In 2005, I conducted an informal poll of interest in College-Level ID and Creation Courses if offered in Philosophy and Religion Departments. As unscientific as the polling was, it nevertheless was reported in a Nature Cover story, April 28, 2005!
I commissioned the Atheist/Agnostic James Madison University Freethinkers group to circulate a questionaire and we simply tallied the responses. The full results are reported here:
The NCSE’s Eugenie Scott kindly expressed her views on my idea in an e-mail exchange which she approved for public release:
For the last 14 years I considered what it would take to make courses like that happen. The topics are so deep one could fill out 12 semester hours easily! But I quickly realized it would be impossible to offer such courses in traditional universities for logistical and political reasons. But I still felt the material had to be assembled and disseminated if only to give it a platform in cyberspace. I don’t mean to sound too demeaning of certain disciplines in university, but if some of what I view as total junk is taught for tens of thousands of dollars in university, then college level ID and creation courses can be offered (even if un accredited) in cyberspace for much cheaper.
In 2005 I had no biology training, but since that time I got the equivalent of an MS in biology from an unaccredited school plus an official MS in Applied Physics from an accredited school. My academic qualifications are modest, but enough to at least meet and talk to professors and researchers who were qualified to contribute material to such courses. And since 2005, just from my personal experience, there seem to be more and more ID and Creation sympathetic faculty in the sciences – witness Marcos Eberlin, James Tour, and the late Richard Smalley.
I once worked in the Aerospace and Defense industry and for about 6 years was involved in creating computer-based training (CBT) for naval aviators. Some of my flight simulators and CBT devices were deployed on aircraft carriers, and CBT studies showed that in certain contexts we could train the pilots 30 times faster than compared to traditional classroom methods. That said, the development of CBT is not trivial. We had a staff of 40 people building the software and teaching materials! The Department of Defense spared no cost to make the best CBT possible. Of course it was expensive since there were built-in flight simulators inside the CBT! But the bottom line, is that in some contexts, CBT can be an effective teaching tool or at least supplemental tool to classroom education.
The ID/Creation courses I envision, which is targeted to the college level, will be offered online, in most cases not for credit, but at least available for professors to use. I know of some Deans and Faculty that have already shown interest in some of the content. For example, I gave a presentation recently on my study of Zinc Finger Proteins and its relation to the NIH 4D nucleome project and to my surprise a former biology faculty member and current Dean wanted to share some of my slides with the students!
But also, I teach creationism in a 13,000 member mega church. It’s only 1 of only 2 megachurches that I know of that will touch the topic of ID and Creation. Creation was promoted in this mega church partly because one of the founding pastors was a Chemistry Student before going to seminary, and his study of enzymes convinced him God must have worked a miracle of creation. So I do have a “classroom” of sorts to teach this stuff.
The problem in teaching a course on ID and Creation has been the background of the students involved and what they want to learn. There may be creationists that want to learn more evolution, and evolutionists that want to hear the creation side.
Also there are freshmen drama majors and senior biology and physics and engineering students that might take interest in such a course. This could create a problem in a traditional classroom setting because of the differing backgrounds!
Therefore, it would be helpful where students could take a CBT course in a sort of a buffet style appropriate to their learning and interests. Thus a drama student wouldn’t be competing with a biochemistry student on issues related to abiogenesis. But she could still learn something more about the issues than what she knew before taking the courses.
It would be best to have a professor administer the course because it’s good if the student will write essays and express their thoughts, but for starters the course will have to be online.
Also, some biochemistry can be taught without some of the more difficult underlying general and organic chemistry bases, but which will be relevant to the origins debate. Some of the most interesting arguments involve abiogenesis and cell theory, and some biochemistry and cellular biology are critical to understanding. Same for the issue of the evolution of eukaryotes. Advanced modules might talk about emergence of life-critical proteins such as helicases, topoisomerases, polymerase complexes, transmembrane proteins, localization signals and processing, etc.
For the Engineering and computer types, there is material like Quines and Self-replicating automata and network theory. There might be stuff on physics and geology too. I’m not planning to write original material in these areas but I know professors who can…
I’ve taught extra-curricular ID courses at James Madison University through Campus Crusade for Christ and learned a lot about the art of teaching in the process. I hope to be discussing some of the learning modules here at peaceful science over time. In the interest of giving balanced presentation, I invite opposing viewpoints which I will gladly share with students if articulated in a scholarly fashion.
My original vision for the course was that completion of the modules didn’t mean the student agreed with the viewpoints expressed, but could demonstrate knowledge of what is said and claimed. What they believe at the end of the course is not what they are graded on.