Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Tale of Two Conferences

Recently I learned about two academic conferences. The constrast between them is rather striking, and illustrates the way in which evolution is legitimate, mainstream science, while intelligent design is pseudoscience.

The first conference is the IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation (CEC), to be held in Singapore in September 2007. The second is The God Hypothesis: Has Science Found God?, to take place this coming weekend at the University of Toronto, here in Ontario.

CEC will represent real science. Its international advisory board includes accomplished experts in the field, such as David Fogel. It is in the tradition of other, similar conferences, and is sponsored by the IEEE, one of the largest professional organizations of computer scientists. Evolutionary computation is an active area of academic study, in addition to having numerous applications to industry. The conference includes tutorials by well-known scientists, including Andries Engelbrecht. The announcement for this conference was sent out a year in advance, so that people working in the field can submit papers and make plans to attend.

Contrast this with the "God Hypothesis" workshop at Toronto. It starts with a talk by David Humphreys, a retired chemist from McMaster University, who now spends his time evangelizing for the Christian god. Humphreys has in the past been guilty of misrepresenting facts about biology. Humphreys claimed in a talk in 1996, for example, that "hemoglobin in all animals is alike". Next comes evangelist Hugh Ross, who also has made misleading and false statements in a number of different areas.

On Saturday, the speakers include Denyse O'Leary, a smug religion reporter who is abysmally ignorant of science, but doesn't let that deter her from making demonstrably false claims about biology. Although the Toronto area has many scientists who could have offered a skeptical point of view, such as the University of Toronto's Larry Moran, it seems that no prominent skeptics were invited to speak at this event,.

The "God" workshop is not sponsored by any academic society, but rather by the "continuing education division" of a religious college affiliated with the University of Toronto. There will be no contributed papers. To the best of my knowledge, the announcement only came out a couple of weeks ago.

If you want to learn about real science, attend a conference like CEC. If you want to hear Christian evangelists and their ignorant cheerleaders, go to the "God" workshop.

1 comment:

John Pieret said...

... the speakers include Denyse O'Leary, a smug religion reporter who is abysmally ignorant of science ...

No, no! Denyse is a science writer! The Discovery Institute told me so:

Would they lie?