UW News

April 20, 2006

Evolution, intelligent design to be discussed at two events

UW News

The scientific theory of evolution and the faith-based belief in intelligent design continue to be the subject of heated debate nationwide. Two upcoming events will bring that controversy to the UW community.

On the evening of Wednesday, April 26, UW scientist Peter Ward will meet Stephen Meyer of Seattle’s Discovery Institute in a presentation sponsored and moderated by political reporter David Postman of The Seattle Times titled Talk of the Times: Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, at Town Hall Seattle. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m.

And at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 8, Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education and famous opponent of the intelligent design theory, will speak in 130 Kane. Her presentation is titled, What’s the Fuss About Intelligent Design? and advance notes go on to ask, “Why is intelligent design rejected by the courts — and more important — by scientists?” Scott also will give a campus-only lecture for educators titled Genie’s (approximately) Top Ten Ways to Teach Evolution Better at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, in Physics Astronomy 102.

Julie Walsh, news promotions manager for The Seattle Times, described the Town Hall Seattle event, which the newspaper is sponsoring, saying, “It’s not a debate per se, it’s more of a conversation. They won’t be behind podiums and there won’t be any point-counter point. David will moderate and ask them all questions, and then give them a chance to answer those questions, and to talk to each other as well.”

Ward, UW professor of earth and space sciences and biology and author of the books Life as We Do Not Know It, Rare Earth and Future Evolution, studies living organisms and the fossil record, and his recent work has focused on the prehistoric extinction event and its impact on ammonites and bivalves. He has written and spoken often on the subject of evolution.

Ward said he expects the meeting to be fairly gentlemanly, despite the radical difference of views to be expressed. “My wife clearly told me that I debate much better when I am calm. So I’m leaving the gloves on, I guess. But I hope we keep it to science.” He added, “I hope we can keep it on topics he and I supposedly know something about.”

He said Meyer has recently published a paper on the fossil record, which will likely enter into the discussion. Also likely to come up will be the recent discovery of the crocodile-like Tiktaalik, (or “large, shallow water fish”), which scientists say is the link between water- and land-based animals long envisioned in evolutionary theory.

Ward will meet Stephen Meyer, director of the Center of Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute and author of the books Darwinism, Design and Public Education and Science and Evidence of Design in the Universe. The two discussed this issue once before, in a radio interview on KIRO in late 2005.

Walsh of The Times said of moderator Postman, “David is so even-handed, he knows how to keep it fair and balanced and let everyone have their chance to speak, but not take over the conversation.”

Biology Professor Richard Olmstead will act as host for the appearance of Eugenie Scott. Olmstead said inviting Scott to campus is part of a larger effort “to be a little more proactive in the support of the teaching of evolution rather than just reactive to the pressures that come out from fundamentalist Christian groups.”