The ID creationists are having one of those ludicrous “Darwin vs. Design” conferences, in which they rehash assertions and nonexistent evidence and practice propaganda and rhetoric, at Southern Methodist University this week. They seem a little nonplussed at the opposition they’ve encountered. Hey, it’s Southern Methodist University — it’s got a religion in its name! — and it’s Texas, aren’t they all ignorant bible-thumping yahoos down there who ought to chow down happily on any Design story they spin? No, they aren’t, and good, legitimate scientists are on the staff at SMU, and suddenly, the creationists are getting criticized.
Advocates of intelligent design at the Discovery Institute have been rattled by the strong showing of scientists at Southern Methodist University who called their bluff, and questioned SMU for hosting an ID conference this week. SMU’s officials pointed out they were just renting out facilities, and not hosting the conference at all.
The ID conference, with special religious group activities preceding it, is scheduled for April 13 and 14 at SMU. It is a rerun of a similar revival held in Knoxville, Tennessee, last month. The conference features no new scientific research, no serious science sessions with scientists looking at new research, or new findings from old data.
It always makes me happy to see sensible people standing up to creationist lies and staring them down. Creationists are basically all cowards; they get so accustomed to arranging friendly audiences for their meetings, stocking auditoriums with friendly faces who will shout out “Amen!” rather than awkward questions that they always look bewildered when someone dares to argue with them.
Note the other common trick. Universities have these nice big lecture halls that they like to see used, so they’re usually quite open to allowing outside groups to use them in off-hours, especially if a student group supports it. Creationists love to rent auditoriums in science buildings (they do this same stunt at the University of Minnesota campus) because then they can have flyers that state that the presentation will be in the PHYSICS building at the UNIVERSITY … even though the university and the physics department have absolutely nothing to do with the event. Said flyers will be distributed to local churches, of course, to get that friendly audience in attendance.
John West and Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute have published an opinion piece in the Dallas News to confront the critics. There are no surprises there. As usual, even the title is a loaded slur: Are the Darwinists afraid to debate us? We aren’t “Darwinists”, guys. They are also whining about how the SMU scientists’ repugnance at being associated with ID quackery is “censorship.”
Unfortunately, would-be censors are trying to get the conference banned from campus by ludicrously comparing intelligent design proponents to faith healers or even Holocaust deniers.
Faith healers and Holocaust deniers are not on the faculties of reputable universities. Scientists who support intelligent design are.
I’d like to pretend that affiliation with the faculty of a credible university bestows instant legitimacy and infallibility, but it’s not true. There are a small number of crackpots nestled into every faculty group, especially so when they utter opinions outside their discipline. You can find crackpots in just about anything on university faculties. Alien abductions? John E. Mack, Harvard. Bigfoot? Grover Krantz, Washington State University. Life after death? Gary Schwartz, University of Arizona. If you want the stamp of approval for any scrap of lunacy found by tying it to a Ph.D. on a university somewhere, it isn’t hard—there are a lot of professors, and all you need to do is select from the tiny percentage (which is still a lot of individuals) who are certifiable.
This is exactly what the DI has done. They have assembled a roster of fringe believers from university faculty, and they do love to pretend it gives them academic clout … while at the same time, they dismiss the expertise of the majority of qualified faculty. Oh, well — inconsistency and hypocrisy are prerequisites for being a practicing creationist.
West and Chapman protest even more that practicing scientists don’t respect them.
Various science professors at SMU have called on their university to ban our conference, and more recently some of them have declared that they “have a duty as practitioners of science to speak out” against intelligent design.
But if they truly believe that they have a duty to “speak out,” why not speak out by engaging intelligent design scholars in a serious discussion?
This is precisely why it is a bad idea to debate creationists. It’s what they want. They are not scholars, they are frauds and incompetents, but by sharing a stage with real scholars they can pretend that they are equals. There will be no serious discussion, because they will lie and distort and confuse, and the scientist up there will have to spend her time trying to clean up the nonsense her opponent has spewed. And there will be no engagement, because the creationist strategy is to gallop through a superficial collection of nonsense and evade any attempt to discuss any topic in depth.
We have a duty to expose these charlatans and clowns from the Discovery Institute. We should not allow them to leech off our credibility while doing so. What I urge people to do in these situations is to schedule a parallel set of presentations, trying to schedule them at compatible times, where real scientists present real evidence for evolution. Don’t try to share a stage with the creationist; all that will happen in that case is that, for instance, a serious developmental biologist will be ordered by a creationist to explain the age of the earth, biogeography, paleontology, population genetics, microbiology, and anything other than development to the audience, and what you end up with is a scattered mess danced to the tune played by the fraud, and that gives the wrong impression. And wrong impressions are exactly what the Discovery Institute relies on.