I attended the final session of the Shrewsbury “Honest to Darwin” series of events, which was a lecture by Stephen C Meyer of the Discovery Institute. I hope later to write more fully about the apparent purpose of these events and Dr Meyer’s lecture. In the meantime, here are a few comments.
This event was promoted by the organisers (the Shrewsbury Deep Waters Trust) as an “Intelligent Design event“, and to “look honestly at Darwin’s original views and their relationship to contemporary neo-Darwinism”. However, the person who introduced Dr Meyer and closed the whole programme (apparently Martin Charlesworth, Pastor of Barnabas Community Church, Shrewsbury), in his closing remarks, made it clear that the purpose of the week was against evolution and to promote theistic views and Christianity.
The lecture was attended by a capacity audience I estimated as approaching 200, and I got a sense that there were few sceptics there. The books on sale at the bookstall consisted of Christian and creationist books and some of the ‘answers to Dawkins’ genre. I did not see any titles devoted to explaining evolutionary theory! This is a shame, as the person who wrote the press release advertising the series of events clearly had no real idea of what evolution is about.
I missed the previous speaker, who was Andy McIntosh. Prof. McIntosh has in the past claimed that evolution is contrary to the second law of thermodynamics – this is not only false, but a real howler. Whether he made this claim to the gathering in Shrewsbury I do not know.
Dr Meyer’s lecture didn’t seem to contain much new (even though it was supposed to be based on his as-yet unpublished book) and heavily emphasised “specified complexity”. At the end of the lecture, one of the audience asked when the ideas in Dr Meyer’s lecture would reach “the schools”. Dr Meyer gave a glowing account of the research into Intelligent Design that the Discovery Institute claims is being carried out by many scientists, and how ID is supposedly gaining ground in science.
So I took the opportunity to ask what names I should look out for in order to follow this research. Dr Meyer named one name only: Douglas Axe, who was in the audience and is apparently the director of the Biologic Institute set up by the Discovery Institute itself. Perhaps the new book will contain an account of some of this research.
The unanswered questions of evolutionary theory are the sign of a live and vigorous research programme that brings together disparate parts of biology and geology, and is extending knowledge all the time. Intelligent Design is a backwater in which the same few people say the same few things over and over again. Even though the audience was uncritical and most of its members were probably desperate to believe Dr Meyer’s assertions, I still find it dishonest to try to represent ID to them as being some body of research comparable to mainstream biology, when in fact it is miniscule and primarily concerned with politics, not science. [bpsdb]