Five UCSB faculty members will re-examine the 80-year-old debate regarding the teaching of evolution by natural selection in public schools at the College of Creative Studies’ Old Little Theater today at noon.

Students and the public alike are encouraged to attend the panel discussion and participate by asking the panelists questions regarding evolution through natural selection or intelligent design, said event moderator Robert Warner, an Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology Dept. professor. UCSB Arts & Lectures is hosting the free hour-long event.

Evolution by natural selection is the theory that species arise and survive as a product of random genetic mutations and environmental factors. Intelligent design theorizes that certain features of the universe including living species are specially designed – not randomly created – by an intelligent agent, such as the Christian God.

Warner said the event would begin with a brief introduction followed by five-minute-long opening remarks from each panelist. The remaining time is open to the audience for questions, Warner said. The discussion panelists include UCSB Teacher Education Program Interim Director Lynne Cavazos, Law and Society Dept. Faculty Chair Kathleen Moore, history Associate Professor Michael Osborne, geology Professor Bruce Tiffney and religious studies Professor Ann Taves.

Taves said she believes the discussion was inspired by an ongoing case in Pennsylvania concerning whether natural selection should be the only scientific theory about evolution taught in schools.

In Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing eight families in a lawsuit against the Dover Area School District for a decision it made on Oct. 18, 2004. According to the ACLU website, the decision requires teachers to read a statement to all 9th grade biology classes encouraging students to consider alternatives to evolution by natural selection, such as the theory of intelligent design.

The ACLU and the eight families are suing the school district to overturn the decision on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Establishment Clause, which demands a separation of Church and State.

The panel discussion precedes the Arts & Lectures-sponsored event “The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial,” to be held 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday in Campbell Hall, a press release stated. The performance, which will be in the style of a radio show, stars Edward Asner and John de Lancie. The play is a re-enactment of the famous 1925 Scopes trial, which debated the teaching of evolution in biology classes. Admission is $19 for students and $45 for the general public.