More People Flock to Second Day of Colorado Conference to Hear Behe and Berlinski
More than a thousand people attended the second day of the Legacy of Darwin ID Conference this weekend in Castle Rock, Colorado. Saturday morning started off with a strong talk by Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who synthesized the main points of his books Darwin's Black Box and The Edge of Evolution. Behe, in his usual winsome and accessible style, drove home just how much empirical evidence has accumulated in recent years demonstrating the sharp limits to the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random mutations.
During the question period that followed, two people offered long-winded "questions" to Behe that seemed to come straight from the talking points of the National Center for Science Education.
The first person offered a laundry list of the ways Judge Jones and the Darwinist witnesses in the Kitzmiller case supposedly refuted intelligent design (including the shibboleth about the Type-Three Secretory System). The second person read off a list of scientific organizations such as the AAAS that have denounced of ID and then demanded to know how ID claims could be scientifically tested.
Behe patiently explained how Darwinists in the Kitzmiller case far from refuted the evidence from intelligent design and described how Judge Jones uncritically cut-and-pasted his inaccurate analysis of ID from a brief written by lawyers for the plaintiffs. Regarding the ritual condemnations of ID by "scientific" lobbying organizations, he pointed out that science isn't determined by political statements; it's determined by the evidence. As for how to test ID, Behe noted that his ideas about irreducible complexity could be tested by genetic knock-out experiments. During my later session, I added my two cents, pointing out that Judge Jones' opinion was riddled with errors and misstatements--such as his phony claim that ID scientists have not published any peer-reviewed publications. I also mentioned how University of Idaho biologist Scott Minnich presented evidence at the Kitzmiller trial of his own genetic knock-out experiments corroborating Behe's ideas. I suggested that people read Traipsing into Evolution or some of the other responses to the many urban legends that have grown up about the Kitzmiller case (see here, here, here, and here for additional responses). Regarding the AAAS's well-publicized denunciation of ID, I mentioned how I had surveyed AAAS board members at the time about what books and articles they had actually read by ID proponents before issuing their statement. Of the four board members who responded, none could cite a single article or book, although one board member did say that she had perused various unnamed sources on the internet! (Wikipedia, perhaps?!)
After Behe's session came Stephen Meyer's lively discussion with the irrepressible David Berlinski. In the wide-ranging conversation, Berlinski poignantly talked about his grandfather who died at Auschwitz and his journey to come to terms with the beliefs of his parents. Berlinski also discussed the back story to his famous essay published in Commentary on "The Deniable Darwin," now the lead essay in his new book The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (just published by Discovery Institute Press). He further talked about his motivation for writing The Devil's Delusion in response to the scientific pretensions of "new atheist" writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. Berlinski's barbed and witty comments brought down the house.
Following a break for lunch, I presented a lecture drawn from my book Darwin Day in America, outlining the real-world consequences of Darwinian materialism. Despite the fact that Darwin himself was a kind man who personally espoused conventional morality, I explained how his redefinition of morality and his effort to apply natural selection to human society had far-ranging consequences. At the end of my talk, I discussed the growing efforts to intimidate and censor anyone who disagrees with Darwin--including the outrageous campaign to vandalize and shut down the website of the group that sponsored the Colorado conference in order to prevent people from registering. I called on Darwinists to repudiate such efforts and return to the much more open and fair-minded approach modeled by Charles Darwin himself, who patiently and civilly discussed objections to his theory rather than demonizing and censoring his critics.
The last session included Stephen Meyer, Douglas Groothuis (of Denver Seminary), Michael Behe, and myself discussing practical ways to challenge Darwinian materialism among the next generation. At the end of that session, the conference speakers received a standing ovation. It was a humbling--and encouraging--end to a wonderful conference.
As I noted at the event itself, I am thankful for the fine people at Shepherd Project Ministries for sponsoring and organizing this event and inviting speakers from Discovery Institute to participate. Each year DI Fellows speak at dozens of events sponsored by a wide-range of groups--public and private, academic and general, friendly and hostile, secular and faith-based. We are always happy to present our views when people sincerely want to hear them and are willing to offer us a fair forum. In this case, the staff and volunteers of Shepherd Project Ministries had to surmount an incredibly vicious campaign of disruption in order to hold their event; I am grateful that they persevered.