Darwinism and democracy intertwine at symposium

Aman Ali

Evolution argument can be settled with democracy, speaker says

Public discourse over Darwinism must evolve, said John Campbell, a communications professor at the University of Memphis. Campbell was the keynote speaker yesterday morning for “Darwin, Democracy and Public Education: Is there a Constructive Way to Put this Issue on a Path to Extinction?”

About 75 people attended Campbell’s presentation in the Kiva. The speech was a part of Kent State’s seventh annual Symposium on Democracy.

Campbell, himself a supporter of Darwinism, said he feels the discourse over evolution hasn’t progressed because it is discussed in an improper context.

“Don’t get wrapped up in debate between science and religion,” Campbell said. “The deeper tension is between science and democracy.”

He noted problems such as this indicate underlying elements of democracy that many don’t understand.

“Democracy itself has profound tensions,” Campbell said. “Anyone that celebrates democracy has to be aware of these tensions.”

Understanding democratic tensions, Campbell explained, can help progress discourse. He compared the dialogue on the May 4 shootings to Darwinism.

“I realized that although this is the first time I had come to Kent State, I had been here before,” Campbell said. “Those tensions and ambiguities from May 4 are also in my political thought.”

Campbell added everyone must tackle these tensions and ambiguities through productive dialogue.

“Public discourse is not simply a matter for scholars,” he said. “Democracy and public discourse is a concern for us all.”

In the context of Darwinism, Campbell said poor communication is why polls indicate roughly half the general public oppose evolution.

“This summer will mark the 81st year since the Scopes Trial,” Campbell said. “Tensions in our society are there today as they were 81 years ago.”

He said many people don’t recognize Darwin for his communication skills. He explained Darwin was able to engage a “civic friendship” with his readers in order to get his points across.

“Darwin treats his readers not as professors, but as gentlemen,” Campbell said.

Darwin knew, Campbell said, that not everyone would agree with his views. For that reason, he acknowledges other arguments against evolution in his writings. Campbell added the public should adopt Darwin’s techniques to persuade those who oppose evolution.

“We have to find ways of embodying Darwin’s style,” Campbell said. “We can’t abandon the culture and people around us.”

Campbell said scientists should determine teaching evolution. He opposed teaching evolution side-by-side with other theories.

“We have to accept definitions laid down by science,” Campbell said. “We must draw a line or we will lose science itself as part of a democracy.”

He emphasized those who oppose Darwin’s views do so because they do not understand them.

“The truth isn’t always loved when it is seen,” Campbell said. “What would the truth mean to Darwin? It means it could be taught in public education with no child left behind.”

Contact student affairs reporter Aman Ali at [email protected].