The head of Southern Methodist University (SMU)'s anthropology department has declined a request to debate major intelligent design (ID) proponents at an upcoming conference to be held on campus.
SMU Anthropology Chair Robert V. Kemper turned down the invitation to join a debate over the validity of evolution vs. ID on grounds that the department had previous commitments that would keep its members from the conference.
"We appreciate your recognition of the value of dialogue on issues that have such opposing viewpoints," replied the professor to the Discover Institute, a major organization that promotes the teaching of ID. "Unfortunately, previously scheduled events and prior commitments prevent our department from taking advantage of this opportunity. We nevertheless remain committed to public understanding of these issues, and to providing the public with information to make intelligent choices."
Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, had sent letters to the chairs of three departments at SMU in response to faculty protests to an upcoming "Darwin vs. Design" conference, which would discuss ID - a theory that argues that complex living organisms are the result of a "designer."
He felt that rather than boycotting the event, both sides should discuss evidence in favor and against ID.
The Discovery Institute is skeptical about Kemper rejecting the debate, and questioned his motives in a notice on their website.
"It's interesting that these professors are willing to air their complaints and objections in public forums where there is no way for them to be 'heatedly debated and discussed,'" explained a post from Robert Crowther, director of communications at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "Really? 'Heatedly debated and discussed,' well no, not in this instance."
The ID institute is still awaiting responses from the other two department chairs, and is uncertain whether they will accept the invitation for dialogue.
Initially, school professors had strongly protested the "Darwin vs. Design" conference that would take place on the SMU campus because they felt that the conference speakers would give students false theory. They asserted that ID was simply religion in disguise as a science hypothesis, and that presenting the information can be harmful to thinking.
In response, Crowther asked in his post: "How is presenting this information, to an audience that wants to learn about it, in any way a danger to science?"
"It isn't," he wrote, "unless you are a dogmatic Darwinist who can't abide any viewpoint but your own."
The staff at the Discovery Institute is also bothered by the claim that ID is just another religiously-based science.
"This is just simply a lie," concluded Crowther's post. "No one affiliated with Discovery Institute has ever said any such thing. Some scientists, afraid to debate the merits of Darwinian evolution instead turn to making up inane assertions like this one."
The "Darwin vs. Design" conference will be held this weekend, Apr. 13-14, and will feature three of ID's most prominent scientists, including Dr. Michael Behe, a biochemist and leading ID authority from Lehigh University; Dr. Stephen Meyer, the director of the CSC at Discovery Institute; and Dr. Jay Richards, a CSC senior fellow and co-author of The Privileged Planet.