Originally published 10/16/2013. Part 3 of 3.
Finally, I come to the real reason for writing this series. I have attempted, in the first two parts, to introduce the uninitiated reader to intelligent design. I have also tried to inoculate the philosophically and scientifically curious against the hyperbole and rhetoric that is directed against intelligent design. In this final post, I would like to make an appeal to the reader to consider attending one of the CSC Summer seminars.
Allow me get some preliminary information on the table. First, there are two different tracks or programs that are offered simultaneously. The natural sciences track focuses on “… cutting-edge ID work in fields such as molecular biology, biochemistry, embryology, developmental biology, paleontology, computational biology, ID-theoretic mathematics, cosmology, physics, and the history and philosophy of science.” The social sciences track is geared toward those studying “the social sciences, humanities, law, or theology.”
Second, attendance in either program is by invitation only. The requirements for the respective programs, natural science and social science, are targeted toward college juniors through graduate students. The application process opens in January and typically closes by April 15th. Both programs include several books relevant to each track, and food and lodging at the gorgeous Seattle Pacific University campus.
Third, being accepted entails a non-trivial amount of reading prior to attending the seminars. Discovery Institute mails you copies of the books and will even provide titles on the Kindle if you prefer. For the science track especially, the reading is helpful, if not essential, to how much you benefit from attending. In some instances, you might have the chance to interact with the authors of some of the books you will read.
Now I would like to turn to my specific experiences attending this year. For me, this was an almost three year process. I first became aware of the program during my two-week summer residency at Biola University in July of 2010. However, it was horribly impractical for me to even apply until I completed my residency requirements with Biola. In 2012, I was near the top of the waiting list but was not asked to attend. When I applied this year, I was accepted.
I do not know the specifics of how applicants are selected, but I can assure the reader that there is no statement of faith or religious conviction of any kind required. Discovery Institute uses these programs to educate college students on the nature of ID (natural sciences track) and on the pervasive and harmful effects of the scientific materialism (socials sciences track). These projects have tremendous potential to transform science, society and how they interact. Yes, promoting ID and critiquing scientific materialism are compatible with Christian theism but that does not make these tasks inherently Christian.
What were my reasons for attending? First and foremost, it was an opportunity to interact personally with serious scholars on the subject. In essence, I wanted a chance to visit, via so many thinkers in one place at one time, the heart of the ID movement. I also hoped there might be networking opportunities with like-minded individuals. I will also admit to the thrill of just meeting favorite authors in person and having them sign my copy of their book. In fact, I had a couple conversations with Michael Denton that were so remarkable, to memorialize them, when an opportunity presented itself at a banquet celebrating the release of the Illustra Media’s documentary Flight, I had my picture taken with Dr. Denton.
There was, however, a surprising element of the seminar that I did not expect. There is, in fact, another “heart” to ID: community. When I first met some of the attendees at the opening banquet I felt out of place, demographically speaking. A large percentage (perhaps more than 80%) were college students or graduate students, and some others were newly minted PhDs. The rest were mostly teachers and faculty of various types.
As we shared meals together in the cafeteria and had various conversations during breaks and in the evenings, I was profoundly surprised at the ease I had making conversation with everyone. I spoke with people from three different continents, including a secular Muslim. There were many opportunities for earnest and open conversations. From video games to the need for “reformation” within Islam, nothing seemed out of bounds and there was an eagerness to interact. There was an atmosphere I can only attribute to the excitement of that many kindred spirits being energized and informed about topics that have the potential to change science and society for the better.
In closing, I should comment on my unique position that allowed me to write this series. Believe it or not, what was documented in Expelled really happens. If anything the climate of persecution to protect Darwinian orthodoxy has become more strident. My career, however, has nothing to do with the biological sciences or academia (I have a degree in Physics and have spent my entire career doing various types of software engineering). As an aspiring Christian apologist affiliated with Ratio Christi, being associated with ID cannot affect my reputation. As a human being, however, I’m a truth seeker and so I want to know whether ID is true. This seminar provides resources that are immensely important towards that goal.
Given my freedom to promote these Discovery Institute programs, I felt obligated to do what I could to clear away the brush and rhetorical detritus that surrounds ID. It is my hope that anyone interested in these topics would apply next year. Don’t allow your age, career, or background to deter you from pursuing your interest in intelligent design.
I would like to thank Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute and Melissa Cain Travis for their editorial input.
 Attending gatherings of this nature, whether for a few days or a two-weeks, is generally a source of stress for me. When my introverted nature does not get a chance to recuperate, I experience what I refer to as “too-much-talking-stress.” It was 5 or 6 days into the event before I realized the absence of such stress.