My offer to discuss ID with Dembski

Over at the DI’s News Evolution News and Views blog, (where you can’t comment on anything), Jonathon Witt writes,

KU Darwinists Duck Intelligent Design Debate

The Lawrence Journal-World covers the story here.

======= “Why won’t the Darwinists at KU debate philosopher and mathematician William Dembski, who will be speaking at a campus forum Jan. 28?

Leonard Krishtalka, director of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, said he was one scientist who declined an invitation to debate Dembski.

“There is nothing to debate,” Krishtalka said. “Intelligent design is religion thinly disguised as science and does not belong in the science classroom.”

I wonder if Krishtalka could at least take the time to show that intelligent design is a religion-based argument. Let’s set the bar really low for his opening statement.

However, Witt fails to mention another part of the story:

Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science, a group critical of intelligent design, said he volunteered to speak at the Campus Crusade event. Krebs said he told organizers he would not defend evolution at the event, but rather take a broad perspective and discuss, for example, his view that evolution need not conflict with religion. But Krebs said he was turned down.

“I think it’s revealing that they want to ‘teach the controversy,’ but they only want to teach the controversy in the way that they see it,” Krebs said.

Brown said he wanted professors to speak at the event. Krebs is not a KU professor. He teaches math at Oskaloosa High School, where he’s also technology director.

I had a nice long talk with the program organizer Mark Brown, the head of Campus Crusade for Christ. I told him that I would not “defend evolution,” but rather that I would discuss some of the flaws in Dembski’s ideas. I also said I would discuss some of the theological issues with ID, pointing out that there were many Christians who accepted evolution, and that there were many critics of ID within the community of Christian theologians and scientists. His response to this was that it was true that some Christians “survived” (his word) accepting evolution, but it was clear that this topic bothered him. He said he would think about my offer to participate.

About a week later I called to see what was decided, and was told Dembski had decided to present alone.

Now I have a few comments on this. First, the newspaper article pointed out that if Dembski would have gotten a KU professor to participate, there somehow would have been some corporate funds to share the cost. (CCC has rented the Lied Center, a 2000 seat auditorium on the KU campus.) Therefore, perhaps they figured if there wasn’t any financial reason to share the stage, why bother.

On the other hand, I do believe that they really don’t want to talk in public about the things I wanted to talk about. They want the façade of credibility for ID by setting it against evolution – against some well-know biology professor like Krishtalka, but they don’t want (and I find this ironic) to actually discuss the issue of Christianity and evolution in front of a group of Christians. What are they afraid of here?

Here is the key point for me, as quoted in the article: “I think it’s revealing that they want to ‘teach the controversy,’ but they only want to teach the controversy in the way that they see it.” They want to define what the controversy is, and they want us to participate in validating their definition by engaging in defending evolution. However, the real controversies are cultural, religious and political, and they refuse to discuss those.

Later the article said,

John Calvert, director of the Intelligent Design Network, which played a key role in the Kansas State Board of Education’s recent adoption of science standards critical of evolution, said he wasn’t surprised KU scientists declined invitations.

“That’s consistent with the boycott of the Kansas hearings,” he said.

Mainstream scientists refused to participate in the board’s hearings, saying they weren’t really about science.

Calvert said scientists’ refusal to compete with intelligent design proponents in a public forum made it difficult to know who is right.

“You can’t know they’re better unless they engage in a competition,” he said.

I’m sure this puts a strain on Nicks’ brand-new shiny irony-meter. Who exactly is refusing to engage in a competition? Who has failed to produce any scientific results in the eight years or so since an “ID research program” was announced as a goal of the Wedge document. Who, in fact, has had the general precepts of ID creationism in its various guises in competition with the idea of evolution for about 150 years, and lost badly?

I offered to present my view of the ID controversy with Dembski. I will gladly offer Calvert the same – is he willing to discuss the controversies that I see about ID? I’m not afraid of competition, but we have to agree on what game we are playing.