‘Unease’ over crackpot conference

‘Unease’ over crackpot conference

A one-day creationist conference at Michigan State University (MSU) will include a discussion of how evolutionary theory influenced Adolf Hitler’s worldview.

According to Science Insider, the 1 November event, called the Origin Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based non-profit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to:

Challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.

News of the event caught MSU’s scientific community largely by surprise. Creation Summit secured a room at the university’s business school through a student religious group, but the student group did not learn about the details of the programme – nor the sometimes provocative talk titles – until later, says MSU zoologist Fred Dyer.

One of the talks targets the work of MSU biologist Richard Lenski, who has conducted an influential, decades-long study of evolution in bacterial populations.


Richard Lenski

Creation Summit sought to hold the event at MSU because “four of our Board members live there in Michigan,” wrote Mike Smith, the group’s executive director, in an e-mail to Science Insider.

We hope to have conferences on campuses throughout the country, but ya gotta start somewhere.

Smith wrote:

Creation Summit is not overtly evangelistic but we hope to pave the way for evangelism (for the other campus ministries) by presenting the scientific evidence for intelligent design. Once students realize they’re created beings, and not the product of natural selection, they’re much more open to the Gospel, to the message of God’s love & forgiveness.

MSU has a prominent community of evolutionary biologists. In addition to Lenski, it is the home campus of biologist Robert Pennock, who provided high-profile testimony in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, a 2005 federal court case that produced a ruling against the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

MSU is also the lead partner in the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, a multi-university effort funded by the National Science Foundation that pursues a wide range of evolution-related research and education efforts.

Some leaders of MSU’s evolutionary biology community are urging their colleagues to simply ignore the event, predicting that any engagement and debate will be fruitless.

Lenski said:

In my opinion, this event will be just another forgettable blip in the long history of anti-science, anti-evolution screeds. I suppose the speakers chose to target our research … because their event is being held here, and maybe because they find it confusing to their worldview that evolution isn’t supposed to happen.

Creation Summit invited both Lenski and Pennock to participate in a debate at the event; Lenski says he declined.

MSU plant biologist David Lowry said that he and some colleagues also worry that the event could harm MSU’s reputation within the scientific community.

But Kent Cassella, MSU’s associate vice president for communications, said:

Free speech is at the heart of academic freedom and is something we take very seriously. Any group, regardless of viewpoint, has the right to assemble in public areas of campus or petition for space to host an event so long as it does not engage in disorderly conduct or violate rules. While MSU is not a sponsor of the creation summit, MSU is a marketplace of free ideas.

Meanwhile, Creation Summit’s Smith says the group is trying to find a partner organization to help them organize a similar event at University of Texas, Arlington.

• Picture of a creationist message on the hood of a car by Amy Watts/Flickr.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

25 responses to “‘Unease’ over crackpot conference”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    Lenski does right not to get roped into this shabby nonsense as it would only lend it a semblance of credibility. As Richard Dawkins said when he refused to debate William Lane Craig, ‘That would look great on your CV, not so good on mine.’

    BTW, what is it with religiots and vandalising their own cars?

  2. Broga says:

    The crackpot approach is basic, inevitable and shameless. There is one premise: the bible is the inerrant word of God. Once that is accepted any lie, deception or censorship will be used to confirm the “truth” which is already known.

    Within the crackpot religious conference there will be no free speech. All must conform and address themselves to supporting what has already been accepted. Challenge is not allowed, support of the most bizarre ideas endorsed and a pathetic exercise in group delusion is carried out. In a world which has left them behind they cling to their superstitions inside their bubble of nonsense.

    I don’t think “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman or “The God Delusion” will be on their bookstall.

  3. Broga says:

    @AgentCorman: Thanks for the link. Great piece from Richard Dawkins. He is one classy writer with an enviable ability to use temperate polemic. If there is such a thing.

  4. AgentCormac says:


    Temperate polemic – I like that. Although I have a feeling it might well be an oxymoron!

  5. Newspaniard says:

    @Broga. “Within the crackpot religious conference there will be no free speech”. A bit like in mosques, then?

  6. AgentCormac says:


    A bit like in any religious institution.

  7. David Anderson says:

    First I read, “Challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.”

    Then, “…by presenting the scientific evidence for intelligent design.”
    Didn’t bother with the rest.

    The photo at the top says it all, these people are proud of their ignorance and will not accept any evidence that proves otherwise.

  8. Stuart H. says:

    “Creation Summit secured a room at the university’s business school through a student religious group”

    I think that says it all. Evolution denial is primarily a business opportunity for evangelical careerists, not a scientific enterprise. The only serious research these chancers do is of the numbers of gullible worshippers with enough disposable income to pay to listen.

    A tip – we had one of these guys rock up over here last year, who had also made some rabidly homophobic comments on his website (in effect saying the Bible says it’s OK to kill gays). He’d agreed to speak for free to a church in return for a church member setting him up a paying gig as an after-dinner speaker, where he’d also flog his books and DVDs. We sent the website links to the local press and revealed the privately advertised after-dinner venue, ensuring nobody came for fear of being photographed by the press going in and they couldn’t even sell enough tickets to pay the booking fee. Don’t waste time debating with career conspiracy theorists, just hit them in the bank account and they never come back.

  9. L.Long says:

    It always comes down to ….
    I’m ignorant as dog schite.
    I don’t want to look at any evidence.
    By book of BS says this…I believe it… is so & U R wrong!!

    There is never any evidence that their points are valid.
    How can anyone look at one of these conferences and be convinced??
    Unless they are already convinced before entering.

  10. Barry Duke says:

    Speaking of bollocks parading as science, take a look at, and perhaps join in the campaign to halt a dangerous juggernaut called What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

    “It’s the pinnacle of pseudoscience presented as respectable mainstream science and health journalism. In reality it’s conspiratorial, anti-vaccine and should be utterly distasteful to anyone with a high-school science education. In previous issues, this supposed health magazine, has suggested homeopathic options instead of vaccinations for foreign travel and cancer, continues to link autism and the MMR jab, the HPV vaccine with sudden deaths of teenage girls, and much more. All of these have either been debunked, are a complete misrepresentation, or cherry picking of genuine scientific research.”

  11. Angela_K says:

    And reports say the Pope reckons Evolution and the “Big Bang” are real while actually saying no such thing:

  12. jay says:

    Just ignore these idiots. Anything else including objection will just give them recognition.

  13. Broga says:

    @Angela_K: Step by bitter step science and evidence is forcing the religious to retreat. That they do so in their usual shifty way doesn’t change the fact that they are having to back down. Frankie still clings to his superstitions but I suspect that, like many others, he needs them to preserve his career.

    I see at the bottom of the link you sent that 1 in 50 C.of E. clergy don’t believe in God. My guess is that the number is far higher than that. The faith is sustained by the semi-literate masses; those who see it as helpful to their careers e’g’ politicians and clergy; the Queen and some of her sprogs; and the BBC.

  14. Broga says:

    @Barry Duke: ” What Doctors Don’t Tell You” is, as you say, bollocks. I think Prince Charles will be an eager reader of this dangerous junk filled magazine. He can afford to be as, despite his espousal of homeopathy, he avails himself of the best clinical treatment and no NHS queues for Charlie boy.

  15. AgentCormac says:


    It isn’t just members of the RCC hierarchy that doesn’t actually believe in god – apparently 1 in 50 anglican priests can’t find it in themselves to accept the concept of a deity either.

    As the intro to the article I’ve linked to below states, ‘As a prerequisite for the job of being a Church of England priest, it would seem not unreasonable to expect a belief in God to be fairly essential. But according to a poll of Anglican clergy as many as 16 per cent are unclear about God and two per cent think it is no more than a human construct.’

    There’s even an organisation called Sea of Faith, that claims to represent dozens of vicars, which rejects the traditional belief in one personal God. Unbelievable, so to speak.

  16. Paul Cook says:

    @ Agent Cormac

    I think you have badly misquoted that quote.

    I think it reads thus:
    “….. expect a belief in God to be a fairy essential….”

  17. Broga says:

    @AgentCormac: Interesting article that. One vicar says he uses the terminology of God but never suggests God exists. He regards religion as similar to literature and art – it provides useful insights into how you should live. I would have thought that far from being useful it would confuse and distort.

    On guidance on how to live I came across an interview in “Stoicism Today: Selected Writings” with John Lloyd (TV producer of “Not the Nine O’clock News”; “Blackadder”; “Spitting Image”; “Q1”. Lloyd, who took up Stoicism after a mental breakdown, was asked “Do you believe in God?”

    He said, “I refuse to discuss whether God exists until you tell me what you mean by God. Then I’ll tell you if I believe it.” I remember Richard Dawkins saying something similar. When asked if you believe in God, ask the questioner what they mean by God.

    I have tried this a few times and the answers never rise above comments about everyone knowing what is meant by God or “It’s what the bible says.”

    I suppose the unbelieving vicars have asked themselves that question and failed to find a satisfactory answer.

  18. AgentCormac says:

    @ Paul Cook
    LMAO! Very good.

    @ Broga
    I’ll have to give that one a try. I can imagine the confusion already.

  19. Broga says:

    @AgentCormac: I put the question politely as if seeking information and nod encouragingly as the ramble goes on.

  20. Matt Westwood says:

    “Evolution is a fairy-tale for adults.”

    Same as how freedom of speech is the fascist jackboot oppression of the religious, and how secularism is repression of the right to enforce religious opinion.

  21. Paul Cook says:

    In any truthful analysis on evolution, science can prove it, but religion cannot.

    Apart from the infantile drivel of stone age myths,(christo-judean) religion has no credible response to evolution, but what these religions do is they hijack evolution and say that god guides evolution and it is, therefore compatible to religion and is a product of god.

    On this one point at least islam is honest: it just denies evolution is true.

  22. andym says:

    @ Agent Cormac. By coincidence, the philosopher AJ Ayer is on Freethoughts for today.It seems he long refused to call himself an atheist on the grounds that it was a denial of a proposition which had never been formulated coherently enough to require a response. Eventually, it appears he became more pragmatic.

    On the subject of debating evolution with creationists, it can’t be stated enough that it’s a bad idea. They get trounced, but bounce back up like a flattened space-hopper, using the fact of the debate to argue that they are serious scientists.

  23. AgentCormac says:


    Many thanks for the link. I love the quote they have highlighted from Ayer:
    ‘I do not believe in God. It seems to me that theists of all kinds have very largely failed to make their concept of a deity intelligible; and to the extent that they have made it intelligible, they have given us no reason to think that anything answers to it.’

  24. AgentCormac says:

    Here’s PZ Myers’ take on the whole thing over at Pharyngula:

  25. Robster says:

    There’s much silly happening here, sad to see a university hosting this profoundly nonsensical event, it gives the whole thing a degree of undeserved credibility. What’s needed is a gathering of regular intelligent science believers to collect outside the venue and to laugh with much gusto at all the idiots attending.