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Wednesday, November 30, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Professor apologizes for e-mail

Intelligent design class upsets some.

A University of Kansas religion professor apologized Monday for a recent e-mail that infuriated religious conservatives already upset about his decision to teach a course that equates intelligent design and creationism with mythology.

Also Monday, faculty approved the course but dropped the reference to mythology. The course, originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies," will instead be called "Intelligent Design and Creationism."

The class was added to next spring’s curriculum after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.

In the e-mail, Paul Mirecki, chairman of the university’s Religious Studies Department, called supporters of the teaching of intelligent design and creationism religious "fundies" and said it would be a "nice slap in their big fat face" to teach the subjects as mythology.

In a written apology Monday, the professor said he will teach the class "as a serious academic subject and in an manner that respects all points of view."

Mirecki’s e-mail was sent Nov. 19 to a list-serve for the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, a student organization for which Mirecki serves as faculty adviser. Mirecki addressed the message to "my fellow damned" and signed off with, "Doing my part to" tick "off the religious right, Evil Dr. P."

The university on Monday defended the teaching of the class.

"Given the current national debate, it is especially appropriate that intelligent design and creationism be treated as academic subjects in a university-level religious studies class," Provost David Shulenburger said in a statement.

During the weekend, Chancellor Robert Hemenway began a review of Mirecki’s e-mail, which resulted in Mirecki’s apology, issued Monday night in a written statement.

"I accept full responsibility for an ill-advised e-mail I sent to a small group of students and friends that has unintentionally impugned the integrity and good name of both the university and my faculty colleagues," Mirecki wrote. "My words were offensive, and I apologize to all for that."

He said he had assured the university provost that he will teach the course "as a serious academic subject and in a manner that respects all points of view."

In response to the controversy, talk swirled among legislators about withholding funding from the university.

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Also read here: College course seeks to debunk intelligent design