Feb 10, 2009

Symposium commemorates Darwin’s birth with opposing theory

by Matthew Coleman

Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday is being celebrated this February, and to present an alternative viewpoint – one which focuses on creation—Liberty invited a number of world-renowned scientists and Intelligent Design (ID) advocates to speak on campus and at the annual Law Review Symposium. Held last Friday in the Law School’s Supreme Courtroom, the event offered the guests a chance to voice their beliefs about ID and evolution and specifically how it should be handled in the public school system.

Among the speakers invited to Liberty was world-renowned biochemist, Dr. Michael Behe. Once a proud Darwinian evolutionist, he is professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. It was science that drove him to question Darwinism. After he was a tenured associate professor he read, “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis,” written by Michael Denton, an agnostic geneticist. The book made him angry that he had never been taught the flaws in Darwinism. Today, Behe is one of leading advocates and authors in support of ID. Not satisfied with simply disagreeing with the theory of evolution, Behe actively tries to discredit the theory.

Behe relies on a number of concepts such as irreducible complexity. This belief states that it would be impossible for something complicated to gradually evolve through minor changes over time.

“The evolutionary production of something like (the eye) by numerous, successive and slight modifications seems very, very difficult to envision,” Behe said.

Behe spoke during convocation, appeared with the Founder of Liberty Counsel and law school Dean Mat Staver on the radio program Liberty Live and gave a speech during the dinner that concluded the symposium events.

“He was very passionate about what he said,” junior Cathren Clements said. “And he tried to break it down for those who are not scientists.”
In addition to Behe, the Law School symposium included Professor Johnny R. Buckles, John H. Calvert, Florida Rep. Alan D. Hays, Professor Arnold H. Loewy, Casey Luskin, Edward H. Sisson and Professor Jay D. Wexler.

The guests spoke on the viability of ID and the ways it could be presented in a public school class without escalating into a religious debate.

While each of the speakers had a different view on the subject matters presented, the general consensus was that ID was the correct theory.
“When you put (the facts) together, you say, ‘this didn’t happen by chance,’” Sisson said. “No way it happened by chance.”

Because ID is seen as a predominately religious belief, it is generally not accepted by the scientific community, according to Sisson.

“A lot of (scientists) see this as battle of reason versus emotion, and the religious side sees it as the people of religion against the diluted ones,” Sisson said. “Why aren’t people talking about the actual science?”

The problem that surfaces between the two theories is that they are only theories. While there is evidence supporting both sides, neither one can be proven with anything beyond theoretical evidence, according to Calvert. Science is supposed to be objective, unbiased and open to the truth, he said. Given that evolution is merely a proposed theory for the earth’s existence, just like ID, it should not be the only theory taught in public schools. Teachers should be permitted to give the facts on both sides, and make sure that students know that there is a lot of information that is still unknown.

“The present paradigm which restricts explanation of natural causes is a paradigm that does not inform,” Calvert said. “It restricts explanation to a particular viewpoint, and that is a program of indoctrination.”

The speakers at the symposium generally agreed that ID should be taught in schools with the facts and implications of both sides presented so students can make up their own minds about the matter.

Both theories are subject to challenge, and students should be allowed to choose based on facts presented, Loewy said.

Not talking about each theory and simply assuming one or the other is correct, as America tends to do now, creates problems as well, Buckles said. Instead of promoting intelligent thought and the desire to seek out the truth, each side clams up and ignores any argument contrary to its belief.

“Let’s go back to the tradition where we really foster freedom and diversity of thought,” Buckles said.

In this manner, both sides of the argument can be presented without it turning into a religious debate, according to Buckles.

Overall, the speakers and their messages were well received by the members of the audience. Among those pleased with the symposium’s results was Dean of the Liberty University School of Law, Mat Staver.

“Liberty is the epicenter to speak truth on every issue around the world. This ID event is one way Liberty is leading the charge to communicate our message to the world,” Staver said. “The symposium went better than expected. It is the kickoff of the Intelligent Design month.”

“This symposium highlights Liberty’s unique mission to bring the truth of the origins of life to the academic world. We bring the discussion that some fear to the rest of the world,” Staver said.

“It was very enlightening (and) I liked the selection of the speakers,” sophomore Pierce Brown said. “They all differed, not fundamentally, but it gave you the full argument.”

“I have learned more in the last few hours about ID and evolution than I have in my entire life,” freshman Joshua Hendricks said.

Contact Matthew Coleman at


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