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Equal Time for Intelligent Design?

An Intimate Debate Case

Clyde Freeman Herreid
Department of Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo


Whether Intelligent Design should be taught in a science classroom is a serious problem. This case study tackles the issue head-on by using intimate debate, a pedagogical structure in which small student groups are subdivided into opposing student pairs that take turns arguing each side of the issue. There is no audience for these concurrent mini-debates, and the session concludes with groups reaching consensus. This case study would be appropriate in general biology or advanced courses where the focus is on evolution.


  • Learn the basic arguments made for and against the teaching of Intelligent Design.
  • Understand how social, political, and societal forces may get involved in science.
  • Evaluate arguments and marshal evidence for or against a position.
  • Discuss a controversial topic civilly and to look at both sides of the issue.


Intelligent design; Dover decision; creationsim; evolution; anthropic principle; irreducible complexity; science curriculum

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, General public & informal education, Faculty development



Type Methods

Intimate Debate, Dilemma/Decision



Subject Headings

Evolutionary Biology Biology (General) Science (General) Science Education Teacher Education

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.

Supplemental Materials

Teachers interested in the ID controversy are encouraged to read the judge’s summary in the court decision below for the critical relevant arguments.