Traveling and scholarship

Sorry for minimal blogging lately, which will continue for the next week or so, most likely.

Last Friday I headed off to Kansas, where I helped celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of Kansas Citizens for Science. It was a great time, and a great thing to celebrate. Marvelous to see the gang again and to think about the next decades of KCFS’s future.

From there, I was off to Minneapolis, where I participated – along with NCSE’s Peter Hess – in a symposium at the University of St. Thomas Law School on “ID and the Constitution.” Other panelists included Disco. spinner Casey Luskin, law school professor and ID promoter David DeWolf, and former TMLC lawyer and counsel to the Dover school board during Kitzmiller Patrick Gillen. Gillen largely rehashed his closing statement from that case, and then mounted an extended paean to the wonders of Steve Fuller. Odd, given that Fuller’s testimony did more damage to ID’s cause than some of the plaintiffs’ experts. DeWolf rehashed a tired defense of ID. Hess observed that ID is not science, and that if it is theology, it is remarkably bad theology, and is probably blasphemous. Casey defended the various anti-evolution strategies currently on display from the Disco. ‘Tute, including “academic freedom” laws and supplemental textbook Explore Evolution, all the while accusing NCSE and the science community in general of all manner of dishonesty, censorship, dogmatism, etc.

He also seemed to indicate a personal adherence to the neo-creationist “orchard” model of life’s origins, with numerous separate acts of creation. This, he argued, was a more plausible account of the origins of platyrrhine monkeys in South America (disjunct from their nearest neighbors in Africa), than the hypothesis that they crossed the ocean on hurricane-driven mats of vegetation when the two continents were closer than they are today. For whatever reason, when I later challenged him on this claim, referring to it as the idea that the monkeys “poofed into existence in South America,” Casey regarded the notion as absurd.

My talk largely paralleled Casey’s, since I set about arguing that policies advanced in the post-Dover/post-ID era of creationism suffer the same legal and pedagogical flaws as earlier strategies, and are likely to meet the same fate when challenged in court. There was also a talk by philosopher Thomas Sullivan, who was essentially dealing with a different conception of “intelligent design” than everyone else, so we’ll set aside his remarks.

It was a bracing discussion, and I felt rather outnumbered on the panel (the discussion never got close enough to a substantive theological dispute for Hess’s expertise to come to bear). Nevertheless, I think I held my own in the defense of evolution and the critique of ID. Casey got the last word, I believe, dishonestly accusing me of “censorship.” Full versions of all the arguments will be in the papers we all, and several other scholars, contributed to a special issue of the school’s law review.

No time to rest on my laurels, though, because I’m off to Egypt tomorrow! I’ll be participating in the British Council’s “Darwin’s Living Legacy” conference in the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina. After the conference, I’ll be bumming around Egypt for a few days, including a stop by Wadi al-Hitan, the Valley of the Whales where numerous fossils have been found to document the early evolution of whales and manatees from their landliving ancestors. Should be awesome, and I’ll share some photos when I get back. Naturally, I’ll liveblog sessions when possible, and update y’all on events, but don’t expect any regularity in the posts here.

Any readers living in Egypt or who are planning to attend the conference should email me.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael D. Barton
    November 12, 2009

    Egypt trip/conference sounds very neat. Look forward to hearing about it!

  2. #2 Nick (Matzke)
    November 12, 2009

    “For whatever reason, when I later challenged him on this claim, referring to it as the idea that the monkeys “poofed into existence in South America,” Casey regarded the notion as absurd.”

    I’m confused, didn’t you say he just argued for the special creation of the South American monkey group?

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