WALLA WALLA, Wash.-- The controversial discussion of evolution versus creationism will come to the Whitman College campus Thursday, Oct. 5.

Robert T. Pennock, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism," will present "Evolution and Neocreationism" at 7:30 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium. His lecture, sponsored by the local chapter of Sigma Xi (The Scientific Research Honor Society) and Whitman College, is free and open to the public. A book signing and reception will immediately follow the lecture.

Pennock, an associate professor of philosophy at Michigan State University, received his doctoral degree in history and the philosophy of science from the University of Pittsburgh. His lecture will address the ongoing and controversial debate between evolutionists and creationists, said Delbert Hutchison, assistant professor of biology at Whitman College. "Creationism is the notion that despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, God created the earth and all its life forms in six literal days of time. Some religions are comfortable extending those days to mean some undefined period of time, but a strict creationist believes in six literal days, or at most 6,000-10,000 years." This belief becomes problematic, says Hutchison, when creationists use it to attack science and go to court or schoolboards and try to get evolution, geology, linguistics, astronomy and any other historical science that directly contradicts a six-day creation out of public classrooms without appearing to violate the country's principle of separation of church and state.

Recently, added Hutchison, creationists have been taking a beating in the courts and other arenas because their stand is clearly religious and does obviously violate the principle of separation of church and state. Therefore, a "new" type of creationism, known as neocreationism, has emerged. Neocreationism does not outwardly insist on the acceptance of the six literal days and often avoids all mention of religion, said Hutchison, but as a strategic move focuses on the inability of science to address the tougher questions--like how it all got started. This is merely a shift in focus, he said, so that creationists can continue to attack science and attempt to remove it from the classroom.

"Neocreationists, using this new tactic, sound much more like philosophers and thinkers, but their logic is still flawed-- it's all really just a thinly disguised and newer version of the same old creationist line," said Hutchison. "This is what Pennock is coming to Whitman to discuss," and Hutchison said he hopes all those interested in this subject--on either side of the issue--will attend.