John on May 13, 2006 at 8:47 am
Last night I attended the Intelligent Design Under Fire event at Biola. The event included a panel of the best known faces of ID including Michael Behe, Jonathan Wells, Steve Meyer, Guillermo Gonzales and Paul Nelson. Sitting on the opposite side of the stage were a group of ID critics. The core of the critics panel was composed of three individuals from Cal State Fullerton: Bruce H. Weber, a biochemist, James R. Hofmann, chair of liberal studies and Craig M. Nelson, professor of comparative religion.
In addition, Keith Morrison from NBC news was there. Keith began the debate by confessing his ignorance of the science, which was fine. His interest was in the social and political aspects of the debate, which was also fine. Later he drew grumbles from many in the audience when, in response to a statemet by Steve Meyer, Morrison repeated his line about his own ignorance and then waved his hand to the audience indicating that probably only 1/10th of them understood the comment as well. Really, Keith, did you take a poll? On the contrary I think 90% of the audience understood Meyer and it was telling that the NBC media rep. clearly was way behind the crowd of Biola undergrads when it came to understanding the debate.
Dr. Antony Flew was also on the critics panel, but didn’t ask a single question. At one point about mid-way through the debate I noticed he seemed to be asleep. I attribute this to the fact that he is 83 years old rather than to the debate itself which was lively and even a bit heated at moments. There was a lone woman on the panel who was listed as a writer and activist, though her background was a Ph.D. in philosophy. She argued that ID was an attempt by religion to use the cloak of postmodernism to steal the cultural respect of science.
The best exchanges of the evening were scientific. The chemist on the panel challenged Behe with some recent journal articles. Behe was clearly familiar with all of them and argued that they didn’t prove what they claimed to. There was a mini-debate at one point later in the evening about the importance of consensus in science. The ID folks made a pretty convincing case that there was a significant amount of institutional bias at work and that the discussion had been engaged in scientific literature, though primarily only from one side of the issue.
The event went half and hour long, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining. Dr. Bloom closed with a suggestion that we do it again next year on the Cal State campus rather than at Biola. All in all an excellent event. I think it would have been stronger had the anti-ID panel included a few more agressive questioners, but it appears that pressure was exerted to keep some of the better known critics from attending.
On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting Roger from the A-Team blog. He happened to be in line right in front of me and we ended up sitting next to each other in the 3rd row at the event. When Roger posts his thoughts on the event, I’ll add a link.