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September 13, 2006


Robert Pennock Kicks Off the 2006 Sagan National Colloquium

Robert Pennock, spoke at OWU on September 7 as part of the Sagan National Colloquium. Photo courtesy of http://www.msu.edu/~pennock5/
Robert Pennock, spoke at OWU on September 7 as part of the Sagan National Colloquium. Photo courtesy of http://www.msu.edu/~pennock5/

Last Thursday, a full Gray Chapel auditorium listened to the keynote speech of the 2006 Sagan National Colloquium, How Science Affects Our Daily Lives.  The 2006 keynote speaker was Robert Pennock.  Pennock’s lecture was entitled: The Ground Rules of Science: Why the Judge Ruled Intelligent Design Creationism out of Court.  He discussed in detail the 2005 Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School Board court case.  As an expert witness for the prosecution, his testimony addressed the constitutionality of teaching intelligent design in public schools.

Pennock makes his living as a philosopher of science in the Lyman Briggs School of Science and the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University, where he teaches.  His presentation described various aspects of the court case, including the perspective of the defense.  The school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, approved use of the text Of Pandas and People within the Dover Area School District high school biology curriculum.  The text provides evidence for intelligent design from origin-of-life studies, biochemistry, genetics, homology, and paleontology.  Pennock countered with specific details on why this text was inappropriate for use in public schools, underscoring its obvious religious undertones.

Overall, the lecture was informative and well-constructed.  Pennock was able to relay a very complex and nuanced case to an audience where biologists were in the minority. Some audience members may have left dissatisfied with Pennock’s discussion of the relationship between intelligent design and biology.  He maintained that intelligent design is merely creationism relabeled.  He also covered the science of evolution in great detail.  In the end, some may conclude that his lecture was short on the specifics of why intelligent decision is not a science.

The next Sagan National Colloquium event will be Thursday, September 14 in Philips Hall Auditorium at 7:30.  The lecture by Richard Sayre is entitled Meeting the Challenge of Malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, the BioCassava Plus Program.

Emily Uline-Olmstead '08