‘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.
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.
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.
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