I attended and spoke at a meeting in Erzurum in eastern Turkey on May 7. Suppose I told you the topic of the meeting was “Partial Differential Equations in Geophysical Modeling,” and then I added, since the meeting was in Turkey, the majority of the speakers and attendees were Muslim. You would say, the religious views of the participants are completely irrelevant, why would you even mention this? Well, suppose I told you the topic was “The Proper Role of Theology in Politics.” Then the religion of the participants would not be irrelevant at all.
Actually, the primary topic was Darwinism and Intelligent Design, here is the report I posted earlier at Uncommon Descent about this meeting, organized by a 23-year old student, Enes Kayan, and administered entirely by students. Most the speakers and attendees were naturally Muslim, but, with the exception of the last two talks of the day, which dealt with whether or not Darwinism was compatible with Islam (and arrived at differing conclusions), I don’t believe the others even mentioned Islam. Most of the talks focused on the origin and evolution of life, but one physics professor discussed the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics. Several speakers promoted Intelligent Design as an alternative to Darwinism, others criticized Darwinism without offering an alternative, while at least one defended the traditional Darwinist view. The topics discussed, the range of viewpoints offered, and the evidence and arguments presented in support of ID were all very familiar to me, and not significantly different from those at, say, the Cornell 2011 meeting (and my talk was also similar, of course!). Enes has since expressed to me his hopes of convincing Michael Behe, a catholic, or David Berlinski, an agnostic critic of Darwinism, to come and speak at next year’s Congress. Honestly, the fact that the majority of the speakers and attendees were Muslim was entirely irrelevant at this meeting— again, with the exception of the last two talks.
One of the speakers who presented arguments supporting Intelligent Design was from the Center for Islam and Science in Edmonton, Canada, and wore the full dress of an Islamic cleric. His talk, in English, included a discussion of “irreducible complexity” and a slide presenting Bill Dembski’s “explanatory filter” in detail. While this speaker and I might disagree on religious issues, he did not say anything I disagreed with (or if he did, it was strictly a scientific disagreement), because the topic of his talk was Intelligent Design, not theology, and the arguments and evidence he presented were quite similar to arguments and evidence presented by ID proponents at Cornell 2011 or Biola 2006.
I offer this meeting as evidence that although Intelligent Design has obvious theological implications, and these implications may fuel our interest in the topic, it really is science, not theology, and most ID proponents, Christian or Muslim, do understand the difference. If it is theology: why then is “Islamic ID” exactly the same as Christian ID and Jewish ID? (“Creationist” theories, in contrast, may vary from religion to religion.)