The DI Celebrates 20 Years of Gaming the System

The Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture has a post celebrating the 20th anniversary of their first closed, ID-only conference, which led to the book, “Mere Creation”. They spend a chunk of the article saying how they have deployed rhetoric to get things done, another chunk complaining that people actually disagreed with them and said so (under the banner of “discrimination”), and another chunk saying how wonderful it would be if people kept sending in money, thanks.

This means that it is approaching the 20th anniversary of the second DI-sponsored conference, the “Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise” (NTSE) conference held in February, 1997 in Austin, Texas. (I had to go to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to find the page with the NTSE papers.) Between these two conferences, the DI established how it would handle things. There would be the closed conferences, the ones only the known loyal faithful might attend, and there would be the other conferences, where by hook or by crook critics of “intelligent design” creationism would be cozened into attending and then having their mere attendance touted as having “legitimated the question”. I recall that I got a call for papers for the NTSE that emphasized seeking intellectual balance between naturalism’s defenders and detractors, but failed to mention anything about “intelligent design”, though virtually the complete set of major IDC advocates presented, save Michael Behe. In Phillip Johnson’s plenary talk, he made explicit the strategy of using everyone’s attendance and participation as support for saying that there was a point there, that we had “legitimated the question”.

Those of us who were not fans of IDC in attendance fairly quickly settled into a pattern of asking two questions following the IDC talks: What would an “intelligent design” hypothesis look like? How would it be tested? We distinguished between tearing down alternatives and actually making a case for the alternative, which pretty well took away the only prop they had, the “oppositional dualism” that was part of what carried over from “creation science”.

Those questions were not answered then, and they are not answered now. That’s almost twenty years of failure to get a grip.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

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