The Real Story of the Hunt and Meyer Exchange

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from Arthur Hunt and Stephen Meyer here:

On another thread there is a silly debate about who won a public exchange at Biola University between @Art and Meyer on Signature in the Cell. A silly debate because…

Though there was something beautiful uncovered. @Art posted his take on the event, but also included what happened afterwards. This is the real story of the event…

A postscript

I mentioned some “professorial” activities that ended up making this trip quite rewarding. One of these was something I volunteered to do once I accepted Biola’s invitation to be on the panel of critics. I knew almost nothing about Biola, and I decided that one thing that would take some of the edge off of this experience would be to offer to give a seminar or lecture to the Biola scientific community. I decided that a lecture would be a better way to interact with students and Biola faculty outside of the adversarial, “us vs. them” atmosphere of the Meyer event. To my great and good fortune, the head of the Apologetics Program (that was organizing the event) forwarded my offer to the science faculty, and I was able to give a lecture to a large and diverse class. The lecture itself was a challenge, and I am not sure how well I pulled it off – the class was a collection of upper-level students who had a lot of biology course background, and younger science majors who had yet to take many (if any) biology classes. I chose to talk about some of the behind-the-scenes developments in plant biology that contributed to the unfolding of the small RNA story. This allowed me to talk about plant biotechnology (something that might interest a first-year student) and small RNAs.

Needless to say, the class reacted very well to my lecture, and I got several excellent and insightful questions throughout the talk. The following interactions I had with my two faculty hosts for the afternoon were also splendid. I was impressed, and I must ashamedly admit pleasantly surprised, by the students and my two hosts. I can only hope that this effort on my behalf allowed the students and their professors to see a “critic” in a different and more complimentary light.

What if interactions between the ID movement and scientists could look more like this? Would that not be a better sort of way?

@Art, I had some questions:

  1. Have you maintained contact with anyone at BioLa?

  2. Can you tell us the professors with whom you interacted?

  3. How do you think we can build trust with students in institutions outside the mainstream of science?

Arthur Hunt and Stephen Meyer here
(Daniel Deen) #2

I think this is a very important point to remember for you all who are at research institutes. The small liberal arts colleges are often more than willing to invite outsiders into their classrooms and small student groups. We love drawing on bigger resources than we can individually supply to our classes. We are, however, often very limited in terms of institutional support, i.e., funds! We also do not necessarily want to step on toes, meaning, if @Art was brought in on money from another department, it is rare that we would try and “borrow” the speaker due to professional courtesy. However, if you reach out to us, as Art did, that changes the dynamic a bit. @swamidass is good on this as well, I couldn’t get him to stop talking to people when he visited my campus :smile:

Moreover, there is often internal tensions at small colleges regarding science/religion issues that may not be representative of the political front put forward by the university in public. For instance, did Biola have any of there own scientists involved in the public discussion regarding Meyer’s book? Why or why not? I imagine that the biologists at Biola are not 100% on board with Meyer’s book. They are trained scientists and can often provide more comfortable insight (to the institution) into the strengths and weaknesses of books such as Meyer’s. I experienced a lovely reading group with my fellow biologist reading Doug Axe’s book and Behe’s Edge of Evolution book. I learned a ton as they took me deeper into the science than I could ever go on my own as we slowly worked through their research. They could also fill in the details of the fudging that tends to happen in popular books that I could only “sniff out” as problematic, but could not necessarily express due to lack of scientific training.

My strategy, and I’m sensing that @swamidass is also coming around to this, has always been to educate the next generation. Taking ID as an example, the battle lines and professional rigidity have been drawn. Can they be broken down, yes. PeacefulScience seems rather helpful in cultivating actual dialogue along these lines. However, the more powerful witness is the next generation of students who observe what is happening and carry it on in their professional work and their own students and so on and so on… I think @Eddie would agree with me on this, but a new bibliography is required for the debate and conversation and that is going to require taking a long game as the bibliography is curated and passed along to our students, friends, and colleagues.

A New Generation Wants a Better Way
Daniel Deen and Joel Oesch: The Lutheran Voice and Crosswise Institute
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

This is a very important observation. I wonder the same thing. Christian institutions can be very dangerous places for ID dissenters. It is risky to challenging the ID establishment, as they are not okay with people who break ranks, or at least that is what faculty at these institutions have told me.

That is exactly right. Most of the key players in the ID movement are on the way out. This is true for both ID, YEC, OEC, and New Atheism. Yes there is exceptions. Most, however, are from another generation.

@patrick was salient on this recently…

There is a new generation of scholars rising that wants to find another way. For those that have been in the center of this mess for the last 10 to 30 years, helps us find that better way too. We could use the humble guidance of leaders that can show us how to do better then they. If that is not a shared goal, maybe just get out of our way.

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A New Generation Wants a Better Way
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #4

It seems like that were having fun too, right?:smile:

(S. Joshua Swamidass) split this topic #5

6 posts were merged into an existing topic: A New Way Forward


GCAT-SEEK looks like a very good program for students. Did you ever consider tying it in with Richard Dawkins TIES and NCSE?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) split this topic #11

4 posts were split to a new topic: Advocating Science Without Engaging it?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) split this topic #15

24 posts were split to a new topic: Coyne Says Religion and Science Incompatible?

Coyne Says Religion and Science Incompatible?