“Not just an American phenomenon” — The recent Prague ID conference
|October 26, 2005||Posted by William Dembski under Intelligent Design|
Here’s a report on the recent Prague ID conference by someone on the ground from our side — quite a different perspective from the AP report that appeared in the NYTimes and elsewhere.
On Saturday, October 22, 2005, almost 700 people from 18 nations gathered in Prague (Czech Republic) for a conference on “Darwin and Design”:
The conference was organized by Charles Thaxton, co-author of the now classic *The Mystery of Life’s Origin* (1984), and his wife, Carole. (The Thaxtons had originally planned to hold the conference several years ago, but their plan was put on hold when Charles lost his leg to cancer.)
Held in the large hall where the Czech Communist Party used to meet, the conference featured seven speakers from five countries: Stephen C. Meyer (USA), Jonathan Wells (USA), Charles Thaxton (USA), David Berlinski (France), John C. Lennox (UK), Cees Dekker (The Netherlands), and Dalibor Krupka (Slovakia). The proceedings were chaired by Peter Verner, a Czech chemist. The talks (in English) were simultaneously translated into Czech for the audience, and the five main speakers (Meyer, Wells, Thaxton, Berlinski, and Lennox) had provided written summaries in advance that were available in English and Czech.
Stephen Meyer led off with a brief overview of the controversy and the issues involved (such as what intelligent design is and isn’t). Jonathan Wells described several icons of evolution and concluded that the evidence for Darwinism has been highly exaggerated and design has not been ruled out. Charles Thaxton presented a brief history of origin-of-life research, an eight-point critique of materialistic explanations of the origin of life, and the positive case for intelligent design. David Berlinski gave an eloquent critique of the RNA world hypothesis and showed why RNA cannot explain the origin of DNA and protein.
Cees Dekker then gave a short but well-illustrated presentation on molecular machines. (Michael Behe had originally been scheduled to speak but was prevented from coming by the trial in Dover, Pennsylvania.) Dalibor Krupka, a distinguished physicist and member of the Presidium of the Slovakian Academy of Science, spoke next. John Lennox concluded the day-long conference by addressing the mathematical intelligibility of the universe and the explanatory power of the design hypothesis.
The large audience was polite and attentive throughout. Most were scientists and lay people from the Czech Republic and neighboring countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and Poland. Others came from much farther away. A substantial number approached the speakers during the breaks to determine how they could set up organizations to promote ID in their homelands.
The following day the speakers held a three-hour Q&A session for participants who wanted to continue the discussion. Perhaps a hundred people showed up. Most of the questions were thoughtful and polite, though one fellow — who sat in the front row wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt — objected rather stridently to some of the speakersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ remarks. Except for this fellow and one or two others, the participants were extremely grateful for the conference; they were obviously deeply and sincerely interested in the issues.
Despite the predictably disparaging reaction of the news media and some established scientists, the conference was a huge success. It clearly demonstrated that the intelligent design controversy is not just an American phenomenon; it opened many doors to colleagues in Europe with whom the ID community will be working extensively in the years to come.