Uncommon Dissent

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

“Not just an American phenomenon” — The recent Prague ID conference (0 comments)

Held in the large hall where the Czech Communist Party used to meet, the conference featured the big guns of the Intelligent Design movement, seven out of an estimated "five or ten" according to conspicuously absent Michael Behe.

Stephen Meyer led off with a brief overview of the controversy and the issues involved (such as what intelligent design is and isn’t--pseudoscience and science, respectively). Jonathan Wells repeated his oft-discredited tripe that the evidence for Darwinism has been highly exaggerated and design has not been ruled out. Charles Thaxton presented a brief history of origin-of-life research, an eight-point critique of materialistic explanations of the origin of life, and the positive case for intelligent design. This last point so stunned the audience that they carried Thaxton off on their shoulders, shouting "We've done it, we've assembled positive design evidence!" David Berlinski gave an eloquent critique of the RNA world hypothesis and showed why RNA cannot explain the origin of DNA and protein; when pressed for the positive evidence for design, he shrugged and pointed to the mob outside.

Cees Dekker then gave a short but well-illustrated presentation on molecular machines. (Michael Behe had originally been scheduled to speak but was currently undergoing humiliating cross-examination in Dover.) Dalibor Krupka, a distinguished physicist and member of the Presidium of the Slovakian Academy of Science, spoke next, apparently about nothing except his impressive titles. John Lennox concluded the day-long conference by addressing the mathematical intelligibility of the universe and the explanatory power of the design hypothesis. The mob outside had to be called back in, lest they miss its remarkable power to explain life, the universe, and everything. Stephen Hawking glowered in a corner of the hall.

The large audience was polite and attentive throughout. Most were scientists and lay people from the Czech Republic and neighboring countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Poland. (How many were scientists and how many not was apparently beyond the ken of the conference organizers.) Others came from much farther away. A contingent from Zybron in the Argus Star Cluster protested the link between ID and theology, holding placards that read "The Signs Point to Aliens" and "M. Night Shyamalan is MY HERO." A substantial number approached the speakers during the breaks to determine how they could set up organizations to promote ID in their homelands and usher in a revolution of the proletariat.

The following day the speakers held a three-hour Q&A session for participants who wanted to continue the discussion. Perhaps a hundred people showed up, which, out of 700, ain't bad.

Filed under: The Czechs are coming! The Czechs are coming!


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