The head of Southern Methodist University's anthropology department has turned down an invitation to debate major intelligent design proponents at an upcoming conference on the college campus.
While members of the anthropology department "appreciate [Discovery Institute's] recognition of the value of dialogue on issues that have such opposing views," SMU Anthropology Chair Robert V. Kemper said the department had "previously scheduled events and prior commitments" that prevent it from accepting Discovery Institute's invitation.
The heads of the other two departments which Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman had sent letters to, meanwhile, have yet to respond.
Only weeks before, science professors at Southern Methodist University were much more vocal, writing letters of protest to school officials to complain about the upcoming "Darwin vs. Design" conference.
"These are conferences of and for believers and their sympathetic recruits," stated a letter from the anthropology department, according to The Associated Press. "They have no place on an academic campus with their polemics hidden behind a deceptive mask."
The biology and geology departments sent similar letters.
But now, with one invitation rejected and two still without response, it seems the proposed showdown between intelligent design supporters and opponents won't take place after all.
It's a shame too.
While the "theory" of intelligent design may lack the technical components which would define it as such, the concept is definitely worth considering and worth discussing – not just protesting against. And there are certainly a number of individuals who support the idea so strongly that they feel confident enough to challenge some of the nation's top thinkers to debate over it in a public forum.
Now, those who are so strongly against the concept of "design" and express such a strong opposition to it – shouldn't they be just as willing as proponents to argue for (or against) what they believe or know to be true (or not true)?
Academic institutions are designed – no pun intended – as platforms to discuss not only what is held to be true, but also to discuss ideas, innovations, philosophies.
Censoring ideas – even those which may be contrary to accepted truths – is not something universities should allow (with exceptions, of course).
So rather than trying to silence those who think differently from them or making judgments before hearing the case, SMU professors should listen well and speak like true scholars.
Step up to the challenge.
Polemics are not what's bad for college campuses. It's silent teachers.