Creationism Comes to College Campus

Quick: what university would you think most likely to host a big creationism conference? Bob Jones? Liberty? Cedarville? How about Michigan State?

Viviane Callier of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science Insider reports that, yes, Michigan State will be hosting a big creationist conference this weekend. The Origin Summit will host four speakers about such issues as the Evolution-Hitler connection and the weakness of the Big Bang Theory. The organizers have invited MSU philosopher Robert Pennock to debate and targeted MSU’s Richard Lenski. So far, Lenski and Pennock have ignored them.

Powered by the Gish Gallop?

Powered by the Gish Gallop?

Pennock, also known as “Darwin’s Border Collie” (get it?), has been a leading anti-creationist voice in the academy. Most famously, his expert testimony in the Dover Intelligent-Design case tore apart the scientific pretensions of ID theorists. And Lenski has attracted attention for his long-term evolution study using E. Coli bacteria.

It seems that the organizers of the Origin Summit targeted Michigan State as the home of such prominent anti-creationists. After all, one of the four morning workshops promises to explain specifically how Lenski’s research will bear no fruit.

But that’s not what the organizers will tell you. At least, it’s not what they told Viviane Callier. Mike Smith, the group’s executive director, said they planned to host similar meetings at pluralistic campuses nationwide. The target, Smith explained, is the student body. Many of them may never have heard the message of creationism. “Once students realize they’re created beings,” Smith told Callier, “and not the product of natural selection, they’re much more open to the Gospel, to the message of God’s love & forgiveness.”

This is what Smith’s group describes as their “backdoor strategy.” Too many students, the group warns, have been “brainwashed with the Darwinian dogma while the state refuses any mention of Creation whatsoever.” Their plan is to let students hear the creation gospel, hoping that “many, for the first time ever, [will discover] that the Bible is true.”

The question everyone’s asking is this: How will Michigan State scientists respond? Should they inform students of the scientific baselessness of creationist claims? Or should they use humor to deflate the conference? So far, the MSU community has decided that the best response is no response.

Lenski hopes the “summit” will turn out to be nothing more than “another forgettable blip in the long history of antiscience, antievolution screeds.” And best of all, the university itself has welcomed the meeting. As one official put it,

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.

Hear, hear! There is nothing violent or threatening about this meeting. There is no reason any pluralist university should not welcome such dissenting ideas into their communities.

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