Tuesday, 31 May 2011


Exciting breaking news-the non religious centre for intelligent design are offering 50 places on their first ever summer school to "inform emerging professionals of the scientific coherence of and compelling evidence for ID". Not in an actual school, university or any other sort of educational establishment mind you, but he Elim Pentocostal Centre in Malvern, Worcs. A location somewhat lacking in laboratory facilities for the new white hot science of ID? Still perhaps they plan to pray for a test tube or two instead.

Summer school looks intriguingly conspiratorial though. It will look at IDs distinct stance from religious faith. The real story of Dover (the one in their dreams where the evil judge was tricked by the evil scientists, working in league with the devil, into noticing that ID wasn't actually science I guess). The challenge to evolutionary science of abiogenesis, as opposed to the challenge of mud to man in just one day, with rib to woman as an afterthought minutes later. I just can't help wandering how many times they'll repeat the old lie they've got on their website about abiogenesis being just a bunch of silly scientists waiting around for a bunch of silly old chemicals to organise themselves into a cell.

Summer school high spot has just got to be the presentation of clear chemical evidence (exciting-can it be, some real evidence at last?), for intelligent causation (just what could it be-an intelligent designer label perhaps, bar code, best before date, a note saying "God was here" written in amino acids) and of design in a variety of biochemical features (doh I fear this is going to be IDs disappointing old God of the Gaps argument yet again-poo).

Also on offer-the key implications of ID in public and professional life, strategies for promoting ID (lie, lie and lie again) alongside the personal and professional hazards (losing the ability to reason logically perhaps, early onset dementia due to enforced non usage of brain cells).

Tutors attending include Warwick University's Steve Fuller representing that little known branch of biochemistry-sociology. Langlois the wealthy and mysterious Guernsey lawyer, a David Williams who is also a lawyer and Johnathan Wells from the Discovery Institute. Lots of others will be there, including Noble and Galloway, the jolly old crypto creationists running C4ID.

To win a coveted place you will have to demonstrate an interest in and commitment to the design argument (what argument is that then?). To prove commitment you will have to provide a CV, a statement of your interest AND a letter of recommendation from a person of standing who knows your work and is friendly to ID (I imagine MI5 recruits operatives in a similar way, ID does sound exciting doesn't it boys and girls). It even says you'll get a special code number on application-doesn't say yet that you'll have to eat it but I bet you will. And you will be searched before you enter-for what it doesn't say-bombs, knives, recording equipment or seditious copies of the Journal of Molecular Evolution?

Best of all in the paranoiac conspiracy stakes it states due to the "professional sensitivity" of ID "participation will be handled in strict confidence and annonymity" candidates will be issued with cyanide capsules in the event that they are caught and tortured to reveal what the evidence for ID actually is. I made that last bit up by the way but the rest is true.

An initial cost of £600 has been slashed thanks to a generous "grant from a UK source" (ooh more mystery-how exciting it all sounds). Now nobody will pay more than £300. A lucky 10 applicants will pay just £100-yes that's right just £100, 20 just £200 and the rest at £300. And for that you'll get £600 worth of accommodation in the Elim Petacostal Centre. All rooms en suite, heated swimming pool and all set in 32 acres of glorious countryside within easy reach of the genuinely stunning Malvern Hills (not strapped for a few bob are they these Elims-charity really does begin at home for them).

If you're still not taken with the idea of partaking in your own ID secret agent thrillathon, C4ID are further tempting you with tiny snippets from a selection of its speakers. Guillermo Gonzalez tantalises us by saying the case will be weakened or strenghtened depending on how strong the correlation is between habitability and measurability (no I didn't have a clue either-mysterious isn't it).

Jonathan Wells has us metaphorically clawing at the doors with his impassioned portrayal of anguished incredulity as he says "how do you get from a jellyfish to a trilobite or fish, we just don't know, we just don't know, WE JUST DON'T KNOW" (well read a bloody biology book JW-then you will know). Followed by "Darwinism is the real science stopper, it stops us enquiring. When Darwinism says all these animals just appeared, thats not science it just stops research". Er no JW, that isn't science thats the book of Genesis. Darwinism is the one where the animals didn't just appear, they evolved over long periods of time (jellyfish to fish-remember the thing you just don't know). "Darwinism", or to use the usual phrase, "biology", would be the one that spawned mountains of research and sparked all sorts of new scientific endeavours.

Far and away my favourite ID trailer though has got to be Steve Fuller. Perhaps because I went out with a sociologist when doing my A levels, mainly because his ability to say lots of confusing things I didn't understand impressed me (and he had a car). Likewise Steve Fuller stating the bleeding obvious as he gives his incisive take on the word 'theory' from, he tells us, 'Philosophy of Science 101'

To summarise Steve's bit: evolution is a theory it can be falsified (it can Stevie but it hasn't and it's not looking likely in the foreseeable future), there can be alternatives to it (yes there can but in practice no viable one has emerged in the last 150 years), it's a theory not a fact Mr Dawkins (wanna sure fire way to identify creationism-listen out for the mention of Dawkins-gotcha Stevie), a theory is just a souped up hypothesis or a series of interconnected hypotheses that can all be individually falsified (well blow me down with an evolved feather), that isn't contentious, that's Philosophy of Science 101, even though they thought it was contentious at Pennsylvania (well I guess thats cos they were inconsiderate enough to draft in real scientists at Pennsylvania Steve).

Maybe Steve gets on to more salient points later or maybe he hasn't done Philosophy of Science 102 yet, but certain FACTS are conspicuous by their absence. He omits to state that for a 'theory' to become a theory it has to be testable and make verifiable predictions. And in practice theories can be pretty much accepted as fact when they are rigorously tested and confirmed over and over again. Evolution satisfies on all counts and has been tested to destruction using real science-nothing has dented it. And as science has moved on (for example the sequencing of the genome) it has been retested in new and previously unthought-of disciplines, and still nothing has dented it.

And he forgets that to test against an alternative, you first need an alternative to test. Which is? Surely he can't mean ID? Strip away the superfluous words and whizzy jargon (irreducible complexity anyone) and ID boils down to "if something has lots of parts that perform a function, you can't remove those parts without losing the whole function. It therefore has to have been designed". And if some inconvenient scientist then points out that the appearance of design is a feature of evolution or shows conclusively how you can remove parts and retain functionality or shows how it could actually have evolved-then just bluster and say they would say that wouldn't they. Thats not really science Steve, thats counting, counting cells for Jesus to be more precise.

So if you want to be a scientist but don't fancy years learning all that bothersome science stuff, or if espionage is more your thing and you fancy the paranoid glamour of being at the cutting edge fo dodgy propaganda then "the burgeoning new profession" of ID is for you. Get yourself to Malvern 18th to 22nd of July 2011 (don't forget to pack a false beard). For more details plus an application e mail contact, secret code number and a mysterious 'UK source' bursery, go to www.c4id.org.uk/summerschool I'd just love to join you but I think I have some paint to watch dry that week.

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