Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Discovery Institute (DI) Doesn't get Invited to the Really Good Parties

If you remember back in 2009 the Vatican sponsored a five day conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. The subject was the compatibility of evolution and creation. The Discovery Institute was not invited and they were quite unhappy about it.  They made their normal marketing spin on it, claiming that their pet idea, Intelligent Design (ID), was misrepresented . . . which I found funny since the conference hadn't happened before the DI started spinning.  But in any case, the DI wasn't invited.

Well, this time around it's not the Vatican but the Methodists who are annoying the DI.  They are holding a General Conference, and they aren't going to let the DI sponsor an ID information table during their conference.  As I am sure you can guess, the DI is not happy about it.  I caught this from one of my favorite bloggers, The Sensuous Curmudgeon, "Discovery Institute Banned by Methodists".  

If you didn't know, The United Methodist Church (UMC) is an endorser of the Clergy Letter Project.  I haven't written about the Clergy Letter Project in a while so here is a quick reminder in the form of part of the Letter signed by over 13,000 Christian clergy:

"We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children."
There is also a similar letter endorsed by Rabbis, Unitarians, and Buddhists.  Well, back to the subject at hand.  The DI wanted to have an information table at the annual UMC General Conference and the Methodists said "No!".  Well they might not have used that exact word, but that is certainly the result.  So what does the DI do when they are unhappy?  They whine!

But they don't just whine, they spin!  They posted blog entities and press releases claiming that the UMC is under fire for banning the DI from their conference.  The spin is pretty serious, Bruce Chapman, John G. West, davey 'klingy' klinghoffer, pseudo-historian Michael Flannery and Donald McLaughlin all had things to say about it.  They sure spun up the PR machine in a hurry!  So far the only 'fire' seems to be coming from the DI.  If they were after some groundswell of support, they missed.  They even created a web page listing contact information for leaders within the UMC asking their supporters to "TAKE ACTION: Urge United Methodist Officials to Overturn Ban on Discovery Institute at General Conference".  It's all over Facebook as well, the DI begging for help.  Most of the comments are less than helpful :-).  Still no sign of that groundswell, but it is early days.  I would be willing to wager the majority of comments supporting the DI comes from people who already are associated with the DI and enjoy drinking their kool-aid.

I, being the person that I am, went to their take action page, copied the email addresses for a number of UMC leaders and sent them an email of support!  In fact I encourage you to do the same: 
Ms. Judi Kenaston, Chair, UMC Commission on the General Conference
Bishop Michael Coyner, President, UMC General Council on Finance and Administration
Bishop Warner H. Brown, President, UMC Council of Bishops
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Chair, UMC Connectional Table
The Rev. Amy Valdez Barker, Executive Secretary, UMC Connectional Table
Here are their email addresses more suitable for cut&paste: 
JudiKenaston@aol.com, bishop@inumc.org, bishop@calnevumc.org, bishop@dkmnareaumc.org, avaldez_barker@umc.org
Go for it, let the Methodists know how you feel about their 'banning' the DI.

Another thing, of course the DI spins, but I really dislike how they are spinning this.  They are claiming that the Methodists are violating their own slogan: "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors."  Does their slogan really mean that every point of view, especially ones you disagree with, should be allowed in the General Conference?  You know, I might have to defend the right of a group like the KKK or NAMBLA to have free speech, but does that mean I should be required to support their efforts?  Think about it.  Letting the DI have a table would be a form of tacit approval of their position.  The UMC has already made their disapproval known, why would they bother letting the DI push their viewpoint?

Does this particular spin sound familiar?  Remember how the DI has this habit of re-defining things for their own advantage?  Their complaint that teaching ID should be allowed based on Academic Freedom, when actual academic freedom has nothing to do with teaching pseudo-science as if it was science.  How about the tactic 'Teach the Controversy', and by 'controversy' they obviously mean something they dreamed up that doesn't actually exist in scientific circles.  Or the abortive 'It's only a Theory', where they bait and switch the definitions of 'theory' in order to confuse folks.  Yes, this type of spin is simply one of their marketing schemes.

According to the DI's John G. West, one of the reasons put forth by the UMC is:
"Discovery Institute was rejected for violating a policy that conference exhibits "are not to provide a platform to survey or test ideas; rather, to provide products / services / resources which are credible and proven" to help church ministries"
To be honest, that makes perfect sense to me, is Creationism/ID credible and proven?  Certainly not very credible and also not having any evidence to support it.  I guess the UMC should make room for the psychics table, the tarot card reader, and the parapsychologists as well.  After all those groups have as much credibility and proof as the DI has for ID.

The UMC already stated that they opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of their schools.  While the DI continues to deny it, they are a faith-based organization pushing a form of Creationism into schools.  This is the group who wrote a lesson plans for teachers to use questioning evolution and introducing ID, who 'helped' the Dover School Board in their efforts to bring Creationism back into the classroom, and the same organization who lied about support for ID when petitioning the Ohio School Board back in 2002.  That's only a few of their tactics of mistakes, there are many, many more!

I applaud the UMC for sticking to it's guns.   The DI isn't welcome and that should be the end of it.  After all, the UMC is a private organization and should have to ability to select what groups get represented at their conferences!

Does anyone ever try and horn into a DI sponsored event?  Not that I ever heard.  DI sponsored events are usually to an audience of people who already believe in their snake oil, as we wrote about in "So there is nothing religious about ID? Part V".  They seem to stack the deck when they hold one of their mutual admiration meetings.  That particular example was supposed to be a conference on the Science and God debate . . . and yet not only was no one from the scientific community invited, neither were any theologians.  It was four members of the DI presenting their views, a biochemist, a philosopher, a lawyer, and a political scientist.  Talk about stacking the deck!

Imagine the hue and cry if the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) or Secular Students of America (SSA) wanted to attend one of the DI's Summer Seminars . . . oh wait, look at the Admission Requirements for those seminars (my underlining):
"You must be currently enrolled in a college or university as a junior, senior, or graduate student. Required application materials include (1) a resume/cv, (2) a copy of your academic transcript, (3) a short statement of your interest in intelligent design and its perceived relationship to your career plans and field of study, and (4) either a letter of recommendation from a professor who knows your work and is friendly toward ID, or a phone interview with the seminar director." (Summer Seminar on Intelligent Design in the Natural Sciences)
Gee, they assume they have the right to filter attendees for one of their revival meetings, but refuse to allow other groups the same privilege!  They not only want to have their cake and eat it too, they want to have your cake to eat as well. 

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