Oct 31, 2006

LU prof speaks at panel on design and evolution

by Joanne Tang, News Editor
“Flock of Dodos,” a documentary that investigates the controversy between evolution and intelligent design, is making rounds at film festivals and universities. Its latest stop is the College of William and Mary, where it had a student and faculty audience and was followed by a panel discussion of several scientists.

Dr. David DeWitt, professor of biology at Liberty, was one of the panelists. He served as a voice of creationism and when the movie concluded, he pointed out several inconsistencies in the film.

“Everyone there treated me with respect,” DeWitt said.
Dr. Randy Olson, a marine biologist who is now a filmmaker, made the film in a manner that shows many sides of the issue in entertaining animations and interviews and round-table discussions with many other scientists.

In the documentary, he interviews scientists of all backgrounds and tackles the debate of evolution and intelligent design. According to DeWitt, the film made many strides to be neutral in the matter.

“They (the filmmakers) were nicer to creationists than I’ve seen from other films,” he said.

Though the film looked to be neutral and there was less hostility toward creationists, DeWitt said, “Flock of Dodos” misrepresents the evidence regarding intelligent design.”

DeWitt said he planned to show the film to his CRST 390 class so his students can see and “identify the misleading elements.”

“They (students) should not be afraid to engage in the debate,” he said.

DeWitt said students have to be aware of their fight outside of the Christian environment. “Because it can be comfortable (in Christian schools), often students simply take creation for granted.”

“Flock of Dodos” also takes on the controversy at the Kansas Board of Education, which has debated the subject of teaching intelligent design in schools. A Nov. 2005 decision in Kansas changed the standard in public schools so that they will teach intelligent design along with evolution.  
Dr. George Gilchrist, associate professor of biology at William and Mary, said “…hopefully (this film) will make some of my students think about ways they can contribute to public understanding as well as building a professional reputation.”

Gilchrist was also a panelist and said there was a lack of communication between “scientists and the Christian community.” He said, “This is just one example of the larger problem in our society, advocates of opposing positions shout back and forth instead of sitting down and searching for common ground.”

“We have to engage the culture,” DeWitt said. “It is easy to say ‘I believe in creation’ at Liberty but it’s another thing to do it in a secular place.”

Contact Joanne Tang at jtang@liberty.edu.

Graphic by Leslie Paramytherng.

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