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Liberty University Teaches The Creationism Controversy

Charles Darwin was born 200 years ago this past weekend, and many universities across the country celebrated his life and scientific studies. One, however, remains unimpressed.

As the creation of controversial preacher Jerry Falwell and the alma mater of quite a few political players, Liberty University has made waves in the past; it's making them again now, as it continues to fight on the front lines of the great evolution vs. creationism debate. In Liberty U's case, as an institution with steadfast Evangelical roots, it continues to maintain a "Young Earth" philosophy and to teach this as fact within scientific classes, drawing ire from many other facilities of higher education in the process.

Liberty is on the front lines in the battle of creationism vs. evolution. And it has a battalion of creationist lawyers, scientists and professors in dozens of areas who weave creationism into their coursework and teach students on how to refute the theory of evolution.

"One of the distinguishing fac-tors of Liberty is that every single student here takes a class called creationist studies," said Campus Pastor Johnnie Moore. "It's kind of at the core of our identity."

Liberty leans toward young- Earth creationism, DeWitt said, which is a literal interpretation of the Bible that God created the heavens, Earth and all life in seven days, less than 10,000 years ago.

Creationism as a course of scientific study is shunned at many universities, where it is not recognized as a scientific explanation for the origin of life.

Biochemist Michael Behe, who recently spoke at Liberty as part of its counter-evolution events, readily acknowledged that minority view. A tenured professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, Behe told students that his colleagues vehemently disagree with his views on intelligent design, which states that life was designed by an "intelligent agent."

It's a debate that has gone on almost as long as civilization itself (whatever your chosen definition of when that in fact began), and one that has been causing a lot of strife and contention between professors and students of different beliefs. As a result, some professors are teaching the two theories side by side, to offer a choice of what to believe.

DeWitt, who is director of the school's center for creation stud-ies, teaches biology and two versions of creation studies - one for students in the sciences that includes more "scientifically detailed subject matter," he said, and another that most students take, which does not.

He teaches both evolution and creation.

"I show them side-by-side - Here's the human. Here's the chimpanzee," he said. "If I would not present evolution and their best evidence and arguments, then I would not be a scholar and I would not be providing the best service for the students.

"I actually teach more about evolution than I received in my undergraduate (biochemistry) program at Michigan State (Uni-versity). I also teach a lot more about creationism."

Other professors, however, aren't so sure about this practice.

Randolph College's Shedd said the scientific community at large is in agreement that evolution occurs.

"That, as far as I'm concerned, is a fact," he said.

But whether natural selection is the sole mechanism that drives evolution, he said, is still under some debate.

"Sometimes, creationists can get somewhat obsessive about the fact that Darwin didn't get everything right on the first try," Shedd said. "And what scientist did?"

Staver said that the theory of evolution "has impacted everything," including his area of expertise - law.

What are your thoughts on the controversy? Does your school teach one side, or both? Chime in with your opinions in comments!

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