Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Discovery Institute is Hosting a Little Get-Together -- and it's for Everybody -- or is it?

Here is their announcement.  "Join the ID Debate! Private Networking Conference in Seattle, October 6-7" and here is a few quotes, I added the underlining for emphasis:

"The debate about intelligent design in nature is for everybody. ID presents an ultimate question, far from being limited in the scope of its relevance to just scientists or philosophers."
This opening implies that the debate is open to everyone, which may be true, but the reality is most people don't care about the debate.  Seriously!  There is a small minority of theists who want to replace science with their religious beliefs, a vocal minority, but a small one.  So not only is the debate not really for everyone, the title of the post is a 'Private Networking Conference', so you know this conference isn't for everyone either.  Maybe they'll explain more about who can attend later, in the meantime there are a couple of other things I an interested in.

Intelligent Design (ID) presents an ultimate question?  Really?  Any questions ID raises are usually a form of a tautology or so vague any answer is meaningless. Seriously, tell me one question ID has raised that actually cast any doubts on real science?  The nearest they have come is pointing out things that may not have been fully explained by current science -- but what do those questions have to do with ID?  Look at Behe's 'Darwin's Black Box' and you will see what I mean.  Behe listed a bunch of things that science hasn't explained to some ill-defined arbitrary standard, but at no time did he make a connection to ID other than to claim maybe an intelligent designer did it, or maybe a space traveling alien.  In other words, 'who knows' is not support for ID.  Even if his questions were valid, they don't offer any support for ID. Anyone have anything better?  I would be greatly surprised.

Back to the 'everybody' question.  They do go on to explain that it's not just scientists and philosophers, but everybody?  But not really 'everybody', sorta like their summer program, there are some qualifications:
"To join us, you must apply beforehand and explain your purpose and interests. The meeting is private and open to guests only at the discretion of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture."
Do you remember their Summer Program? Applications had to include:
  1. A copy of your resume;
  2. A letter of recommendation from an ID-friendly source;
  3. A copy of your academic transcript;
  4. A short (one page) statement of your interest in ID within your field of study.
Yes, for this 'conference' as well, you have apply beforehand and get vetted by the DI.  So you know there won't be a dissenting voice in the house.  If you hear anything about science, it'll be presented by one of the DI's own folks . . . and we know just how objective they are on that subject.  I see a lot of strawmen also attending this 'conference'.  A couple of last quotes:
"Ask questions, pose challenges, and sharpen your skills as an ID advocate. We’ll help equip you for this challenging intellectual battle."
Has this really been an intellectual battle?  No much sign of it.  Cultural battle, certainly, maybe philosophical battle is a better term -- but when you hear the phrase 'intellectual battle', this debate isn't what comes to mind.  There is an old joke whose punchline embodies something along the lines of 'refusing the enter a battle of wits with the unarmed'.  That's what this battle would look like if it was an actual intellectual battle.  One the one side you have 150+ years of science, evidence, and support and the clear majority of the scientific community -- and in the other corner you have a religious philosophy dressed in an ill-fitting lab coat with nothing but conjecture and wishful thinking.  Even the few scientists who are on that side haven't been able to muster a single scientific argument, only religious ones..  Talk about battling the unarmed!

I remember Lewis Black, the comic, said a couple of interesting lines a while back: "Whenever someone says they believe the Earth was created in 6 days, I  grab a fossil and say 'Fossil!'.  If they keep talking I throw it . . . just over their heads."  He also said:  "They watched the Flintstones and thought it was a documentary!"

And finally to attend, you get to pay for this yourself:
"The price, at $75, is affordable. "
I'm not sure this is a really physical or virtual get-together.  From the price I would guess a virtual one.  You sure aren't renting a conference center for even a small crowd at $75 a head.  So you'll most likely get to dial in and listen, maybe ask a question or two, only after you have been vetted by the DI and you get to contribute to the DI coffers.

I guess calling it a 'private networking conference' is supposed to somehow make you feel privileged.  But do you really think they are going to tell you things they haven't already tried to publicize and market to the widest degree possible?  Has any of their arguments changed in the last decade or two? They spin real science to try and create an ID-friendly message from other peoples' work.  They claim to not be pushing ID into the classroom, while continuing to create lesson plans just for that purpose. They will continue to cheer anti-science legislation, speak to religious groups and organizations, and publish in the religious and popular press -- avoiding real scientific journals.

More of the same, but you might feel special being in a 'private networking event' that's open to anyone who already agrees with their religious message and has a few bucks to burn.  I'm sure we'll be hearing what a wild success is was.  I wonder if they'll have the press release ready before the conference actually happens or will they bother to wait before announcing their success?

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