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SMU profs challenged to debate at Darwin vs. Design conference

Late last week, Discovery Institute sent the letter below from Bruce Chapman to the chairs of the three departments at SMU which were calling for the Darwin vs. Design conference to be removed from campus, inviting them to a debate about intelligent design. It seems that The Dallas Morning News agrees with us that open discussion belongs at a university. On Saturday the DMN ran a brief editorial short on the SMU controversy:

But if there's any place where an idea like this can be examined and debated, you'd think that a university . . . would be it. But a group of SMU professors got the vapors and demanded that the university bar the Discovery Institute from campus. SMU's administration correctly told the prissy profs that the group had every right to be on campus.

Our letter, which was sent on Thursday, follows in its entirety:

I am writing to invite you or a representative from your faculty to participate in a dialogue about the theory of intelligent design on Friday night, April 13th, ahead of the formal commencement of our conference that evening on your campus.

We noted with interest the comment of one of your SMU faculty colleagues, Dr. Bretell, who stated in the Dallas Morning News that the science faculty plan to use the conference "as a teaching moment."

As educators ourselves, we applaud you for this and would like to enhance the teaching opportunity for your students by creating a forum in which your faculty can participate in an open dialogue with proponents of intelligent design--in particular, with our three conference speakers, Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. Stephen Meyer, and Dr. Jay Richards.

If you accept our invitation, I will arrange for the first portion of our Friday night program to be devoted to this discussion. We propose the following format: one of our speakers would make a fifteen-minute presentation explaining the merits, from our point of view, of the theory of intelligent design. Then we would invite one of you to make a presentation explaining your main criticisms of the theory. We would then allow your panel to ask us a series of challenging questions of your own choosing. After that we would open the discussion to a few questions from the audience.

We are all committed to respectful scholarly dialogue and to the use of scientific methods of reasoning in the investigation of nature. In our view, science progresses in part as scientists and scholars discuss and evaluate competing interpretations of scientific evidence. We think that the format we are proposing will allow for such discussion and will, therefore, create a teaching moment for all who participate and observe the discussion.

We hope you will join us. May I ask you to respond at your earliest convenience by contacting [deleted].

Yours sincerely,

Bruce Chapman
President, Discovery Institute

Because the letter was sent just last week, it's still too early to tell what the reaction might be. Here's hoping that the profs at SMU are willing to engage in the debate and present their views on ID.

It looks like we're not the only ones waiting. Rod Dreher has a great column over at Beliefnet where he writes, "Sounds good to me. Will the professors agree to participate in this teaching moment? I'd love to hear both sides make their presentation, and I bet I'm not the only one."