December 2, 2005, the day after Eugenie Scott gave a talk Why Scientists Reject ID at GMU under the Provost’s sponsorship, I was providently invited to have tea with the Provost and had the opportunity to give him the pro-ID side of the story before a public gathering of Asian students. I presented a copy of Privileged Planet to him.
I reminded him of the Caroline Crocker ordeal. I pointed out she was far from the only science faculty member who was pro-ID and that there were sympathizers at the highest levels in the school whose identity I was not at liberty to divulge. I informed him several biology and science PhD’s from the school were pro-ID as were many current students in the science curriculum.
I told him that the IDers on campus weren’t aiming to have ID taught in the science class. I informed him the ID sympathetic faculty and students would probably understand that ID in the science curriculum could affect the hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants GMU receives, but as long as they were not publicly disrespected, there would no reason for trouble. Furthermore, there were other venues outside the science class where these topics could be studied anyway. Why can’t we all get along? After all, here in Fairfax, Virginia, pragmatism and the bottom line take precedence over ideology.
I expressed concern over the effect edicts like those made by Hunter Rawlings at Cornell and Timothy White at University of Idaho would have if it came from the head of GMU. I pointed out there was already an open civil war at Iowa State, and GMU didn’t need those kinds of controversies. I pointed out CBS Evening News film crews were buzzing the campus only a few weeks earlier over the Caroline Crocker affair (CBS has yet to air the report, if ever) during an IDEA meeting when Robert Hazen was speaking.
I was hoping the Provost would at least consider whether publicly taking sides on the issue might cause needless friction and whether such an action would cause everyone to lose in the end. I hoped he would rather follow the lead of other university chiefs who chose instead to steer clear of controversy like those reported by John Rennie in Cowardice, Creationism and Science Education. He said to me no edict would be made! Even though the majority of bio-faculty were against ID, he said it was his experience that formal public pronouncements about almost any issue from his office have only been a cause of misunderstandings and thus his office would not be commenting officially anytime soon. Whew!
He said that ID was already taught in the religion and philosophy classes. [Actually, unbeknownst to me at the time, in Biology 494 honors seminar, ID was a major topic.] He said the issue was too important to ignore and that in venues outside of the classroom it would be discussed. I was not sure whether he meant that there would be more Provost-sponsored talks like Eugenie’s, but even that would have been marginally acceptable to me since Eugenie’s talk was mostly tepid and respectful, and did not demean the pro-ID students and faculty. Frankly, Eugenie left the impression that it almost wasn’t that big a deal. She used no fear mongering, or of slamming Christians in her talk. She actually put in a good word for Mike Behe by showing a picture of him and Richard Dawkins side-by-side with the caption: “For every PhD, there is an equal and opposite PhD”. lol.
So here it is a year later, and my eyes almost popped out when I discovered the Provost is hosting the talk The Language of God by Francis Collins. The talk will be at GMU, Wednesday, October 18, 2006 at 7:30 at the Johnson Center. Details here.
Collins, a pioneering medical geneticist who once headed the Human Genome Project, adapts his title from President Clinton’s remarks announcing completion of the first phase of the project in 2000: “Today we are learning the language in which God created life.” Collins explains that as a Christian believer, “the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship.” This marvelous book combines a personal account of Collins’s faith and experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of more general topics of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution. Following the lead of C.S. Lewis, whose Mere Christianity was influential in Collins’s conversion from atheism, the book argues that belief in a transcendent, personal GodÃ¢â‚¬â€and even the possibility of an occasional miracleÃ¢â‚¬â€can and should coexist with a scientific picture of the world that includes evolution. Addressing in turn fellow scientists and fellow believers, Collins insists that “science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced” and “God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible.” Collins’s credibility as a scientist and his sincerity as a believer make for an engaging combination, especially for those who, like him, resist being forced to choose between science and God.
Though Collins is not friendly to biological ID, he is sympathetic to cosmological ID, and he is respectful toward IDers, and thinks science should accept the possibility of miracles. So I hope some of y’all come out to celebrate with me and Dr. Crocker The Language of God.
Discovery Institute staff member Logan Gage did a wonderful job of highlighting the fact Collins is an ID proponent when it comes to the origin of the universe. See Science magazine reviews The Language of God by Francis Collins.
The Virginia/DC area is in a whirlwind of speakers on the subject of ID. Yesterday I saw Jonathan Wells. I could have seen Shermer today, but had a schedule conflict. Next week Francis Collins. The week after that, Richard Dawkins, then the week after that Michael Behe, Guillermo Gonzalez, Paul Nelson, William Lane Craig, Bruce Gordon, JP Moreland. I’m probably going to suffer withdrawal in December….