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How Many Scientists Take This Stuff Seriously?

Intelligent design is still a minority position, but even many scholars who disagree with it are intrigued by the idea—and can’t seem to get it out of their minds.

Elliot Sober, for example, is a distinguished philosopher of science at the University of Wisconsin, and was recently president of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association. Although he is skeptical of intelligent design, he nonetheless spent much of his 1999 presidential address grappling with it. He also took the time, along with two of his graduate students, to write a long review of William Dembski’s book, The Design Inference.

Others have also become intrigued. In Spring 2000, eminent philosophers and scientists—including two Nobel laureates—traveled from as far away as Switzerland and France to attend a conference at Baylor University, in Waco, Texas, where the main topic was intelligent design. Although many were skeptical of intelligent design, they clearly thought it warranted serious attention—and enjoyed the give-and-take with intelligent design theorists.

Biologist and philosopher of science Paul Nelson, who participated in the conference observed, “These world-class scientists came to the conference, had a great time, good interaction and, almost to a person, thought the conference was worth doing.”

Despite opposition in the culture and in science, Nelson said, the intelligent design movement will continue to grow.

“It’s not the kind of thing you change overnight,” Nelson said. “But there’s a steady, healthy growth of the intelligent design community, where we’re bringing in a lot of people of diverse backgrounds and diverse viewpoints. The little plant of intelligent design continues to flourish.”

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