Student groups host evolution debate

Two professors discussed whether intelligent design should be taught in schools.

Dr. Jerry Bergma, left, a biology professor at Northwest State College in Ohio, and Dr. Paul Z Myers, right, a biology professor at UMN Morris, debate whether intelligent design should be taught in schools Monday night in the St. Paul Student Center under the moderation of Dr. Mark Borrello, center.

Jason Kopp

Dr. Jerry Bergma, left, a biology professor at Northwest State College in Ohio, and Dr. Paul Z Myers, right, a biology professor at UMN Morris, debate whether intelligent design should be taught in schools Monday night in the St. Paul Student Center under the moderation of Dr. Mark Borrello, center.

Katherine Lymn

Students and community members of all ages packed the North Star Ballroom at the University of MinnesotaâÄôs St. Paul Student Center on Monday night for a debate on the volatile topic of intelligent design and whether it should be taught in schools. University student groups Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists (CASH) and the University Christian Student Fellowship (CSF) put on the event. One of MondayâÄôs debaters, atheist Dr. Paul Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota-Morris, teaches biology and is also the faculty advisor for CASH. The group focuses on creating a community for students with unconventional beliefs. Dr. Jerry Bergman is a creationist and a professor at Northwest State College in Archbold, Ohio. Ross Olson, a member of the Twin Cities Creation Science Association, which also helped fund the event, introduced the debaters. While he acknowledged that each audience member âÄúmay be sitting next to someone who you may consider the enemy,âÄù Olson also stressed his hope for the debate to educate attendees on both sides of the issue. âÄúPerhaps a few [attendees] may change their minds,âÄù he said, which brought laughter from the audience. Bergman gave a 20-minute opening speech to kick off the debate. He focused on specific elements of the intelligent design debate, such as irreducible complexity âÄî a concept as complicated as it sounds. âÄúIt seems like they would have better arguments if he just simplified things,âÄù sociology sophomore A.J. Carlson said. While Bergman focused on arguments for intelligent design as a whole, Myers focused his case more specifically on whether the ideas of intelligent design should be taught in the classroom. Intelligent design is not based on one unanimous theory, Myers said, which makes it unreliable and difficult to teach. Myers said teaching intelligent design in the classroom is âÄúa violation of professional responsibilityâÄù on behalf of teachers, as it is âÄúcripplingâÄù to students. Myers bashed BergmanâÄôs arguments, calling the Ohio professorâÄôs definitions of the main concepts âÄúpeculiarâÄù and imaginative. CSF is made up of approximately 50 students who meet for weekly bible studies and worship services, staff member Damaris Axelson said. Though Myers called Bergman a âÄúpublicity hound,âÄù he said CASH students convinced him to participate. âÄúIâÄôm a sucker for students,âÄù Myers said. Bergman said he participated because âÄúit [intelligent design] is going to become more important as time goes on.âÄù Axelson said she hoped students went away from the debate with a better understanding of the issue itself. âÄúI think sometimes itâÄôs easy to see just one side of the debate,âÄù she said.