Proposed Religion Class in Kansas Labels Intelligent Design as 'Mythology'

The intelligent design theory is going to be studied at the University of Kansas next semester, but not in the way advocated by supporters of the alternative to the evolution theory.

The course, to be offered by the university religious studies department, is titled "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies" and will explore intelligent design as a modern American mythology.

"To equate intelligent design to mythology is really an absurdity, and it's just another example of labeling anybody who proposes [intelligent design] to be simply a religious nut," said John Calvert, an attorney and managing director of the Intelligent Design Network in Johnson County, Kan., according to the Associated Press. "That's the reason for this little charade."

Paul Mirecki, chairman of the university religious studies department, however insisted that intelligent design, like creationism, is mythology.

“It's not science,” Mirecki said, according to AP. “They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not."

Although the majority of science organizations have not accepted intelligent design as a valid scientific theory and many critics say that it is creationism in disguise and does not have scientific evidence to support it, “ID” proponents say that their arguments for the theory are based solely on observable evidence from nature. They also insist that the theory does not rely on the biblical account of creation in Genesis. It states that certain aspects of nature are so complex that they could not have come about by evolution alone, but that the evidence points to an intelligent designer, although they say that science cannot identify who or what that is.

Earlier this month, the Kansas State School Board voted 6-4 to teach students that there were doubts about Darwinian evolution theory.

“We can have an opportunity to have critical analysis of evolution. Prior, it was taught as dogma,” said School Board Chairman Dr. Steve Abrahms, after the Nov. 8 vote, according CBS affiliate KWCH.

Although local school boards must still decide how science is taught in the classrooms, the vote was seen as a major victory for proponents of intelligent design.

The issue of what should be taught in Kansas schools has been shifting back and forth depending on the makeup of the state school board. In 1999, the school board sought to introduce the controversy over Darwinian evolution into the curriculum; in 2000, new board members took the opposed teaching it; and the current board, elected in 2004, is supporting the new standards.

In regards to the latest issue, University of Kansas Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor David Shulenburger said, “Teaching about controversial topics is a role all universities play, and the current debate over intelligent design certainly qualifies.”

“We would be remiss to ignore it,” he said in a statement released on Tuesday by the University of Kansas. “We believe it is especially appropriate that intelligent design and creationism be treated as academic subjects in a religion class. This class will study intelligent design and creationism along with other explanations of human origins that come from various religions and belief systems.”

Despite Mirecki’s comments on Tuesday to AP, stating that "the KU faculty has had enough" of claims that intelligent design is a science, Shulenburger claimed the topics and titles of courses in religious studies are not intended to promote or debunk any particular beliefs but instead encourage students to explore religion and its place in the world.