The recent kerfuffle over the intelligent design creationism movement’s effort to publish the proceedings of a secret conference held (it appears) in a rented room at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration should remind us of an earlier Disco ‘Tute conference run along the same lines. In June 2007 an apparently secret [struck because it’s not clear it was to be secret] conference that was called the “Wistar Retrospective Symposium” was held in Boston. That one included a number of the same participants as the “Cornell” conference: Dembski, Marks, Meyer, Behe, and Axe among them. The main difference is that the 2007 meeting included some genuine experts in information theory and evolutionary biology who raised embarrassing questions for the ID pushers. Daniel R. Brooks of the University of Toronto was one such expert in attendance, and he guest-authored a post on it for the Thumb. The take-home message from Brooks was
ID dooms itself. In their own words at this conference, IDers espouse a program in which the scope and power of the Designer is restricted to purely human dimensions, in which the effects of the Designer on biological diversity have left no discernible trace that can be detected scientifically, in which the effects of Darwinian processes are the only biological phenomena that can be studied scientifically, and in which Darwinian processes are overwhelmingly more powerful than those of the Designer (because they inevitably cause the Designer’s creations to degenerate). For example, it must be evil Darwinian processes that produce emerging infectious diseases, otherwise each pathogen would remain associated only with the host for which it was designed. This is all just too silly.
Interestingly, immediately following the 2007 conference the organizers emailed participants
… stating that the ID people considered the conference a private meeting, and did not want any of us to discuss it, blog it, or publish anything about it. They said they had no intention of posting anything from the conference on the Discovery Institute’s web site (the entire proceedings were recorded). They claimed they would have some announcement at the time of the publication of the edited volume of presentations, in about a year, and wanted all of us to wait until then to say anything.
So like the recent “Cornell” conference, the organizers of the 2007 meeting planned to publish a proceedings volume, but as far as we can tell it has never appeared. While the year until publication mentioned is now approaching five years (shades of Paul Nelson’s ontogenetic depth!), there’s still nothing visible in prospect. Is the recent “conference” no more than the offspring of the earlier one, this time held sans critics so as to generate a propaganda book minus the embarrassing questions of genuine experts that Brooks described? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
I strongly recommend Brooks’ takedown to Thumb readers.
Hat tip to Joe Felsenstein for the reminder of Brooks’ post.