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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

Topical Areas

Pseudoscience, Policy issues, Scientific argumentation, Social issues

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.


  Decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, by Judge John E. Jones, December 20, 2005