Thursday, April 05, 2007


Darwin vs. Design at SMU

The Discovery Institute's Darwin vs. Design Conferences, we are told, will be coming soon to a city near you. The first was held in Knoxville on March 24. The next is scheduled for April 13 and 14 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The rest, like so much of the evidence for intelligent design, are TBD.

The Discovery Institute's publicity for the events assures us that intelligent design scientists and experts will present "astonishing scientific evidence." "Conference goers," they add, will hear with their own ears "the astounding implications these discoveries are having on our society, our politics, and our culture."

The Dallas conference, co-sponsored by the SMU law school’s Christian Legal Society, has stirred up some of the faculty there. A letter circulated by the anthropology department at SMU said quite accurately, "These are conferences of and for believers and their sympathetic recruits. They have no place on an academic campus with their polemics hidden behind a deceptive mask."

An article in the Dallas Morning News reports that similar letters were sent by the biology and geology departments, as well.

The call by outraged faculty to disassociate the university from the conference provoked a proforma response from the Discovery Institute. In a post on Discovery's Evolution News and Views blog, Robert Crowther, called the faculty protests an attack on academic freedom and free speech.

"If the Darwinists were confident in the strength and merits of their arguments," Crowther wrote, "they wouldn't need to censor other viewpoints and stifle debate."

(In an amusing sidelight, Crowther, who along with the Discovery Institute and other intelligent design activists have waged a years long effort to identify Hitler, the Nazis, and the eugenics movement with Darwin, was outraged that some of the faculty compared the conference sponsors to Holocaust deniers. "Well, that settles it then," sniffed Crowther, "we've quickly arrived at that productive point in the debate where one side accuses the other of being Nazis. So much for civil discourse on intellectual issues.")

The initial howl from Discovery about censorship has now given way to calls for a debate.

In a letter to faculty members calling for a debate, Discovery President Bruce Chapman writes, "We are all committed to respectful scholarly dialogue and to the use of scientific methods of reasoning in the investigation of nature. In our view, science progresses in part as scientists and scholars discuss and evaluate competing interpretations of scientific evidence."

In his letter, Chapman fails to reconcile his public commitment to a respectful scholarly debate with the following statement by Michael Egnor published on the Discovery website just three days earlier:
The only word that Darwinists use less frequently than ‘design’ is ‘eugenics’. It‘s disappeared down the Darwin memory hole following the Second World War because the Nazi programs that applied Darwinism to medicine made the real nature of eugenics so apparent that it could no longer be denied. So it was forgotten.
While Red State Rabble strongly condemns Discovery's methods and motives, we support their right to free speech. We think a college campus is an appropriate place for these sorts of discussions. That's why we agree with the university's decision disassociate itself from the conference while allowing it to go ahead.

We also understand the faculty's desire to prevent the ID activists from using the university's hard earned reputation to further their own reactionary goals.

That's why we don't think a debate between working scientists and ID activists is a good idea. Chapman's promise to engage in respectful, scholarly debate, like so much else about intelligent design, is an empty one.

As the Dallas Morning News reports, some of the SMU faculty are trying to figure out how to turn the ID conference negative into a positive.

"They are going to use it as a teaching moment," says Dr. Caroline Brettell, interim dean of the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and an anthropologist.

And that seems exactly right. We urge the SMU faculty not to play into the hands of ID activists and legitimize their ludicrous ideas by debating them. Rather, they should utilize the controversy to organize a teach-in that would bring real scientists, philosophers, and theologians to teach the facts about evolution and expose intelligent design for what it is: a right-wing religious movement that seeks to subvert science.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?