Evolution and Design: Is There Purpose in Nature?
I am very pleased and excited to announce the following new course at Cornell:
COURSE LISTING: BioEE 467/B&Soc 447/Hist 415/S&TS 447 Seminar in History of Biology
SEMESTER: Cornell Six-Week Summer Session, 06/27/06 to 08/03/06
COURSE TITLE: Evolution and Design: Is There Purpose in Nature?
COURSE INSTRUCTOR: Allen MacNeill, Senior Lecturer in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This seminar addresses, in historical perspective, controversies about the cultural, philosophical, and scientific implications of evolutionary biology. Discussions focus upon questions about gods, free will, foundations for ethics, meaning in life, and life after death. Readings range from Charles Darwin to the present (see reading list, below).
The current debate over "intelligent design theory" is only the latest phase in the perennial debate over the question of design in nature. Beginning with Aristotle's "final cause," this idea was the dominant explanation for biological adaptation in nature until the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. Darwin's work united the biological sciences with the other natural sciences by providing a non-teleological explanation for the origin of adaptation. However, Darwin's theory has been repeatedly challenged by theories invoking design in nature.
The latest challenge to the neo-darwinian theory of evolution has come from the "intelligent design movement," spearheaded by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, WA. In this course, we will read extensively from authors on both sides of this debate, including Francisco Ayala, Michael Behe, Richard Dawkins, William Dembski, Phillip Johnson, Ernst Mayr, and Michael Ruse. Our intent will be to sort out the various issues at play, and to come to clarity on how those issues can be integrated into the perspective of the natural sciences as a whole.
In addition to in-class discussions, course participants will have the opportunity to participate in online debates and discussions via the instructor's weblog. Students registered for the course will also have an opportunity to present their original research paper(s) to the class and to the general public via publication on the course weblog and via THE EVOLUTION LIST.
INTENDED AUDIENCE: This course is intended primarily for students in biology, history, philosophy, and science & technology studies. The approach will be interdisciplinary, and the format will consist of in-depth readings across the disciplines and discussion of the issues raised by such readings.
PREREQUISITES: None, although a knowledge of evolutionary theory and philosophy of biology would be helpful.
DAYS, TIMES, & PLACES: The course will meet on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 9:00 PM in Mudd Hall Room 409 (The Whittaker Seminar Room), beginning on Tuesday 27 June 2006 and ending on Thursday 3 August 2006. We will also have an end-of-course picnic at a location TBA.
CREDIT & GRADES: The course will be offered for 4 hours of credit, regardless of which course listing students choose to register for. Unless otherwise noted, course credit in BioEE 467/B&Soc 447 can be used to fulfill biology/science distribution requirements and Hist 415/S&TS 447 can be used to fulfill humanities distribution requirements (check with your college registrar's office for more information). Letter grades for this course will be based on the quality of written work on original research papers written by students, plus participation in class discussion.
COURSE ENROLLMENT & REGISTRATION: All participants must be registered in the Cornell Six-Week Summer Session to attend class meetings and receive credit for the course (click here for for more information and to enroll for this course). Registration will be limited to the first 18 students who enroll for credit. Auditors may also be allowed, space permitting (please contact the Summer Session office for permission to audit this course).
REQUIRED TEXTS (all texts will be available at The Cornell Store):
Behe, Michael (2006) Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Free Press
Dawkins, Richard (1996) The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton (reissue edition)
Dembski, William (2006) The Design Inference : Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Johnson, Phillip E. (2002) The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Ruse, Michael (2006) Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose?
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harvard University Press
OPTIONAL TEXTS (all texts will be available at The Cornell Store):
Darwin, Charles (E. O. Wilson, ed.) (2006) From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books
Hardcover: 1,706 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Dembski, William & Ruse, Michael (2004) Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA
Hardcover: 422 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 12,
Forrest, Barbara & Gross, Paul R. (2004) Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Graffin, Gregory W. (2004) Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Polypterus Press (P.O. Box 4416, Ithaca, NY, 14852; can be purchased online at:
Perakh, Mark (2003) Unintelligent Design
Hardcover: 459 pages
Publisher: Prometheus Books
For more information about this course, click here to email me directly.