Friday, April 7, 2017

The Discovery Institute is Extending the Deadline for the Summer 'Seminars', How Surprising (Not)!

Like most folks, I have experienced my share of deadlines.  Much of the time they are work-related, as in accomplishing something by a deadline because of related dependencies.  Sometimes they are social, involving things like RSVP dates for a wedding.  On occasion they involve registration for something like college, or in this case the Discovery Institute's 'Summer Seminars'.

For years now the Discovery Institute (DI) has been offering their summer seminars, an opportunity to sit at the feet of those Intelligent Design (ID) luminaries like Meyer, Wells, Nelson, and maybe even Behe.  Yes, those 'luminaries' who who never seem to shed any light on ID, and you get to sit there for 9 whole days -- which still astounds me that they actually need 'days'.  I think the last time I wrote about this was in 2009, but it looks like little has changed.  Since it was such a non-event to me, I pretty well ignore it.

Now I don't know about you, but there are usually two reasons for extending a deadline, either the original notice was too short -- in other words not giving people enough time to respond.  The second reason is simply that not nearly enough people have responded to make it economically feasible, so you extend the deadline hoping for more entrants.

Of course when something like this happens to an organization like the DI, they have to spin it into sounding like it's a positive.  So they are claiming that there was such a last minute rush of entrants they just had to extend the deadline.  Really, that's what they said in this post "Deadline Extension! Fine, We’ll Give You Till April 14 to Apply for Summer Seminars on ID":

"Why? Because there was a big rush of applications at the very end of the process. That’s of course great. However, it also convinced us that in being sticklers about the deadline, which is our nature, we would likely be excluding a good number of students who heard about the program too late to apply."
Now, you know I rarely believe anything the DI says, for good reason, so I don't believe this for a minute.  First off, are they really 'sticklers?  They have an idea they want us to believe is a scientific theory, yet it has no science supporting it, even though they opened their own lab to 'prove' it.  They claim not to be a sort of ministry, yet their audience consists of theists usually of the evangelical stripe and take place at religious facilities.  They wrote this in their own strategy document said:
 " . . . we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians." (Wikipedia: Wedge Strategy)
So, 'sticklers' seems to be a bit of a stretch.

They started looking for applicants in January, at least that was the first time I noticed their announcements -- which, by the way, also include a donation request.  Plus in the past month they posted reminder after reminder (Four days, three days, two and one).  I know because I get them in my Google News Alert for 'Intelligent Design' every day.  Many days the only thing in my alert was their announcement that the deadline was looming.

So . . . why do you post reminder after reminder of an event?  Well common sense tells me that you post such things to drum up more applicants.  When you have enough, you rarely waste resources trying to drum up more.  You process what you have and you smile a lot, but you don't send out daily reminders because that tends to piss people off.

So after weekly, and then daily, reminders of the deadline, the DI suddenly extends the deadline and tries to tell us it's because of a 'big rush of applicants'? That doesn't sound terribly believable to me, how about you?  It sounds more like they had some self-identified minimum and failed to hit it, so they extended it.  I have no issue with them extended it, but their rationale comes across as a bit phony.

Since we are discussing the 'summer seminars', I did notice that they still have the same sort of attendee requirements, including:
" . . . 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."
So the attendees are pre-screened to insure they are already accepting of the subject.  I mean, how could you possibly have meaningful summer seminars if there is even the possibility of a dissenting voice in the house?  What you have is people who already believe being lectured by believers, and everyone can pat themselves on the back for another successful set of seminars.

If you headed out to the website, note where they mention who the previous presenters were?  
"Past seminars have included such speakers as Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, Paul Nelson, Jay Richards, Douglas Axe, Ann Gauger, Richard Sternberg, Robert Marks, Scott Minnich, and Bruce Gordon."
Not an outsider in the bunch, certainly not anyone working in biology, let alone anyone who might speak about actual evolutionary theory, as opposed to the strawman of evolution usually presented by such speakers.  And, no, I do not number people like Gauger and Axe who I believe have degrees related to biology, but 'work' at the DI's own pet lab, The Biologics Institute, so I do not consider them to be working biologists.  Even Behe who, when he isn't shilling for the DI (He's a Senior Fellow -- whatever that means at the DI), he does teach Biochemistry at a school that doesn't let him teach ID in those classes.

I am perfectly willing to admit I might be wrong about the reason for the deadline extension, but this is the DI we're talking about. If I remember correctly the deadline was also extended in 2009, 2013, and 2015.  I might have the years wrong, but this is certainly not an isolated event.  Although this might be the first time the DI was trying to tell us it was due to a last minute rush.

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