Category Archives: Education

Intelligent design is religion, not science

By Contributor Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer

The NASA case involving David Coppedge has brought to light the issue of intelligent design again. Coppedge was a computer analyst and team leader working on NASA’s Cassini Saturn Project until he was fired for inappropriate conduct in the workplace. He claims religious discrimination, but NASA says he was harassing his co-workers.

Whether he wins or not, Coppedge’s case involving religious discrimination would tend to support the argument that intelligent design is religion and not science. I agree.

That’s not to say I don’t like the idea of intelligent design. I do. I’m a big fan of Anselm of Canterbury’s Proslogion, where Anselm regards God as, “that of which nothing greater can be thought.” That’s intelligent design on steroids. It’s very different thinking than life from the primordial murk, a hurtling comet, or a mathematical construct. My personal belief is that the creator must be greater and more intelligent than that which is created.

But it’s not science by any stretch of the imagination: yours, mine, or Anselm’s. Science requires a testable hypothesis, and there’s no way to test whether a design is intelligent or not. I might think there are hidden dimensions filled with dark energy, but until I can form a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, publish the results in a scientific journal, and until there are peer reviews, it’s not science.  What test are you going to run to determine if something is intelligently designed?  Your idea of intelligence will differ from mine and Anselm’s. Immanuel Kant’sCritique of Pure Reason concludes that there are limits to what reasoning (think science) can achieve.

There is no way to either prove or disprove God or intelligent design. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to accept it all on faith.

BRIEF: Panel to examine gender studies and Christian universities

By Tracy Simmons

On April 3 Whitworth University will host a panel discussion titled, “The Future of Women’s and Gender Studies at Christian Universities.”

In this discussion Whitworth professor of political science Julia Stronks will lead Linda Beail,  director of women’s studies at Point Loma Nazarene University, Beth Martin Birky, director of women’s studies at Goshen College, and Kristina LaCelle Peterson, department chair of theology at Houghton College.

It will be at 3:15 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth. Admission is free. For information call 777-4937.

LDS volunteers celebrate Humanitarian Day

By Tracy Simmons

Creative amphibian creatures were just part of the agenda at the East Stake Humanitarian Day/Courtesy of the Latter-day Sentinel

Last month more than 200 Mormon volunteers spent the day serving the Spokane community.

On Humanitarian Day (Feb. 25) members of The Spokane East Stake Relief Society created “wish list” items for 15 area organizations, including toys, pictures books and quilts.

“I love the origin of this day. Instead of our sisters creating projects that we would find homes for, the Humanitarian Leader, Jill Woolf, went to organizations and schools and asked them, ‘What is on your wish list?’ They gave several ideas which we took to our sisters and they decided what they wanted to sponsor. The thrill of the day was in being able grant wishes. It’s not often that we get to do that,” said  Stake Relief Society President Karen Spear.

Check out the Latter-day Sentinel to read more about this story.

Whitworth class explores post-apartheid South Africa

By Tracy Simmons

Whitworth Photo

Last year, 23 Whitworth students spent four weeks in South Africa learning about the multi-ethnic people there as they continue to build a post-apartheid society. The class, “Contemporary South Africa,” examines the historical, social, political, and religious contexts of South Africa, according to a press release.

The class focused mainly on learning about the history of apartheid and how, even 18 years after its disbanding, it still affects the country today. Students looked at current issues in the country and the historical context behind those events.

“The South Africa study program has proven influential to the lives of many students,” says Ron Pyle, chair of the communication studies department at Whitworth and one of the trip’s leaders. “Living with and learning from South Africans can provide new perspectives on life, and being in situations that are sometimes uncomfortable – such as encountering poverty and injustice – can prompt us to consider many issues including justice, equality, reconciliation, privilege, and responsibility.”

The course is offered during Jan Term every other year.

Students began their journey on the country’s southwestern tip in the city of Cape Town before moving northeast through the cities of Oudtshoorn, Grahamstown, Umtata, and Durban. They wrapped up the trip with a visit to the inland city of Johannesburg.

The class met retired Methodist Rev. Peter Storey, Nelson Mandela’s former chaplain who opposed apartheid and took part in many protests. Storey came to Whitworth in April 2009 to present that year’s Simpson-Duvall lecture, “The Role of the Church in Peacemaking and Reconciliation in South Africa.”

Students also visited some of the most historically important sites in South African history, such as Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned, and the city of Soweto, where student protests helped bring worldwide attention to the injustices of apartheid. The class also worshipped with South Africans and spent some time sightseeing, including Cape Town’s Table Mountain and the beaches of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, according to a press release.

In the evenings students stayed with host families of various backgrounds, including black South Africans, white Afrikaners, Muslim Indians, and white South Africans. Senior Emily McBroom said she had a wonderful experience with her Muslim host family.

“My family was very hospitable and couldn’t wait to tell us all about their culture and lives,” said McBroom, a theology major. “They also really loved hearing about our lives, too. It made me see so many similarities between our lives.”

“This trip changed my life,” she said. “I am still attempting to figure out how exactly, but I know that I am different and I feel blessed to have learned so much about myself and the world in one month.”

Church sounds off with Planned Parenthood executive

By Tracy Simmons

Bethany Presbyterian Church wants to talk about the heated issues impacting Spokane.

That’s why members launched Sounding Board last month, a monthly speaker series that creates conversations around contemporary subjects, said the Rev. Paul Rodkey.

On Wednesday the group heard from Karl Eastlund, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, who said people wrongly assume abortions are the organization’s main focus.

He said abortions make up 5 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provides, 13 percent is sexually transmitted disease screening and 82 percent of its efforts focus on family planning and annual exams.

“Unfortunately we do have a marketing and an image problem, so we have not been able to sell to the public, to inform them of the services we do as much as we’d like to” Eastlund said, after a church member asked why the organization seems to be so unpopular. Mainly, he added, because the organization would rather spend their money on serving the community than marketing.

Planned Parenthood recently made headlines when the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would no longer fund grants to the organization. Later, the foundation recanted its announcement.

Eastlund said the reversal came because Planned Parenthood supporters spoke up.

“The public was really strong about who they thought was in the right on that issue, and it was Planned Parenthood. And it was Planned Parenthood by a landslide,” Eastlund said.

He said the public’s outcry, along with President Barack Obama’s health care mandate proves “there is hope,” even though there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“For me it’s really an equality issue,” Eastlund said. “This past couple of months have been a great opportunity for the supporters of Planned Parenthood to say ‘we’ve had enough’ and to stand up and to speak very loudly about the fact that this (birth control) is a social justice issue and it’s really a basic equality issue. And until we get past that and win that battle, I think there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in that area.”

He said although abortion and contraception have taken the public’s eye, the focus needs to also be on educating teenagers about STDs and safe sex. Spokane, he said, is ranked 22nd in teen pregnancy and has the fifth highest number of teenagers with Chlamydia. Nationally, he said 41 percent of teenagers know little or nothing about condoms, and 75 percent know little or nothing about contraceptive pills.

“There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in Spokane,” Eastlund said.

He said churches, like Bethany, can help by boldly speaking up for Planned Parenthood and for by working with their youth in creative ways to prevent teenage pregnancies.

Tiffany Nakagawa, who organized the church’s Sounding Board, said these forums are designed to help the church step outside of its four walls and pay attention to what’s happening in the community and in the world.

“Knowledge is important,” she said. “But knowing what to do with that knowledge is more important.”

A forum won’t be held in April because of Easter, but in May the forum will focus on marriage equality in Washington.

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Santorum is not the best Christianity has to offer

By Contributor Sam Fletcher

Sam Fletcher

Last week, I attended Rick Santorum’s rally in Spokane Valley as one of a few protestors, a mixed group of Occupy Spokane and local clergy standing up for liberal, pro-humanity values. This article is partially a critique of Santorum, but I’d like to use his values as a springboard to talk about what values would be better than Santorum’s, and the conservative right in general.

At the rally, Santorum offered a philosophical dead end that decried science, education, climate change and values that affirm freedom and enfranchisement of all Americans regardless of gender, creed or income status. In other venues he has called for an end to the separation of church and state, an end to contraception and a hostile stance against the Middle East. He has even spoken against couples enjoying sex for more than procreation.

Santorum, deeply committed to his own faith, may be one of the most extreme in his views, but he is certainly not alone. As a liberal Christian, I think Christian values can contribute greatly to informing and shaping a better society for everyone, without succumbing to the compulsion to dominate and dictate. I believe it is an opportunity and a calling to a new generation of Christian leaders.

Rick Santorum speaks at New Life Church/Tracy Simmons

The tide is already turning, of course, and the conservative “establishment” is painfully aware of it. I believe the vicious return of culture warriors is partially due to the fact that the establishment was not successful in passing its values to the youngest generations, and is fighting a last-resort war, which will be followed by their long, slow decline. Younger generations of America need a plan in place as the cultural shift nears completion.

I invite you to consider my proposals for some of the values that characterize good society.

We will be social. Not as in socialism, but as in social life. In contrast to the “each man is his castle” ideals of libertarians and the GOP presidential candidates, we need to relearn that the only sources of happiness are others. Science shows the only true, lasting happiness comes from a state of connectedness and community with others — not money or material goods. Infrastructural changes such as demolishing sparsely populated areas of urban and (increasingly) suburban blight and rebuilding them into denser areas with integrated areas of local business and local food production would help people not only psychologically and economically, but environmentally as well.

The challenges to overcome are the fear of each other that has been instilled into us for the last half a century; and the fear of “dangerous” ideas. In America, we have given up dense, urban housing and communities for spread-out, walled off enclaves. We have given up dialectal discourse for intellectual echo chambers. Let’s get back to a healthy village life, even if only because it makes us happier and more tolerant.

Our foreign policy will be development, not war. Like many others on the right, Santorum has called for war on Iran, and promoted the idea we are, as a nation, more in danger of foreign threats than ever before. This is simply an egregious factual error. We are actually in a more peaceful time than ever before. Our foreign policy needs to change — and fast — to accommodate this new reality. We simply do not need large, expensive power projection anymore. Let’s spend the money developing resources that advance trade, education and infrastructure such as sewers, banking and clean food and water. This will make us safer. In the words of Jesus, those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. Let’s spend that $700 billion military budget on something more life-affirming and productive.

We will value education as a currency, and a healthy habitat as wealth. Santorum, Sarah Palin and others on the extreme right have publicly decried education as some sort of corrupting influence on our populace. Quite to the contrary, education is the one thing of value that can never be taken from someone who has it. Education not only affords a better living to individuals, it drives a sustainable, innovative and agile economy. Education also helps to inoculate people against charlatans and demagogues (perhaps why Santorum is so outspoken against it). Think of what life would be like if the uneducated were considered “poor” and the educated considered “wealthy”? With nothing but knowledge to impart, how easy would it be to advance one’s own “wealth portfolio”?

Education is not the only “alternative wealth” we have. Clean air and water, green places and a healthy climate are also valuable to us, and we are rapidly losing them. Christians should reclaim the value of caring for creation, not exploiting it.

We will uphold healthy sexual norms. Folks, it’s time for this. The recent debate over whether contraception should be available to all women, and the resultant “slut shaming” (or, shaming of all women) by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, has highlighted a long-standing injustice. Christians have sadly promulgated much of it. In the good society, sex is a part of life, to be enjoyed and celebrated in healthy, loving relationships. This isn’t to imply the necessity of sex only in marriage, heterosexuality, and sex for the sole purpose of procreation. Those values demonstrate their impracticality by the simple fact that so few practice them. Sex is a biological need, as much as hunger, thirst, shelter and activity. It’s not really an optional thing, and in striving to encourage overall health in our citizens, we need to allow consenting adults to live out their sexual lives in dignity and respect. This includes allowing homosexuals to enjoy the same marriage rights as straight couples.

All human behavior can be subject to pathologies and sex is no exception. But it is time to treat the pathologies and problems with science, compassion, experi and understanding instead of shame and taboo.

We will remember that Earth does not exist for the shareholders. Perhaps this is the most important item on this list. God did not create the world so that the rich may profiteer from its abundance (in fact, Jesus said the rich will have a hard time in the kingdom of heaven.) We are alive on this planet so that we may be happy. Not happy from material things — happy because of experiences, sharing and connections to others. If we look at things this way, money and material goods serve their purpose but are not the overwhelming goal of all existence.

Gonzaga to break ground on $14 million retail, parking facility

This week Gonzaga University announced plans to break ground this spring on a new four-level, $14 million mixed-use facility with a ground-floor campus bookstore, meeting rooms and flexible space designed for dining and future retail, as well as 650 parking spaces. The building will occupy the block bounded by Hamilton and Cincinnati Streets and DeSmet and Boone Avenues.

In addition to providing attractive dining and retail space for students and area residents, the structure will accommodate attendees of campus events and provide the parking infrastructure necessary to build a University Center within the next few years.

Construction of the new facility precedes eventual demolition of the COG (Center of Gonzaga) and its adjacent parking lot to make way for construction of a new University Center at that location. Campus planners are evaluating components and functions of a University Center, including its size, scope and uses.

A university bookstore, facing Cincinnati, will be relocated from the COG to fill approximately 16,000-square-feet of ground-level retail space in the new mixed-use facility. The new structure also will accommodate an additional 20,000-square-feet of ground-floor retail space facing Hamilton.

“Initially, the flexible areas facing Hamilton will be used for academic conferences and meetings, special events and other general uses,” said Chuck Murphy, Gonzaga’s vice president for finance. “Upon demolition of the COG, student dining will be temporarily located to this area of the facility. When the University Center is completed, it will become leased retail space.”

The University also is working to create space on campus for parking that currently impacts residential streets in the Logan Neighborhood nearest to campus, Murphy added.

The new facility underscores Gonzaga’s commitment to environmentally sensitive construction, with a design that aims for LEED certification through careful selection of materials, energy systems and more. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is an internationally recognized green building certification system that provides third-party verification that buildings are designed and built using strategies to increase performance and reduce waste.

Partial funding for the new facility has been secured through private donations, and will be sustained through income from a combination of leased space and parking fees.

The new mixed-use facility — the first major construction project on campus since completion of Coughlin Residence Hall in August 2009 — is expected to be operational by January 2013.

Desmond Tutu to speak at Gonzaga commencement

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the subject of a new biography. For use with RNS-TUTU-QANDA, transmitted Nov. 3, 2011. RNS photo courtesy HarperOne.

Nobel Laureate Desmond M. Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, will be the keynote speaker at Gonzaga University‘s senior commencement May 13.

Tutu has been a  voice for justice, peace, truth and reconciliation throughout his ministry. He retired from public life in 2010 but accepted Gonzaga’s invitation after being inspired by the global activism of Gonzaga’s students, faculty and alumni, he said.

“I am always inspired and awed by the idealism and altruism of young people. I was swept off my feet at the projects they described in the [Gonzaga students magazine] One World. So I am honoured to accept your kind invitation . . . to share in your 125th year celebrations and 2012 Commencement exercises,” Tutu wrote.

Tutu retired as archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa in 1996. In 2010, the Archbishop Emeritus announced he would limit his public appearances to spend more time with family.

He is scheduled to speak during graduation at 10 a.m., May 13 in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.

Desmond Tutu speaks in Hartford in 2010/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFAVS

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh will present Tutu with Gonzaga’s honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the ceremony.  Admission is by invitation-only to ensure adequate space for Gonzaga’s graduating seniors and their families.

McCulloh said he is delighted to welcome Archbishop Tutu to Spokane as part of Gonzaga’s 125th Anniversary celebration. McCulloh, in his correspondence with the archbishop, recalled his time as a Gonzaga undergraduate as Tutu and Nelson Mandela waged a South African anti-apartheid battle on the world stage.

“As an undergraduate during the mid-1980s, I was actively involved with our own campus efforts against apartheid in South Africa,” McCulloh wrote. “Many of us watched your tireless efforts from half a world away and were overjoyed when you received the Nobel Prize for Peace. Years later, my awareness of that time led me to visit Cape Town as part of our recent efforts to connect our students with opportunities for study abroad in Africa.”

McCulloh described Tutu as “a living exemplar of Gonzaga’s historic commitment to the ideals of equality and a free society as a Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic University,” McCulloh said. “We are honored and humbled that Archbishop Tutu has chosen to be with us and our graduates for Commencement. He is certainly among the most prominent moral icons of our time.”

Speaker to discuss future of grizzly bears

Tracy Simmons

Grizzly bear expert Jeff Gailus will be the guest lecturer on Feb. 22 for the  Environmental Studies Speaker Series at Gonzaga University. The Canadian conservation author will read from his book “The Grizzly Manifesto” and discuss the future of the animals in the United States and Canada.

“If you care about wild bears and wild lands, read this book,” said Sid Marty, a recent recipient of the Grant MacEwan Literary Arts Award and one of Canada’s most celebrated environmental writers.

“The Grizzly Manifesto”  was among five finalists for the 2010 Alberta Readers’ Choice Award.

The free event is open to the public and is titled, “A Grizzly Tale of Two Countries: Grizzly Bear Management and Recovery across the Medicine Line.” It will be at 7 p.m. in Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium at Gonzaga.

Gailus has developed an unparalleled knowledge of grizzlies from following them from Yellowstone National Park through the Canadian Rockies to the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area (pronounced musk-quah-ke-chee-kah). He has spent hundreds of hours researching grizzlies and guiding people through their habitat.

Gailus has taught writing at both the University of Oregon and the University of Montana, where he completed a master’s degree in environmental studies. He lives in Montana where he teaches university field courses for the Wild Rockies Field Institute and Wildlands Studies.

He is finishing his next book, “Little Black Lies: The Global War on Truth in the Battle for the Tar Sands,” which is slated to be published in the fall.

 A related piece “The Most Dangerous Game” can be read online.

On eve of Darwin’s birthday, states take steps to limit evolution

By Kimberly Winston
Religion News Service

On the eve of the 203rd anniversary of Charles Darwin‘s birthday, lawmakers in at least four states are taking steps to hinder the teaching of evolution in public schools, while other bills would do the same without naming evolution outright.

    One of the bills, New Hampshire’s House Bill 1148, not only singles out evolution, but would require teachers to discuss its proponents’ “political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.” It is scheduled for a hearing in early February.

Wikipedia Photo of Charles Darwin

    The author of the bill, Republican state Rep. Jerry Bergevin, has linked the teaching of evolution to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and Hitler’s atrocities and associates it with atheism.
    “I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented,” Bergevin told the Concord Monitor. “It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: They don’t respect human rights.”
    In many ways, the debate over evolution mirrors strategies adopted by opponents in the battle over abortion: If it can’t be outlawed outright, critics will at least try to make it more difficult.
    Several atheist organizations have called for the withdrawal of all the bills, but are keeping an especially close eye on Bergevin’s. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, has called it “ignorant, infuriating bigotry.”
    Ahead of Darwin’s birthday on Feb. 12, other current anti-evolution bills include:
    — In the Indiana Senate, a bill would allow school districts to
“require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of
life within the school corporation.” That bill has already passed a statehouseˇ
committee and was scheduled for a vote on Jan 31.ˇ
    — The “Missouri Standard Science Act” would require the equal treatment of evolution and “intelligent design,” an idea that the universe was created by an unnamed “designer.” A second bill would require teachers to encourage students “to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution.”
    — A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would require the state’s board of education to help teachers promote “critical thinking, logical analysis, open and objective discussion of scientific theories including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning” if a local school district makes that request.
    — A second bill in the New Hampshire House would require science teachers to instruct students that  “proper scientific inquir(y) results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established.”
    — A bill in Virginia would make it illegal for state colleges to require a class that conflicts with a student’s religious views. Critics say that would enable a student to receive a biology degree, for example, without studying evolution if he or she objected to it.
    — A second bill in Indiana would require the state board of education to draft rules about the teaching of ideas in science class that cannot be proven by evidence — a clear doorway for the teaching of creationism and intelligent design, critics say.
    While all the bills have drawn the attention of several large atheist groups including the Center for Inquiry and the National Atheist Party, Bergevin’s bill in New Hampshire has raised the most eyebrows.
    “Evolution is not just for atheists, and has been accepted as fact by many religious institutions, including the Catholic Church,” Silverman said. “It is clearly an attempt to create religious discussion in science class, and to somehow make science ‘not for believers.'”
    Even if the bill were to become law, some expect it to be short-lived.
    “In the unlikely event it would pass, it would quickly be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional,” said Rob Boston, a senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
    “It is just warmed-over creationism, which the Supreme Court has already said is unconstitutional, and the government cannot require anyone to stand up and explain where they stand on a religion or a philosophy.”