June 4, 2001

Conferences at Calvin College, Kansas City, and Elsewhere

Last week's main event was a major conference May 24-26 at Calvin College titled "Design, Self-Organization and the Integrity of Creation," hosted by Bill Dembski. Philosophers John Haught and Alvin Plantinga kicked off the event on Thursday night. The scientific plenary talks were by Dembski, Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, Jed Macosko, and Scott Minnich, with breakout sessions by a number of others. The Friday banquet speaker was Calvin College philosopher Del Ratzsch, author of the recent, well-received book Nature, Design, and Science. One auditor described Del's talk as "a good historical perspective of past design movements and how they failed," thus contributing a sense of history and some warnings about mistakes to be avoided. I am told that about 200 persons attended the conference, largely professors from a variety of colleges and universities. 

Conferences are important not only for what is said in the lectures and workshop sessions, but as a sign that discussion of Design in biology has become almost a routine matter in the academic world. The issue is steadily being taken from a marginalized status ("that issue is no longer on the table now that Darwinism has triumphed") to an active status where more and more people recognize that an intellectual revolution may be in prospect. Conferences also give new people an opportunity to emerge and gain recognition as important voices in the discussion. I can't comment on most of the lectures, because I was not present, but reports concur that the prize for the best talk would probably go to Jed Macosko, now a chemistry postdoc at Berkeley. Jed made very effective use of a videotape produced in France, The Voyage Inside the Cell, which gives a vivid picture of the irreducible complexity of the basic biochemical processes of cellular activity. Because he lives in Berkeley, Jed could give me a private showing of the video with his own narration. I found the whole presentation stunning, as did the audience at Calvin.

At the end of this month the major Wedge participants will gather again in Kansas City for a two-day symposium sponsored by the Kansas Intelligent Design Network. The Kansas Intelligent Design Network grew out of the Kansas political controversy described in Chapter 3 of The Wedge of Truth, and it has provided a whole new dimension to the ongoing battle over science education standards in that state.  The Calvin conference was basically by and for professors; the Kansas City conference will be basically by and for citizens who want to be well informed about how to counter the dogmatic advocacy of scientific naturalist philosophy in the science curriculum. The conference title is "Darwin, Design and Democracy II: Teaching the Evidence in Science Education." I urge any of our friends from the midwest to consider attending.

The Wedge has at least three important components, maybe more. There is an academic component, illustrated by events like the Calvin Conference. There is a citizen component, illustrated by events like the upcoming Kansas City Conference. Finally, there is a religious component, illustrated by our many speaking events at churches and seminaries. An outstanding example of this third kind of event is the conference June 25-27 at The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The conference theme is "Equipping for Ministry in Today's University Culture", and I will be giving the primary plenary session lectures. [For information about the Conference call 1-800-626-5525, x 4119.]

I am constantly reminding people that all three components are important. We need to  improve and expand our scientific work, and we need to pay careful attention to the sensitivities of the scientific and academic communities. We can win some people over that way, but we are opposed by powerful vested interests who will not be swayed by scholarly arguments alone. We also need to build our citizen base, and to educate the very large number of dedicated people in the religious world about how they can more effective challenge the ruling naturalistic definition of knowledge. We won't achieve a breakthrough in science merely by making a scientific case, no matter how good that case is. We also need to build a growing community of educated people, especially students, who know what is at stake and who can't be bluffed by authority figures who claim that they have overwhelming evidence that natural selection did the creating-- but who don't understand the difference between evidence and philosophical prejudice. 

I'm off today for speaking events in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Wednesday evening June 6 at 7:00 PM, I will be speaking at Capitol Hill Baptist Church on "Intelligent Design and Freedom of Thought - The Coming Breakthrough." 

Thursday, June 7, I am at Christ Church of Oak Brook (Illinois) lecturing at 7:30 PM on "What About Evolution?"

Then on Friday, June 8, I am giving the opening banquet lecture at a Wilberforce Forum Conference at the Westin O'Hare Hotel in Chicago. Other speakers include host Chuck Colson, Jack Kemp, Richard John Neuhaus, and a host of other distinguished people.  It is still possible to register. Just click on the link for details.

I hope to see as many of you as possible at one or more of the events this month.


Copyright 2001 Phillip E. Johnson. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 6.04.01

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