Forum: July-August 2006

August 1, 2006

Darwin v. Intelligent Design

With the recent "In Defense of Darwin" article [March-April 2006] in addition to the "Evidence of Evolution" article that appeared in September-October 1999, Duke Magazine has emphasized one side of the controversy.

However, notwithstanding the arguments and opinions of attorney [Eric Rothschild '89] and Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, there are many who still believe that the "theory" (hypothesis) of macro-evolution (molecules to man)--as distinguished from micro-evolution (variations of shapes, sizes, coloration, and traits within the same kind, genus, or species)--is no more, and perhaps less, demonstrated by empirical or other proofs than Intelligent Design and that a fair and balanced presentation of each of these concepts is warranted both intellectually as well as legally.

William J. Alsentzer Jr. '64, J.D. '66, Scottsdale, Arizona


Regarding your article "In Defense of Darwin," I do not think Duke University was established as a secular university. James B. Duke, in the Indenture to Establish Duke University, stated that the central building should be a church, a great towering church, which would dominate all the surrounding buildings, because such an edifice would be bound to have a profound influence on the spiritual life of the young men and women who come here. I suggest that James B. Duke would have preferred a university magazine with scholarly discourses supporting God as the maker of Heaven and Earth and all things visible and invisible. While ruminating on this and other Duke matters, if James B. Duke were alive, I doubt an Islamic study center ["Centering on Islamic Studies," March-April 2006] at the university would have a high priority.

A. Ray Bottoms '56, Pinehurst, North Carolina


..."In Defense of Darwin" opened my eyes to some of the arguments that have been proposed against Intelligent Design and its support or lack thereof as a science. I also appreciated Matt Cartmill's statement that, although evolution can't explain life's beginnings, ID is merely saying that I don't have an explanation, so there must be an intelligent designer.

My argument as a physician trained in the treatment and cure of the human body is that no amount of random change or coincidences can logically explain the complexity of any biological organism beyond the one-celled amoeba, much less explain the human body. I agree that there are imperfections in the human body, and I agree that religion and faith must and do play a role in this and any debate where there is a lack of evidence on both sides.

Yes, I believe in a Biblical view of creation. Although there is no tangible evidence like a fossil that has God's handprint on it, I strongly feel that ID better explains the complexity of life than random evolution. I think the travesty of this whole debate is the fact that proponents of evolution are also served by religious convictions, but pretend that they are not. Neither evolution nor ID can be proven or disproven....

If by logical reason, one cannot explain the complexity of life and the interaction of several life systems that would have had to evolve at the exact same moment, why not be open to the idea that maybe there was a designer? Why not allow schools/scientists/students/clergy/parents to say, "Look, evolution has its holes, and many believe that another explanation may be an intelligent designer?" Why are so many afraid of the debate? My only explanation is that they are afraid there actually may be a Creator.

Chris Duggar '94, Montgomery, Alabama


"In Defense of Darwin" was excellent. I very much enjoyed your description of the Dover case straight "from the horse's mouth," being pleased to find that a Duke alumnus was at the head of the legal effort. However, your discussion of the public support for creationism and the attitude of the political organization currently in power was upsetting to read....

I am aware that too few people understand the nature of the scientific process.... But to have you confirm my suspicion that the politicians currently in power consider scientists as adversaries who use their label of expert for nothing other than to advance their own political agenda is truly disturbing. I usually hold hope that those in power acknowledge that there are some fundamentals that have to be obeyed, and that such things are taken into account when decisions are made.

Your indication that those in power feel free to advance their own goals with no regard to foundations provided by academia is frightening.

John Kozacik, Instructor, Duke zoology department, 1980-81, Mariemont, Ohio


Belafonte Resonates

I am very proud that Harry Belafonte was invited to give the keynote address for Duke's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration ["Belafonte Uplifts, Angers," March-April 2006]. It is heartening that he received frequent applause and a standing ovation. I have had the great pleasure and honor of sharing a platform with Harry Belafonte in New York City, and I admire his commitment, integrity, and courage.

The article points out that the Duke Conservative Union "took out an ad in The Chronicle contrasting King's calls for unity and civility with Belafonte's criticisms of Bush administration members." Obviously the Conservative Union is not familiar with King's speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, when he said: "I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today--my own government." He went on to speak at length about the war in Vietnam, saying America's soul "can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over."

Jane Morgan Franklin '55, Montclair, New Jersey


K Going Corporate

Though the issue may seem trivial compared to Duke's current lacrosse woes, as alumni, we have a strong negative reaction to Coach K's television ads, which, we contend, reflect no credit on him or the university. Regardless of his motives or the disposition of the fees, the appearance of impropriety is unmistakable. He is using his squeaky-clean reputation ... to shill on national television for commercial ventures, only one of which (the Steve Nash video) is related to his field of acknowledged expertise. It's cheesy and crass behavior, and it becomes downright tacky when the commercials are repeatedly shown during Duke basketball games. We are unaware of any other coach of a major sport so blatantly hawking a commercial product during a major national collegiate sports tournament.

Rival coaches may complain to the NCAA that this is an improper recruiting technique, and some members of the university community may suggest that Duke should not sanction such behavior. In our opinion, the best solution is for Coach K simply to exit the advertising business and stop embarrassing himself and the university.

Can you imagine Reynolds Price on TV shilling for Random House? Or the dean of the Chapel touting Lehman Bros.? Or President Brodhead puffing Burger King? Of course not; and neither can they. How is a coach of Duke's "scholar-athletes" any different? Perhaps, the scholar-athletes should be allowed to shill likewise or receive compensation from the coach, as they have been obviously instrumental to his success.

John D. Johnston Jr. '54, L '56, Asheville, North Carolina
Paul C. Parker '54, M.A.T. '57, Gainesville, Florida


Campus Construction

The article covering the "construction boom" at Duke was remarkable in that it resembled a sanitized PR real-estate spread rather than evenhanded criticism. What the article did reveal was that recent design of new projects hardly mirrors the image Duke endeavors to project--that of a comprehensively progressive institution. Part of that menu should also have included cutting-edge architecture, not the stodgy neo-traditional buildings which have been added to the mix. In the world of academic architecture, replicating traditional styles went out long ago at the most traditional of universities, i.e., Harvard, Yale, Penn, etc.

Duke's only modern buildings either appear at the edge (Fox student center), or, as in the case of the Nasher Art Museum, are situated in an obscure location, we might conjecture, so as to not "clash" with the Gothic. One of the most incomprehensible decisions was to locate the student center at the far edge of West Campus. How many students will make that journey by foot can only be a matter of speculation. Student centers are normally found at the center of the campus, not at the edge. There were some lost opportunities here; whether the blame rests on the administration or the donors can only be a matter of speculation. In any case, Duke will be saddled with some very mediocre architecture for decades.

Stanley Collyer '54, author, Competing Globally in Architecture Competitions, Louisville, Kentucky

Editor's note: The Lafe P. and Rita D. Fox Student Center, located between the Thomas F. Keller Center's east and west wings, is intended to serve Duke's Fuqua School of Business.


I am dismayed that in an article titled "Stones, Bricks, and Mortar: Building for Success" [March-April 2006] the new Duke University School of Nursing building scheduled to open August 2006 was not also featured. A faux pas on par with not memorializing Ozzie Davis' death at this year's Oscar ceremony.

Catherine A. Caprio M.S.N. '06, Bahama, North Carolina


I enjoyed "Stones, Bricks, and Mortar," but was left with a feeling of, well, loss when I realized you did not include the new School of Nursing building.... This new building will finally unite the school under one roof. We are justifiably proud of our new building and I am sure I will not be the first or last to point out this "oops" on the map.

Thank you for providing an excellent bimonthly read.

Connie B. Bishop B.S.N. '75, Gibsonville, North Carolina
Editor's note: The story focused on buildings completed by the time of publication.