At the next “Finding God at Iowa” Lunch Forum, Fred Skiff, University of Iowa professor of physics and astronomy, will speak on the theory of intelligent design. The forum will be held from noon to 1 p.m. March 2, in the Ohio State Room (Room 343) on the third floor of the Iowa Memorial Union.
Skiff will offer “A ‘Fireside Chat’ on Intelligent Design.” He will discuss some of the questions underlying the debate over intelligent design in nature, such as: What are the appropriate assumptions, methods, and limits of science? Can the intelligent design argument be properly made within the realm of science?
Why am I so dismayed (well, besides the obvious)? More after the jump.
Now, first of all let me say that I’m absolutely not opposed to a discussion of all of those questions mentioned above–the nature of science, what intelligent design is, etc. In fact, I’ll remind any Iowa area folks that I’m assisting with a symposium next month to address some of those very questions (any teachers reading–register quick, we still have several scholarships left! /end plug). Honest discussion is a good thing, in my opinion. However, I’ve heard Dr. Skiff speak on the topic previously (discussed here and here), and I’ve been, well, underwhelmed, to put it mildly. He has a tendency to conflate acceptance of evolution with atheism (a typical tactic of the Discovery Institute, which is no surprise–Skiff is one of the “Dissent from Darwinism” signatories). I expect more of the same. As I noted in the second post above:
[Skiff] conflated abiogenesis with evolution, wrote off anything that’s “macroevolution” as being “overly reductionist,” said scientists claim that science is a worldview (and that’s in textbooks?), made a complete strawman of those opposed to teaching ID (suggesting that scientists want to “make it illegal to challenge a scientific theory”), and then pissed off both the scientists and philosophers by saying that Epicurean materialism equals hedonism.
So I’m concerned about two issues here. One, that Skiff will provide a strawman version of evolutionary theory (heck, and science itself) as he did last time I saw him speak, and present that to the audience with the authority of a working scientist (even though he’s not a philosopher of science, and even though he’s not an evolutionary biologist, or any type of biologist). Two, that Skiff will assert or imply that evolution implies atheism, and that if one accepts methodological naturalism, one therefore must also accept philosophical naturalism, and choose between evolutionary theory and their religious beliefs. Three, that he will assert that “intelligent design” is the sensible alternative to “orthodox” science, but its study is being repressed by “Darwinists” or something of that nature.
Hopefully I’m being overly pessimistic here; I’ll try to attend on the second and check it out for myself.