Vacuity of ID: SMU profs upset about upcoming intelligent design conference


The Dallas News reports that at the Southern Methodist University, several science professors have objected to a planned presentation on “Intelligent Design”. Acutely familiar with the history of Intelligent Design, the science professors state that:

“These are conferences of and for believers and their sympathetic recruits,” said the letter sent to administrators by the department. “They have no place on an academic campus with their polemics hidden behind a deceptive mask.”

The SMU quickly clarified its position

“Although SMU makes its facilities available as a community service, and in support of the free marketplace of ideas, providing facilities for those programs does not imply SMU’s endorsement of the presenters’ views,” the statement said.

The concern is real namely that

Many SMU science professors say they are worried that merely allowing “Darwin vs. Design” on campus could give the public impression that Intelligent Design has support from scientists at the school.

Which led the departments of Anthropology, Biological Sciences and Geological Sciences to respond as follows:

“In this case, the Departments of Anthropology, Biological Sciences, and Geological Sciences in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences wish to reaffirm their commitment to applying rigorous scientific principles to teaching and research on the subject of evolution.”

In the mean time, professors at the SMU are using the ‘controversy’ to educate the students about “Intelligent Design” and its scientific vacuity:

Physics Department

Quoting “Bill Maher on Intelligent Design - “You don’t have to teach both sides of a debate if one side is a load of crap.””, this site at SMU presents the Kitzmiller opinion and a guest lecture by Professor John Wise (SMU Biology). The site outlines a physics class in “debunking pseudoscience” and is taught by Professor John L. Cotton and Professor Randall J. Scalise

Course: “Physics 3333 / CFB 3333 The Scientific Method - Critical and Creative Thinking (Debunking Pseudoscience)” Syllabus


Course: Anthropology 3334 “Fantastic Archaeology” Lectures and powerpoints specifically the Nov 1 lecture Creationism and Evolution

Teach the controversy I say…

From the Ministry of Media Complaints we hear that:

“We aren’t trying to be sneaky,” said Dr. Stephen Meyer, who is scheduled to speak at the event.

Source: Houston Chronicle

Need I have to remind the reader of the Wedge Strategy

Governing Goals

      To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.

      To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

Chapman’s response is even funnier

“Their reaction proves why such a conference is needed,” Bruce Chapman replied. “Applying rigorous scientific principles to teaching and researching evolution requires careful examination of the scientific evidence for both Darwinism and intelligent design.”

There is no scientific evidence for intelligent design. Simple… Which may help explain why ID proponents are reduced to what seem to be mostly ad hominem arguments. And when caught in their inaccuracies, they seldomly admit their errors, let alone apologize. Such is the life of many an intelligent design activist.


No offense intended, PVM, but I think you’ve used a variant of the word “vacuity” in just about every post you’ve written in the past year or so. It might be time to come up with a new word. :)

If the word fits :-) It surely had an impact on our friend Davescot recently.

“These are conferences of and for believers and their sympathetic recruits,” said the letter sent to administrators by the department. “They have no place on an academic campus with their polemics hidden behind a deceptive mask.”

Hmmmm…I wonder how they came to that conclusion?

From the Wedge Document, Phase II:

“Alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidence’s that support the faith, as well as to “popularize” our ideas in the broader culture.”

Well, I certainly think it fits. I just don’t think it’s the only word that fits. ;)

I must have missed that particular DS moment because I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Gee, that’s a 20 minute drive from me. I think I’ll saunter over and see what’s what. Some sports are so much better live.

I think ‘vacuity’ is a good fit. It neatly sums up the real essence of ID - pure speculation, unhindered by empirical evidence or the scientific method.

I think in the same way that Dembski, O’Leary and co like to go on and on about how evolution is a ‘just so’ story, or is the ‘materialistic creation story’, I don’t think it is improper to use vacuity over and over. Let’s take a leaf out of the ID book - since they don’t have to worry about doing science they have lots of time on their hands for marketing and PR.

Since ID objected to being referred to (correctly) as creationism, it seems that focusing on the lack of scientific relevance is appropriate.

You could always use facile. Or meretricious, that’s another good one.

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Editor’s Note: In the third paragraph of the DMN story it was reported that the Darwin vs. Design conference “will say that a supernatural designer is the best explanation for aspects of life and the universe.” In fact, the conference will not do that. On the issue of whether the designer is supernatural we’ve been very clear that the scientific theory of intelligent design does not address metaphysical and religious questions such as the nature or identity of the designer. (see here) As the article is otherwise accurate, we’re hopeful this will be straightened out.

Found this “correction” at the disclaimery noos and voos page. You can take the DI out of its morass of lies, but you can’t take the lies out of the DI!

At least the Communists, Republicans, lesbians, and atheists represent honest positions. The ID/creationists are con men, which justifies different treatment. Though granted, it’s a bit much to expect someone who would wax oxymoronic about “fundamentalist atheists” to grasp such a distinction.

Thanks for the heads up Lance, there’s no way I’m putting even a dime in their oily pockets.

Why do we bother using big words to describe ID? It might actually make some people think there’s a controversy. Why not just replace ID with BS? It’s much more truthful.

kudos to SMU scientists for making noise regarding the apologetics seminar - these propaganda must be countered wherever they occur. I hope that SMU is charging them “thru the nose” for the space (to erode the fund raising) and I hope that the press continues to keep the ID sham in the open -now if we can just get the public to associate “id=creationism=sham” then these wingnuts will have to come up with something else. (which I hope will take a long, long time)

Hmmmm…I wonder how they came to that conclusion?

From the Wedge Document, Phase II:

I glanced through the Wedge Document. It’s been a few years since I read it. I noticed something in it:

Academic Articles

Our fellows recently have been featured or published articles in major sciendfic and academic journals in The Proceedings to the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, The Scientist, The American Biology Teacher, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Biochemirtry, Philosophy and Biology, Faith & Philosophy, American Philosophical Quarterly, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Analysis, Book & Culture, Ethics & Medicine, Zygon, Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith, Relgious Studies, Christian Scholars’ Review, The Southern Journal ofPhilosophy, and the Journal of Psychalogy and Theology. Many more such articles are now in press or awaiting review at major secular journals as a result of our first round of research fellowships. Our own journal, Origins & Design, continues to feature scholarly contribudons from CRSC Fellows and other scientists.

Origins & Design? What is this, I wondered. Did they have another failed journal? I mean, I already know about PCID, the ID journal which can’t find anything to publish. Did they have a whole other journal for nonexistent ID results? So I search around.

Origins & Design Journal

Welcome to the Origins & Design archives. Origins & Design is a periodical journal published by Access Research Network. Articles from our last issue, Origins & Design Issue 38 (vol.20, no. 1) are now on-line. Origins & Design 39 is now in print. Watch for the online version of Origins & Design Issue 40 in late 2001.

Far as I can tell, Origins & Design ended sometime in 2000.

The problem with getting the public to relate ID with BS is education. As the charts show that Egnor so poorly tried to quote from a few eeks ago, increased education has a direct correlation with decreased acceptance of ID. However, most people are stupid, and have no plans to become less stupid. Luckily, stupid people don’t often get to be judges.

Stupid is as stupid does. Stupidity isn’t something you can do anything about. Igrnorance is.

That said, something folks here often forget, half the people in the world are dumber than the other half. Maybe more.

That said, something folks here often forget, half the people in the world are dumber than the other half. Maybe more.

Or, as George Carlin put it, “think of how dumb the average American is. Well, half of them are dumber than that.”

Dave Carlson Wrote:

It might be time to come up with a new word. :)

I’d like to see the word “hoax” used far more frequently. There is no better description for ID than “deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage.”

they seldomly admit their errors

And indeed, they oftenly repeat them.

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PvM use of vacuity seem spot on for me. But I’ve often used void, from the same root, to describe IDC. Besides carrying the same sense that vacuity does—an emptiness, devoid of substance—in animal physiology and medicine it means eliminating waste from the body, a function that I think applies to the promoters of IDC.

Whats so wrong in thinking a smiling bearded man sitting on a cloud just pointed his finger and made all we see befor us? And then turned on the lights , if you believe the bible.

And whats wrong with letting a bunch of idiots get conned out of 55 dollars a ticket. My douts on any one of us having or obtaining the absolute truth are not going to be effected one iota. Its like the lottery being a tax on people that are not good at math. ID is a tax on ignorance and blind faith.


Do you know where to find the calendar for these conferences?

The conference is almost certainly as much to pay these guys as it is to spread the word. After all– as has already been observed– even a cursory glance at the program shows that there’s no debate. It’s a few DI (and/or Christian/creationism) heavy hitters (e.g. Lee Strobel– a Christian apologist, ‘cause, you know, ID has nothing to do with Christianity) out to make money off the true believers.

Note here that they have set up two “conferences” (really more like a lecture series) lectures– on in TN in March and one a month later in Dallas. Nothing else is planned, but if you want “your” city to host such an event,

Are you interested in bringing the Darwin vs. Design Conference to your region or city?

One of the goals of the Discovery Society is to mobilize grassroots support in cities across the U.S. to sponsor educational and outreach programs such as the Darwin versus Design Conferences.

The events require a very dedicated and motivated group of volunteers to promote the conference locally and help underwrite the costs.

In other words, if you want us to come to your town to try to convince you some something you already want to belive in, please take care of the arrangements, promotion, and funding, and we’ll charge you and your pals $55 a head to hear us talk.

Sweet deal, if you can swing it.

Its like the lottery being a tax on people that are not good at math. ID is a tax on ignorance and blind faith.

Yes, except in the case of ID/Creationism, those revenues go back into the coffers of their PR machine of pseudoscience to further corrupt the scientific literacy (such that it is) in the US.

That’s how bad the ID/creationists are - this libertarian would rather the government had the money.

It’s dangerous to expose college students to ID. They might think it makes sense.

Add scientifically sterile or scientific sterility to the list.

MarkP Wrote:

wax oxymoronic about “fundamentalist atheists”

Nah, it is just moronic.

It is rather like “design in nature”. (Design here ‘the purposeful arrangement of parts’). Looks oxymoronic, works moronically.

No, it’s dangerous for the faculty to appear to be associated with ID. They don’t want to look like idiots or snake-oil salesmen. Salespersons. Salesperchildren.

Paul Flocken Wrote:

Add scientifically sterile or scientific sterility to the list.

I tend to favor “sterile” over “vacuous” as well. Though the two words more or less mean the same thing in this context, “sterile” sounds rather more dire than “vacuous”.

But that’s just MHO.

Since this schpiel tends to imply a debate, has anyone thought of challenging the DI to present one at this event instead of the same old BS? Not likely, but I would think it could be used as a PR point in our favor.

Realpc snarked:

It’s dangerous to expose college students to ID. They might think it makes sense.

If course it would be dangerous (intellectually) to lie to them and present it as science. Nothing wrong with exposing them to it in context, ie as a religious/political sham pretending to be science.

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It’s dangerous to expose college students to ID. They might think it makes sense.

As a college student, I was exposed to ID. At an ordinary state university. I had a Philosophy of Science class which spent a good deal of time discussing creationism. I’d say maybe 20-30% of the classtime was spent on Ruse, ICR, Hugh Ross, Edwards v Aquillard, Dembski, Behe, etc. The professor was very careful not to say what he believed in. Whatever position you took he’d attack you pretty hard.

Of course, ID didn’t come up in my dozen or so science classes, because ID doesn’t generate hypotheses or experiments.

If you have some ID hypotheses or experiments, please contact the people at the defunct ID journal PCID: Good luck. I’ve called, there’s no one to answer their phone.

Or you might try the even more defunct ID journal Origins & Design:

Most of the people in the class were engineering students. It was an engineering school after all. Most of them hadn’t thought about philosophy of science issues. I thought I had, having read a few good books like Abusing Science, but I quickly found out I was a ‘naive Popperian’ and the issue was much more complex than I thought.

The professor was a pretty smart guy, and it was fun to watch him stymie evolution supporters and creation supporters at will. The evolution supporters generally did a better job of defending themselves of course. They were much less likely to defend themselves with imaginary global conspiracies, for instance. I suspect the professor himself was some kind of theistic evolutionist, but he had fun trying to lead people into conclusions they’d disagree with.

Professor: So, why could Paley pick the watch out of the grass? Creationist student: Because it was Designed. Professor: How does that distinguish it from the grass? Creationist student: Because the grass isn’t Design-hey wait a minute…

I’m trying to think of anywhere I heard anyone mention creationist things in any of my science classes. I had, come to think of it, about two dozen science classes in math, chemistry, geology, numerical programming, biology, anatomy, physics, physics, physics. I think there might have been one or two creationist comments in my 200-level biology classes, but they were your typical ‘if we came from monkeys why’re there still monkeys’ gibberish from non-science majors. I don’t recall anyone making the creationist SLoT argument in Thermo, maybe because while physics majors aren’t all terribly bright, there aren’t many complete idiots there either.

For several years while in school I rented a room in a house with 2 engineering students who were hyper-fundies. I’m pretty sure they were creationists, but I never broached the subject.

You could always go by professors’ offices and shoot the breeze about philosophical ideas like design and creationism and fine tuning. Everybody likes a little distraction during the day. It’s not science, it’s just hand wavy BS that’s fun to speculate about once in a while.

‘if we came from monkeys why’re there still monkeys’

To which I always reply “If we migrated from Europe, why is there still Europe?.” That tends to shut them up.

Being a member of a bulletin board that has quite a few Panda’s Thumb fans (and not a few who find the whole ID business to be beneath contempt), I thought it pertinent to share a couple of observations I also shared on that platform. First of all:

A thought that occurred to me regarding creationists was this. As long as they keep pouring out interminable megabytes of garbage on the Internet to trap the gullible, driven by an urge that I can only characterise as masturbatory in origin, responsible and reputable scientists are going to have to waste time debunking all of this tripe, when they could be putting their talents to far more constructive use increasing our understanding of the world, curing currently incurable diseases, and finding ways of allowing us to have modern, healthy lifestyles without environmental catastrophe looming because of our current reliance on fossil fuels. Thus, every piece of crap that surfaces and requires the attention of a functioning brain to debunk it inhibits our progress as a species. It may even be able to quantify, for example, how many people will die of uncured cancers and other diseases that may have been cured if the scientists hadn’t had to pause from their proper work to deal with intellectual illiteracy of this kind before it achieves the critical mass required to throw us back into the Dark Ages. Likewise, it may be possible to quantify how much economic damage will be wrought by any delays injected into the work of those scientists beavering away to understand climate modelling, researching carbon-free power generation and environmentally friendly transport technologies that we’ll need in place and fairly quickly if Nature isn’t going to give us a huge kick up the backside with respect to our current ways of doing things - a kick up the backside that could involve not only economic damage but quantifiable loss of human life. I therefore contend that creationists are a public enemy, a menace to Mankind, because what they stand for is the hastened descent of our species back into the primeval slime. Some may find this view extreme, but the more I consider this, the more I regard them as a threat not because they have any intellectual standing, but precisely because they foster ignorance and stupidity that could cost lives, and for all we know is already costing lives for the reasons I have outlined above. Hence my contempt for them.

I also find it wonderfully ironic that there are people in America, who cleave to an “inerrant” interpretation of words written by people who didn’t even know of the existence of the American continental land masses when those words were written, the same bloody land masses those adherents of the “inerrant” view are standing on right now.

I agree David, and that’s why I think it is important for we nonscientists to get involved and carry some of the rhetorical load when it isn’t scientifically advanced. I find it entertaining, and if my efforts can give one scientist one extra hour of research, it was well worth it. Like intellectual emissions control, it cuts down on the pollution.

After all, the creationist arguments have hardly changed at all in 30 years. Learning the ins and outs of them really doesn’t take that much effort. If they bring up something having to with cutting edge science, I just refer them to the scientists and challenge them to give me one good reason why I should trust their sources over the scientific establishment. I mean really, it is fucking absurd when you really stop and think about what they are asking us to do. I’ve also found those kinds of arguments a lot more persuasive to Joe Average than a technical discussion of the science anyway.

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I don’t know how many of the Panda’s Thumb regulars have alighted upon this yet, but url href=…> should make interesting reading here … namely a document that was circulated in the Georgia State Legislature as an attempt to have evolution dismissed from schools on the basis that - wait for it - it’s religious in origin.

There was an interesting thread on that subject about a month ago, but thanks for the heads up.[…]tml#comments

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J. Biggs Wrote:

There was an interesting thread on that subject about a month ago, but thanks for the heads up.

I’ve just read that thread from top to bottom. And discovered the entertaining Carol bot in the process. Is she in some sense the negative-spin version of Fixed Earth? (Note I didn’t use “the anti-matter version” - difficult to say what that would be off the top of my head …). Assuming of course one can apply quantum states to lunacy … an interesting and amusing game to occupy some social drinking time perchance …

I wanted to ask her a brief question in that thread but it’s closed. Ah well, perhaps she’ll pop into an open thread sometime and allow me to have my own fun and games.

Now there’s a thought - perhaps she’s being paid by the Fixed Earth crew to make a “scientific Jewish Bible” to wave before the gullible as “proof” that modern science IS the aforementioned “Jewish conspiracy” - Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion anyone? Though personally I prefer it when my wingnuts don’t engage in too much cross-pollination.

Scientists on SMU’s faculty had a good deal to say, and said it well, in the opinion page of the Dallas Morning News today, April 5, 2007. They say it’s time for scientists to stand up and stand against intelligent design. You can read about it for a while at, or at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub,[…]gent-design/

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on March 25, 2007 6:43 PM.

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