Stranger Fruit

Gordon on Brooks on the shy face of ID

Bruce Gordon is expectorating on Dan Brooks’ post on the ID conference (see here). Remember that Brooks received an email after the meeting "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." As we will see, nothing in the correspondence before the conference indicated that participants could not "discuss it, blog it, or publish anything about it." In short, Gordon and the Discovery Institute engaged in a classic bait-and-switch.


One of the co-organizers of the conference was an honorable ID-critic, Bruce Weber, who is a biochemist at Cal State Fullerton. Both Bruce Weber and I had direct email correspondence with Brooks and all of the other participants. The PT assertion that attendees were given the impression that the conference was organized by the Wistar Institute or that it was billed as a Gordon Conference is ridiculous, as can be seen from the text of Bruce Weber’s initial email to Brooks, in which it is also made clear that the conference would be a private one “out of press view.”


Afterwards Stephen Meyer indicated that there were plans afoot to have a second Wistar Symposium, this time on the issues of emergence vs design. … Recently, Bruce Gordon, who is the research director at the Discovery Institute contacted me to indicate that they have funding to support a second Wistar conference sometime in late spring or early summer of 2007, probably in Boston, on whether natural mechanisms can account for the emergence of novel information and structures or if some design argument needs to be considered. Bruce Gordon assures me that this is meant to be a scientific meeting, out of press view, and that he is looking for "researchers active in mathematical, computational and experimental biology who, while acknowledging that there are philosophical differences in the various approaches represented at the conference, will focus on the biological data and its mathematical analysis with the purpose of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each approach as a scientific research program, NOT as an ideological stance in a culture war." [emphasis mine]

Meyer and Weber seemed to think of this as a Wistar conference. And "out of press view" doesn’t mean that the conference cannot be talked about afterwards. Gordon claims that because the proceedings were to be published "the reasonable implication [was] that extensive public discussion of the symposium content before the release of the proceedings, particularly commentary of the sort offered by Brooks aimed at undermining the symposium, would be extremely bad form and a gross breach of academic etiquette." Now that’s just BS, and I suspect Gordon knows it is. Academic inquiry works on the free exchange and discussion of ideas after academic conferences.

Lastly here Gordon presents "evidence" that Brooks must have know that no commentary was allowed after the conference as he had received an e-mail which stated "The symposium is a closed research conference, so neither the media nor members of the public will be present."

I guess I’m wondering why the DI didn’t explicitly tell folks that no commentary was allowed? Could it be to attract real scientists and dupe them into allowing a (no doubt heavily edited) publication to appear before they could comment on what really went on? Whatever the motive, Gordon’s effort at correcting Brooks is full of fail.

Edit: I got Bruce Gordon and Bruce Chapman mixed up there for a minute.


  1. #1 Josh Rosenau
    February 22, 2008

    “Now that’s just BS, and I suspect Chapman knows it is”

    Probably, but so does Gordon.

  2. #2 John Lynch
    February 22, 2008

    Dammit! I thought I had caught them all.

  3. #3 sparc
    February 23, 2008

    Seems that after Brooks’ post they can’t keep the Wistar Retrospective Symposium secret: Paul Nelson published his talk on UD and you will find a transcript of GJ Chaitin’s talk at the meeting here

  4. #4 RBH
    February 23, 2008

    I just zoomed through UD and don’t see Nelson’s talk — got a URL, sparc?

  5. #5 RBH
    February 23, 2008

    Gack. Nebbermind — I found it.

  6. #6 John Lynch
    February 23, 2008

    And yet you didn’t post the link 🙂

    Here it is.

  7. #7 Bobby
    February 24, 2008

    Heh. These people are always claiming that real science is just a big conspiracy to suppress the truth… maybe they really do think a scientific conference is supposed to be a secret meeting of the cult conspirators.

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