I was browsing the pages of Science (24 December, 1993, Vol 262, pp 19452108) when I notic

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I was browsing the pages of _Science_ (24 December, 1993, Vol 262, pp 1945-2108) when I noticed in the Random Samples Column (pp 1976-1977) an item of interest to talk.origins. (Reprinted without permission) "Intellegent Design" at San Francisco State Two important concepts -academic freedom and the theory of evolution- are currently clashing at San Francisco State University. The question: Does the school have the right to stop a biology professor from expounding on creationist ideas? Hostilities commenced last spring when, in response to complaints by five students, the chairman of the biology department moved Dean Kenyon, a tenured professor, out of the introductory class he had been teaching for almost a decade. Kenyon devotes two course sessions to explaining how it is unlikely that aspects of chemical evolution could have occurred by chance. He insists he's no Biblical fundamentalist, but he has become an advocate of the theory that "intellegent design" must be behind the emergence of life. University officials have their doubts about having this laid on freshmen who may never see anoither science course. After his removal, Kenyon claimed his intellectual freedom had been abridged and appealed to the faculty senate's Academic Freedom Committee. The committee agreed with him, but the department demurred. Tensions escalated in November, when the American Association of University Professors weighed in, praising the committee's report and urging resolution of the issue. And finally came the endorsement of Kenyon's reinstatement by the Academic Senate. His defenders, all but one of them nonscientists, say Kenyon shouldn't be penalized for exposing his students to alternative interpretations of events. And they feel the department violated "due process" by replying on student reports rather than engaging in systematic information-gathering on his teaching. But Kenyon's views have been a matter of chronic concern since he began injecting them into his teaching more than a decade ago, says university dean James Kelly, an oceanographer. So "18 years of student complaints" seemed like enough evidence. Department chairman John Hafernik adds that there was no due process to violate. He calls Kenyon's reassignment a "scheduling decision" that shoukld never have gone outside the department. But it did and now it's back. Kelly said Kenyon (who is now teaching only labs) has been offered a chance to conduct an advasnced seminar where his ideas can be explored. But Kenyon wants his into course back, saying "I'm not going to drop this issue." He won't get more specific, but university officials fear a lawsuit in the making. (end _Science_ article) Okay, now a few thoughts of my own. First of all, Kenyon isn't "exposing his students to alternate interpretations of events" but is rather lying in his teeth and demonstrating massive incompetance. I'm going to dust off my own academic credentials (PhD, mathematics) here and state, athoritatively, the TRUTH (tm): We do not have sufficient information, either hard data or models, to come anywhere close to being able to establish the a priori likely- hood of early chemical evolution. Any claims or estimates of it's probability must of logical necessity be founded on philosophical premises like "God doesn't exist" or "God must be responsible", or, more likely, grotesque mathematical incompetence. I might, on a good day be willing to entertain claims that the probability was nonzero. No more. Second, speaking as someone who just finished teaching an introductory course for unwashed Freshmen (Math 150, discrete math for business majors) I suspect that Kenyon is no scientist and is uninterested in verifying the accuracy of his intellegent design assertions. When offered an advanced research seminar focused on one's own interests a researcher leaps at it. Introductory classes are little use in exploring ones ideas. They can serve as useful platforms for indocrination, for those who wish to try the accuracy of their scientific ideas in the legislature. Sound familliar? Third, I wonder at Kenyon's lack of ties to the religious arm of the creationist movement. Are these non-ties a proforma attempt to avoid the problems involved in using a publically funded university biology course to push a particular religious viewpoint or do we actually have someone who arrived at these conclusions from a non-religious perspective? The score is "lying religious fanatics 20, objective scientists 0" in this area but I suppose it could happen. The timing coincidence is remarkable, that a researcher should arrive at the notion of intellegent design at the same point in history that the liar's club (ICR) is pushing the idea with warp drive. Anyone in net.land know more? -- Dan Ashlock (Danwell) danwell@iastate.edu


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