Part I -- by Salvador Cordova
President of IDEA Club at George Mason University
On April 28, 2005, the world's most prestigious scientific journal, Nature, published a cover story by Geoffrey Brumfiel on the growing intelligent-design movement in universities. The article reported on many facets of intelligent design in the universities, and featured George Mason University's IDEA chapter prominently. The reporter interviewed me, Caroline Crocker, a professor of cellular biology, and some of our IDEA members.
Brumfiel also reported on a survey I commissioned. The survey came about because of discussions I had with various faculty members at universities about the viability and profitability of having intelligent design and/or creationism offered in the philosophy and religion departments.
Though I feel that intelligent design ultimately belongs in the science curriculum, most faculty I spoke with on both sides of the issue felt there would be absolutely no problem offering it in the philosophy and religion department. To that end, I commissioned an atheist and agnostic group of students known as the Free Thinkers at James Madison University (not George Mason) to take a survey of the student's level of interest in taking such courses. They polled 331 students. They gave the students a written description of intelligent design and creationism, and then asked the students the following questions:
To my astonishment interest in biblical creationism was extremely high, but it at least seemed consistent with polls conducted by other organizations. Here are the results:
Our survey results were intended to be only a crude measurement of student interest. My goal was to provide some evidence to school administrators that intelligent design and/or creationism courses would attract enough students to justify offering these courses in the philosophy and religion departments. And even if the survey was off by a factor of 10, at a school like James Madison, the numbers would still indicate over a thousand students would take the courses at that school.
There are some other facts that didn't make it into the article which are worth mentioning.
Here is an interesting quote by distinguished professor of biology Harold Morowitz who teaches at George Mason. Morowitz was one of the world’s most respected origin-of-life researchers. In his book Emergence of Everything, Morowitz wrote,
In fact, discussion of special creation is unavoidable in these contexts, but I was careful to point out that religious texts cannot be the foundation of scientific theories no matter how much we may desire our religious views to be true. I left it as an open issue whether physical first principles and purely empirical methods could arrive at some sort of scientific theory of creation where physical laws would be applied to existing physical artifacts to infer the initial conditions of the universe and life. Stephen Meyer addresses the issue of a scientific theory of creation in http://www.arn.org/docs/meyer/sm_methodological.htm.
I encouraged the listeners, though they may be eager to prove their religious convictions through science, they must not take shortcuts in the scientific method and not allow their biases (which we all have) to compromise their calculations and logical deductions or their conduct of the scientific enterprise.
Brumfiel mentioned the group at the IDEA meeting were all Christians. I am not sure if this was actually the case at the meeting. I want to make it clear that during the meeting, the officers of the club made it clear we welcome people of all persuasions and the meeting was advertised as such. In regards to the educational background represented, of the 20 or so in attendance 11 were science majors, and of those 6 were biology majors including Professor Crocker. In fact I do not even know if all of those in attendance were Christians. However, to be fair to Geoff Brumfiel, I can understand that he may have had that perception because over half of those in attendance were open about their religious orientation during the question answer session in the last half of the meeting. But I am not sure exactly what percentage of the group were actually Christians.
In Part II, I’ll discuss more of what happened during the interview and the meeting which Brumfiel attended. Some of arguments I presented that day were from cosmology and physics, and particularly quantum mechanics. Mention of those arguments was not elaborated in the article, and I wish to pursue it more. I’m strongly convinced that the work of Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner in quantum mechanics makes him, in my view, “a grandfather” of intelligent design. And it was the writings of Professor Morowitz at George Mason who led me to that view.
Brumfiel asked probing questions about my personal beliefs, and I feel he represented me accurately, but there is also a greater story there, and it pertains to the relationship of religious faith to the scientific method. Deductions from the scientific method cannot be colored or compromised by one’s religious faith, no matter how intensely one desires certain conclusions to be made. Facts are facts. However the question arises, “can scientific facts affects one’s religious views?” I believe the answer is yes. I will cover that in, Part II.