getting both creationists and evolutionists to be drawn to the club. But this is crucial: the point of an IDEA Club is anything but to be a place where a bunch of intelligent design proponents simply sit around agreeing with one another and bashing evolution. Rather, it is a place of communication and dialogue between people of many viewpoints, where those on all sides of the issue can come and challenge, and be challenged. IDEA Clubs must be committed to open intellectual dialogue and exchange if they are to succeed in promoting intelligent design with integrity in an academic environment." This is the goal of IDEA Clubs, and we are grateful to Nature and Geoff Brumfiel for highlighting these aspects of IDEA as we try to increase student "awareness" about intelligent design and evolution.

Common Ground: Applauding the Statements of Eugenie Scott and Victor Hutchinson:
As a final reflection, we would like to applaud the statements of Eugenie Scott, Director of the NCSE, and Victor Hutchinson, a faculty member of the zoology department at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Dr. Scott was quoted in Brumfeil's "Natural divisions" article saying: "A formal debate is not how we do science ... But I think it's appropriate for scientists to meet with students and educate them about what the real science is saying." "Formal debate," typically consists of speakers standing before an audience who present their respective arguments, and then rebuttals, under pre-specified time limits. Under such a definition of "formal debate," we agree with Scott, for science definitely does not proceed via formal debate.

Science is a meticulous process where knowledge is usually obtained slowly, often after years of meticulous research. Science is not a forum where scientists debate views and then after a single hearing suddenly arrive at a consensus. Furthermore, scientific knowledge is tentative and always subject to new findings.

At its heart, science is a way of knowing by which knowledge is obtained via the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and conclusion). In formulating their conclusions, scientists look at their own data, and also carefully the investigate the findings of other scientists in relevant fields. We encourage IDEA Clubs to understand the scientific method and get intimately acquainted with the primary scientific literature and research findings of scientists! IDEA Clubs are directed to a wide variety of scientific papers, which present evidence both for and against evolutionary theory, and also scientific papers which argue both for or against intelligent design theory.

IDEA Club members are typically people who are seeking to understand the truth about origins. IDEA Clubs thus aim to provide a forum where each member can learn about evidence both for or against their respective viewpoint, no matter what their views happen to be. IDEA Club activities often consist of reading scientific papers, followed by discussion where students listen to how others in the club interpreted the papers. There may be often by "debate," in the sense of attendees advocate their views and then see how they hold up to the scrutiny of other minds in the club. IDEA Clubs are a great place to listen, learn, discuss, and sometimes even "debate" (in the sense that there is disagreement and subsequent informal exchange of viewpoints about various scientific ideas). In doing so, we are exposed to the positions of others, and learn more about ourselves.

We are grateful to Eugenie Scott that she sees the value of such a forum, and that she thinks "it's appropriate for scientists to meet with students and educate them about what the real science is saying." IDEA Clubs are the ideal pace for scientists to meet with students who have open-ears, in a friendly and inquisitive environment.

OU zoologist Victor Hutchinson was quoted saying "we encourage faculty members and graduate students to attend their [IDEA Club] meetings and challenge them in the discussion." IDEA Club activities typically attract pro-ID undergraduates, pro-ID graduate students, and pro-ID faculty. But the meetings are rarely more interesting than when pro-evolution graduate students or pro-evolution faculty attend to present their views contra intelligent design theory. This adds to the depth of IDEA Club activities and always teaches students about the various lines of scientific evidence which support evolution. We would like to applaud Dr. Hutchinson for encouraging evolutionist faculty to participate in IDEA Clubs, and hope that others will follow his lead!

In his article, Mr. Brumfiel was correct to imply that there are "natural divisions" among the views people have regarding biological origins. IDEA Clubs break down those "natural divisions" by creating an atmosphere where people of diverse views can come together in friendship and a spirit of cooperative inquiry to investigate origins.

If you are a scientist interested in participating in an IDEA Club near you, please contact us at We would love to help connect you to a forum in your area to interact with students via an IDEA Club. If you are a student interested in starting an IDEA Club, then please check out our How to Start a Club page and let us know what you think!