Princeton, NJ: Hotbed of Intelligent Design!


Greetings to all Panda’s Thumbers!

Recently I had an opportunity to visit the town of Princeton, in lovely central New Jersey[1]. Princeton is called by some the “Berkeley of the East Coast,” and for good reason! There’s a university there, for one thing. And, like Berkeley, Princeton is at one end of the Axis-of-Intelligent-Design. I knew that this was one place that I definitely wanted to see!!! And along the way, I took pictures, so that you could see it too.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights of Princeton: ID capital of the upper Eastern seaboard[2].

My first stop was 112 Mercer St., home of the somewhat well-known physicist Albert Einstein, who worked nearby at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Einstein’s house had a fence so beautiful that I had to get a picture with it.

This may be hard to believe, but at 58 Mercer St., less than a block away, is the Princeton Theological Seminary, where the famous relativity debunker Jay Richards did his Ph.D. work![3,4]

Oh, the irony! I could almost fancy I saw Einstein’s ghost stalking the upper floor of his house, muttering to himself and tearing out clumps of ectoplasmic hair! That the one person capable, with a few pithy comments, of invalidating the naive views of time invented by Einstein during his so-called wunderjahr should have studied next door! This is not to be borne!

I decided to leave Einstein’s ghost cursing the heavens and continue past the seminary to the “other” Princeton: an institution some would consider almost as prestigious as the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Princeton University (or “P.U.” as it’s sometimes known) has a lot of old buildings, including this one. The first building on the campus, Nassau Hall has been at various times the New Jersey State Capitol, the United States Federal Capitol and a British artillery target. It’s got a lot of ivy on it, for some reason, and the entrance is flanked by two lions, even though the school mascot is a tiger.

While walking around the campus, I chanced upon this building. It’s Eno Hall, home of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. There’s probably not much going on here, and I didn’t groove on the ambiance, so I didn’t bother to go inside.

I did, though, check out the new “Institute for Integrative Genomics”[5]. One of the claims being made here is that evolutionary biology can be the subject of experimentation. These vessels are minature fermenters – called “chemostats” – in which cultures can be grown in an exponential phase indefinitely. Large population sizes, strong selection, toss in some microarray analysis and you’re talking serious fun.

I have to admit though that when I looked more closely I didn’t see any evolution going on at all. Might this be just another “icon”? Calling Dr. Wells! (Dr. Dr. Wells, I mean.)

The institute just installed a nice display wall for the study of very large and complex datasets. The images there now are from the Saccharomyces Genome Database, from which detailed descriptions of nearly all yeast genes are available.

You can’t really see it, but there’s a frame for output from the Discovery Research Institute’s pilot project on platonic forms in proteins. I’ve enlarged it here, for the enzyme Glutamine Synthetase. You can see that the APD (Alchemical Protein Database) gives the Choleric Index and the Sanguinity of each protein. It also shows the relative contributions of the four major elements (water, earth, air and fire). On another screen, the information content of the protein’s conformation (in units of live puppies/litter, or “dembskis”) is given. Finally, the astrological sign (AS) of Glutamine Synthetase appears to be Capricorn. This is the future, happening now!

Since I had some time to kill, I went over to the library and checked out the thesis of a distinguished Princetonian, David Berlinski (*68). I’m sure that the dissertation (“For Hume the Bell Tolls”[6]) was interesting and all, but it was awfully long, and its opening sentence – “Obscurity excites.” – reminded me of the unendurable excitment that 10 years ago led me to abandon the author’s “Brief Tour of the Calculus” after about 10 pages. Instead of finishing it, I decided to read Princeton emeritus professor Harry Frankfurt’s succinct (i.e., short) masterpiece “On Bullshit”. This extended essay develops a sorely needed “theory of bullshit,” and explains why bullshit is so prevalent in our modern society[7]. It even mentions Wittgenstein, although it makes him sound like kind of a clown[8]. The book is most highly recommended for all students of ID.

Now I had really hoped to see someone with a deep involvement in the ID movement. I mean: this is Princeton, right? Even though I was in town last week, I missed the Great Debate (post hoc publicity, doncha know). So I left my books and went in search of a real IDist.

And where would I look for one but in the vicinity of the magnificently named International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, founded, of course, by the Isaac Newton of information theory, William Dembski, and headquartered, as all scholars of such matters know, in its palatially appointed offices at 66 Witherspoon Street, Suite 1800? (Princeton might not have the World’s Largest Ball of String, but the sprawling compound at 66 Witherspoon is smack in the heart of the borough, just a block or two from campus.) I set out to find it…

…and here it is. (I wonder what “The UPS Store” had to do to get their corporate logo emblazoned on the front of this prestigious edifice?)

ISCID offices are in Suite 1800, so I went inside to look around. I found directions to the suite ok…

Nobody was in (you know how scientists are – always leaving right at 5 pm!) but I thought I’d wait around for a bit to see if anyone turned up.

Somehow I seem to have gotten ditched yet again. I’m starting to wonder if maybe the ID crew doesn’t like me or something. I understand that Paul Nelson is going to be in Morris, MN sometime soon. Maybe I’ll head north and see if I can catch up with him there.[9] But for now, I’m headed out to Kansas, where the real action will be for awhile. I wonder if I’ll see any Kangaroos at this court I keep hearing about?

So long, ’til next time, Prof. Steve Steve.

– [1] No sarcasm intended. Really. [2] Besides Bethlehem and Dover. [3] in Quantum Philosophy and Newtonian Theology. [4] Dembski studied here also, and at the same time. I understand that on Friday nights he and Richards played together in a little jazz combo in the basement of the Seminary chapel. Dembski’s skill on tenor kazoo, it’s been said, brought tears to the eyes of the angels in the stained glass windows above. Richards was never more than a “serviceable” theramin player, but his skill was sufficient to get the group a short-lived recording contract with Def Jam records. [5] The Institute for Derivative Genomics is on the Biola University campus in Los Angeles, I believe. [6] Of course, Berlinski’s thesis is not called anything so goofy and pretentious as “For Hume the Bell Tolls”. The actual title is “The Well-tempered Wittgenstein”. Really. [7] The answer, it turns out, has something to do with excess humbug production and a decline in the exchange rate between bluster and bombast. [8] It occurs to me that Frankfurt and Berlinski might have been contemporaries at Princeton. Is it possible that they knew each other? Frankfurt’s essay is over twenty years old, so you never know… [9] World’s Largest Ball of String?!! Woo-hoo!


ACK! I truly hope you are not implying UC Berkeley is a hotbed for ID proponents???

that’s my alma-mater, Steve-Steve! If you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, I’m sure i could arrange a meeting with some of the best contributors to evolutionary theory and behavioral ecology you could find just about anywhere. (er, provided they aren’t allergic to pandas).

Really, I can vouch for UCB. Just because the Daily Cal posts some on-the-rag missive from some loser doesn’t mean the rest of us believe any of that claptrap.

In fact, I wrote a rather angry letter to the editor of the Daily Cal, chastizing him for publishing such a missive without a clear followup statement that it was, in fact or not, an April fool’s joke!

I think there are some good stands of bamboo to munch on around Berkeley, too.


nice pics, tho.

Wow. That has got to be the cutest, and yet most sarcastic, panda I have ever seen!

Professor Steve Steve Draws such images with wit Leaves me wanting more

nice haiku

Very entertaining!

In this case, I can work only with proteins that are Saggitarius, my sign. With sarcasm intended, please.


The text clearly refers to the prestigious address of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design as “Suite 1800”, whereas careful examination of the actual address in photos will reveal that it is Suite I800. That’s the letter “I”(eye) -800. (I think those are actual zeroes and not letter “O”s) No wonder those Nobel prize nominations haven’t been getting through.

Yowza! The contact page of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design itself makes the same mistake! It must be indicative of an overly complex, uninformative and poorly designed address. Perhaps they should start calling themselves 1SCID.

I am such a pedant.

Will Berlinski write an Op/Ed piece about how evolutionists willfully promulgate an inaccurate address for 1SCID?

It wouldn’t surprise me.

Well, I’m leaving Princeton this weekend. Rather than take the train to Newark Int’l, I figured I’d just catch a flight (baggage class on UPS Air) out of 66 Witherspoon St.

Although I’ll be traveling next to Kansas, I’ve been getting excited about my upcoming visit with PZ Myers at the University of Minnesota. In anticipation of that trip, I’ll leave you with this photo of “Dread Pirate Steve Steve”.

Arrrrgh! Avast, me hearties! Strike the colors and beat to stations! Take no prisoners!

–Prof. Steve Steve

Prof. SS Wrote:

..ID capital of the upper Eastern seaboard [footnote 2] Besides Philadelphia and Dover.

There’s also Harrisburg (Santorum) and Lehigh (Behe), but who/what’s in Philly??

Frank J. writes wondering what I meant by including Philadelphia as one of the centers of ID on the upper Eastern seaboard. He’s right in assuming that I meant BETHLEHEM, where Lehigh University is.

Profuse apologies to all of Philadelphia’s rationalists (sorry Mr. Franklin!)

–Prof. Steve Steve

Here are some pictures of cute pandas:

I like to start an entry. Does anybody tell me how? Thanks in advance.

Having been thoroughly refuted in the halls of academia and public opinion the Darwinists are resorting to cheap humor. The lack of any terms of abuse ranging from crackpot to pseudoscience in Dr.Steve Steve’s account is concealed only naturalistically. Dr.Bill X’s invective filter has been successfully used to detect the design intentions of (yes this time we know) a pretty unitnetlligent designer.

Thanks, Prof. Steve Steve

I should note that Michael Behe, Karen Bartelt and I were at Drexel (west Philly) at the same time. I remember Dr. Bartelt, and probably passed Dr. Behe in Disque or Stratton hall, but have no recollection.

Shiva wrote:

Having been thoroughly refuted in the halls of academia and public opinion the Darwinists are resorting to cheap humor.

This is another joke, this time by Shiva, whoever he/she is. It is easy to imagine the laughter in “the halls of academia” when somebody tells scientists that “Darwinism” has been thoroughly refuted. Shiva’a attempt at humor is appreciated.

Professor Steve Steve has obviously done his job.

Jianyi Zhang Wrote:

I like to start an entry. Does anybody tell me how? Thanks in advance.

We have an article submission policy in preparation. We’ll post something about that, hopefully soon.

shiva Wrote:

Having been thoroughly refuted in the halls of academia and public opinion the Darwinists are resorting to cheap humor.

I resent the accusation: that humor was not cheap! If fact, I had to zero out the balance of the Panda’s Thumb Fund for Sarcasm – apologies to the other contributors – just to get that particular post up.

The lack of any terms of abuse ranging from crackpot to pseudoscience in Dr.Steve Steve’s account is concealed only naturalistically. Dr.Bill X’s invective filter has been successfully used to detect the design intentions of (yes this time we know) a pretty unitnetlligent designer.

Oops. Sorry, my mistake. I’ll fix it now.

Intelligent Design is crackpot pseudoscience.

There. See, we certainly aim to please!

(And it looks like there was a little bit of money left in the Sarcasm Fund after all.)

–Prof. Steve Steve

Suite I800 or Suite 1800?

Preach the controversy!

Preach the controversy…

Advocate of 1800: “We are at war, in more than just one respect. Though we are fighting the terrorists overseas, we are also engaging in a war within our own nation: a war against advocates of Suite I800. We must defeat the ideological belief in Suite I800 in order to renew the culture!”

Advocate of I800: “There really exists no controversy. Enough evidence exists that it is Suite I800–such as, for instance, the fact that it says I800–that no serious, educated person would think otherwise. It’s simply a common mistake to view the I as a 1, and those who have studied the suite in detail are aware that it is an I. Before you debate them, you may want to try critically examining it for yourself.”

I think that would make an interesting debate.

I was at Princeton Theological Seminary (or PT Sem as it’s sometimes known) the same time Richards and Dembski were. Richards was head of the Charles Hodge Society, a conservative group on campus that played the martyr very well. With the exception of one faculty member and a handful of ultra-conservative students, there was little support for this group on campus. They nevertheless made a lot of noise – opposing the ordination of homosexuals was one of the big ones. There was suspicion that some in this group were responsible for anonymous letters to women students suggesting they pursue a different career path.

Dembski and I were in the same Kant seminar and I don’t remember him saying a peep all semester. He was getting his ThM (master of theology) and one of the controversies at the time centered around the Seminary rejecting Dembski for admission into the PhD program. Members of the Charles Hodge Society were up in arms about this and accused the seminary of being biased against conservative students, which of course wasn’t true because Richards, a PhD student at the time, was the leading conservative on campus. In any event, thanks to the seminary’s wise decision Dembski ended up going to Notre Dame instead. It seems Dembski just can’t get over the fact that Princeton rejected him.


Thanks for the info. I just found out that Charles Hodge is buried catty corner from ISCID world headquarters, right there on Witherspoon St. (So are Jonathan “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Edwards, Aaron Burr, and many other notables).

Was this “Charles Hodge Society” anything like Yale’s Skull and Bones? I picture solemn midnight hooded rituals atop Hodge’s gravesite, candles guttering in the wind. Followed by a short walk to Starbucks for double frappacinos all around.

They probably would have stopped by Halo Pub instead, which is a great little ice cream shop off of Witherspoon. Myself and another student started an alternative group called the Hypatia Society in response to the Charles Hodge Society - Hypatia of Alexandria was our namesake (a lot of symbolic value there). We were more of the “Skull and Bones” type, except that our ritual was drinking copious amounts of beer at the D-Bar located in the bowels of Princeton’s Graduate College.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Prof. Steve Steve published on April 15, 2005 11:07 PM.

Dembski comments on his career was the previous entry in this blog.

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