Last week, there was a public show put on at Biola — that’s the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, if that is unfamilar. Called “Intelligent Design under fire”, it featured several of the leading lights of the ID movement fielding questions from various critics, and also giving the ID crew the opportunity to confer the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth on Anthony Flew for, apparently, converting from hard atheism to something like deism.
Apparently, though, there was more going on at Biola than just that evening of dog-and-pony show stuff. There was, it turns out, a second “Research And Progress in Intelligent Design” (RAPID) Conference that followed the public event. But this time, there was no public announcement that it was on and no public information has been shared about it, except that Jeffrey Schwartz, the Buddhist mind/brain dualist, presented there.
Back in 2002, the first RAPID conference was held, and since I was living in San Diego at the time, I figured I needed to attend it. I sent in registration information via email, and had gotten to the part about sending a check or transferring some credit card information when I got a phone call. It was Jed Macosko, the RAPID conference organizer, calling to say that he was sorry, and that RAPID was a closed conference, only ID advocates registered, sorry about that. I did go to listen the opening night public event, where the ID advocate elite gave short speeches to the crowd. Remember pep rallies from high school? That was the vibe I got. Oh, I also got dinner, by way of the hopsitality of Jed Macosko, who invited me in to join folks at his table at the pre-event dinner.
Now, we are told that ID is science already and should be able to be taught by teachers to high schools students if they wish to do so (though it shouldn’t be mandated, according to the Discovery Institute, who apparently subscribe to a Schrodinger’s Cat theory of evading legal review of such a policy: if we aren’t certain that it’s happening in every class, then we must give it a pass). The first RAPID conference somewhat backfired on them concerning public perception, given that real scientific conferences don’t exclude people on viewpoint. Also, the listing of Richard von Sternberg as a presenter at the first conference put a bit of a crimp in the story being told that Sternberg wasn’t actually either a young-earth creationist or intelligent design advocate… if you have a conference whose attendees are vetted for ID advocate status, it’s absurd to try to hold that you are including critics, friendly or otherwise, on the speaking schedule. So this time, there was no public fanfare in hyping the second RAPID conference, no public website with registration information and speaking schedule, and most especially no data about attendees.
A lot of ideas have gone from radical idea to acceptance in the scientific community… the endosymbiotic hypothesis, plate tectonics, punctuated equilibria, transposons, but none of those had series of closed conferences for the benefit of cheerleaders and advocates. The more that we see of ID, the more clear it becomes that they are nowhere close to “walking the walk”.