a journal of analysis and comment
advancing public understanding of religion and education
Vol. 33 No. 3
Clash of Opposing Worldviews:
My main purpose in writing
this article is to look at the controversy between Intelligent Design (ID) and
Evolution (EV) from the point of view of a veteran college professor who teaches
a unit on this topic in his elective graduate course “Religious Pluralism for
Educators.” Many public school teachers and administrators sign up for this
course every year, along with a number of higher education administrators.
Because so much has already been written on the ID/EV controversy, and because
the most publicly visible advocates of each position tend to express their views
in stark either-or rhetoric, I have decided to write this essay in another way.
I am less interested in providing readily available technical information about
ID and EV (the other articles in this theme issue of R&E do that very
nicely), or in arguing for a pet position, than I am in giving readers a sense
of what one professor actually tries to do on the front lines of a classroom
seminar as professional educators grapple with the ID/EV conflict.
a teacher, I seek to be a reconciling force in the ID/EV debate without watering
down those intractable intellectual, political, and philosophical differences in
the opposing views. This is dangerous, of course, because both sides have
accused me of selling out to the opposition, of watering down the obvious
“truth” of science or religion, of giving aid and comfort to the “enemy”
because I refuse to take them on and immobilize, or destroy, them once and for
all. I am a college professor of nearly four decades working in a college of
education and social services, and there isn’t much by way of extremism that I
haven’t heard in my religious pluralism, and other philosophically-oriented,
courses that I teach, especially on the ID/EV conflict.
what the reader can expect in the following pages are a brief summary of the
main points of Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution, as well as some
issues that come up in my classes around the ID/EV controversy and how I handle
them. When appropriate, I will also share my own point of view on the issues,
for what it might be worth. I will close with a series of modest recommendations
for how to talk with educators about ID/EV in a graduate student classroom in a
way that doesn’t silence unpopular points of view.
me begin by saying that whenever the ID/EV controversy takes center stage in my
course, whether or not I have formally assigned readings on it, our seminar
conversations become volatile, emotional, and, at times, one-sided. It seems
that everyone in the field of education, whether teacher or administrator,
student or parent, has a particular point of view on this issue. Everyone, with
few exceptions, becomes a partisan. Whether they stake out their territory as
secularists or spiritualists, evolutionists or teleologists, naturalists or
supernaturalists, when the right buttons get pushed, people take sides. Many
become strident fundamentalists. They burn with righteous zeal. And, make no
mistake, buttons do get pushed.