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Intelligent Design in my Science? I don’t think so.

Posted by expl8461 on Jul 12, 2011 in Blog, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Disclaimers:

1: I asked for permission to quote the emails I received back from the Entomological Society of America conference organizers and was denied. Following their wishes, I won’t quote the emails I received nor post their personal email addresses. I will summarize to the best of my ability. I strongly encourage readers to ask their own questions of them and they may do so at the email I originally pulled from their website: esa@confex.com

UPDATE: This has since changed, partially, see below.

2: There are far better entomologists, biologists, and bloggers out there than me. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a 23 year old entomologist who is just starting a PhD. I’m not particularly eloquent nor as well-read as some of the popular scientist bloggers out there, but I am angered enough about this to write about it still. Please, please email this story on to fellow entomology and evolutionary biology scientists and bloggers, they should know about this too.

The yearly Entomological Society of America conference is the highlight of my academic year. I love it more than stuffing my face on Thanksgiving or catching up on sleeping during Spring Break. The ESA conference means that I get to meet new people, reconnect with old friends, and get ideas for research projects. I have gone the past two years and it’s been absolutely instrumental in searching out potential graduate advisers and getting into graduate school. Earlier yesterday I met a stranger on BART (our subway here, sort of) who was wearing one of those ridiculous tshirts commonly sold at ESA. We spent about five minutes blithering excitedly about ESA, that’s how far reaching and important it is to young entomologists.

After the encounter, I decided to look at the online program, which just went up on Friday. Imagine my surprise when I saw this meeting: http://esa.confex.com/esa/2011/webprogram/Session16294.html

That’s right- an Intelligent Design Entomology Network meeting.

Now, this is my first post on this blog, so you should know some things about myself: I’m an evolutionary biologist with equal interests in entomology, paleontology, and parasitology. My favorite class at my undergraduate institution was on the Dover Trial and examining intelligent design (and ripping apart its terrible logic). The idea of teaching Intelligent Design as if it were science in public education makes me furious. The thought of considering it a scientific theory makes me see red.

So I was a little shocked and in some amount of disbelief. Maybe the site was hacked? Maybe a third-party organizer had mislabeled what was originally supposed to be a how-to-confront-intelligent-design-and-fight-it meeting? Or maybe this was a joke entry, and a contest to see who would email the ESA first. Who knows, maybe they would reward me with a free pass to the meeting.

So I emailed the general question address for the conference, here’s what I wrote:

Hi,

The emails for the committee for the conference haven’t been put up yet, but something caught my attention and I just had to ask about this:
http://esa.confex.com/esa/2011/webprogram/Session16294.html

Has there always been an Intelligent Design meeting? Is this something new? I’m a little shocked that this got into the program. I know it’s a “non-sponsored” event, but so are things like the Collections Network, Women in Entomology, and all the mixers. This just doesn’t seem very fitting for a scientific conference. I’m just a student, but I’d like more information on this. Also, for the life of me I couldn’t find any info on Vernon Schmidt, is he an entomologist?
Thanks,
Carly Tribull

The basic response I got was this (and as my disclaimer reads, this is just a summary): First, the meeting is a non-ESA sponsored meeting. So is the Black Entomologists Social, the Women in Entomology Breakfast, and a whole bunch of university-run mixers that you can find here: http://esa.confex.com/esa/2011/webprogram/INFUN.html. In the interest of diversity, if these events are allowed to occur, a Intelligent Design Entomology Network meeting must also be allowed. Non-ESA sponsored meetings can be set up by any member at http://esa.confex.com/esa/2011/infun/sessions/index.cgi? and are generally outlets for socializing. ESA provides the space and handles scheduling conflicts. Vernon Schmidt is an entomologist, though my google fu was unable to find him. I later looked him up on the member directory after I renewed my membership, he works for a Tobacco company (ESA attracts a lot of agricultural entomology experts, this isn’t that shocking).

UPDATE: Turns out one of the responders has allowed me to quote and can explain ESA’s position much better than I:

…the ESA Networks are open to any ESA member to form any group he/she desires as long as there’s an entomological aspect. The ESA Bylaws state that the Society should “support their interests without any direct regulation or oversight by The Society.”

Thus, we have the the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Entomologists Network, the Women in Entomology Network, the Black Entomologists Network and about 37 others. The Networks are about diversity. The link you sent is for a non-ESA sponsored meeting, just like any of the Networks listed above may choose to have.

Vernon Schmidt is an entomologist and has been an ESA member since 1995. If you want to contact him, you can join the Networks at www.esanetworks.org and write to him.
Here’s an email from the same person after I announced my intention to blog about this:

You can quote me, but I hope that you understand and stress that that this meeting has absolutely nothing to do with the scientific symposia or any official ESA functions, and was not approved by (and does not need approval by) the ESA Annual Meeting Program Committee or any other ESA officials. I also hope that you explained this to the peers you mentioned because failing to do that would be alarmist and inaccurate.

Traditionally, ESA has provided an outlet for members to meet in groups if they desire. Usually these functions are for university alumni, groups like military or forensic entomologists, or anyone else who has an interest in meeting others with similar interests (I mentioned earlier, for example, LGBT, Women in Entomology, Black Entomologists, etc.). They are generally social events, and ANY ESA member is allowed to arrange them (see this page for more info: http://entsoc.org/submit-functions-entomology-2011).

The ID Network has only existed for a couple of weeks, with just one member (Vernon Schmidt). Before you mentioned it, I was unaware of their meeting, and I’m sure most others were as well. By choosing to blog about it, you will probably bring them publicity they otherwise would not have had.

 

And that’s the extent of responses  I’ve gotten so far. I’ll update if anything new shows up, but here are my thoughts so far.

ESA provides space for non-sponsored functions as long as they have an entomological basis. But providing space itself is a form of support. ESA is saying that they support women, LGBT, and black entomologists and their desire to meet and discuss with each other the events and issues of these groups. And they should! These are scientists from classically underrepresented groups that are attempting to gather together, support each other, and make headway in the scientific community. Short and to the point, they are scientists practicing science.

Intelligent Design is not science. Writing about why it is not science isn’t the point of this blog entry and there are far better scientists out there that can explain this to you. Here’s a good website if Intelligent Design is an unfamiliar term, with lots of further reading: http://ncse.com/creationism/general/what-is-intelligent-design-creationism

So now you know why I’m upset. I’ve talked to several entomologists about this and they are also shocked that this meeting is taking place, regardless of whether or not it is a “non-sponsored” event.

At first, I was worried that I might be doing exactly what the emailer is suggesting will happen, creating more attention than this deserves. But this isn’t a public event in the traditional sense of the word- this is a conference for Entomology and those who study this field. They should know exactly what will be at this conference. As members of the ESA, it’s our responsibility to be informed about the meeting that we pay for and thus support. I’m not worried about random people from the internet mobbing a conference they have to pay 560-720$ to get in to as non-ESA members.

ESA members (and interested readers), I pose some questions to you:

1. Do you think ESA should regulate “non-sponsored” events (clubs, mixers, other social events) that take place within the conference hall (I don’t really have a problem with ID supporters meeting at the bar after hours)?

2. If clubs like Women in Entomology and the Black Entomologists society are allowed to meet, is the ESA obligated to give the same support/protection to the Intelligent Design Entomology Network?

3. What do you plan on doing if you see this at the conference?

I’ll post updates as they come. I wouldn’t be surprised if some information I received off the website eventually changes, so I’ve taken some screencaps.

 

9 Comments

  1. Chris Wilson
    July 13, 2011

    Carly,
    While you know that I am an Atheist, I have reached a crossroads as to the subject of your post. On one hand I agree that ID is simply not science, and I do not condone or support any of their blithering nonsense. But on the other, I do respect what ESA will ultimately have to do, which is to allow this, though not in support for the rights of ID. Instead by allowing the ID network to openly meet it provides the same opportunity for the women, LGBT, and black entomologists which I absolutely do support. I think part of the reason the ID network wants this is to provoke scientists into arguments or indeed to get banned thus giving reason to pull even more support from the public when they go around screaming the injustice that we scientists are forcing. Instead perhaps the best answer is to simply ignore the group all together and support the groups we do care about, you know the ones that actually make sense. I know this is probably not a popular idea; it is in fact merely my opinion

    Reply
  2. Gabi
    July 13, 2011

    I don’t particularly like that there’s an ID entomology group, BUT I can understand not wanting to regulate these groups. For instance, if it said “Christian Entomologists”, would it be as offensive? Also, just because they believe in ID doesn’t mean they’re forging wedge documents and parading through city hall. I think you have to look at it from a less cynical standpoint. If you take your personal feelings about ID out of the analysis, then it seems discriminatory to disallow IDists to hold a social event
    and mixers ARE just meeting at a bar after posters and talks.

    And honestly, there’s probably, like, 5 ID entomologists. And if they submit posters or papers, the peer review process will fry em

    Reply
  3. Susan Fisher
    July 14, 2011

    The danger is that the IDer’s will use the fact that ESA allowed this as proof that ID is being accepted in a scientific forum. They have done this before, i.e, when an ID article was accepted by a scientific journal. Of course the ulitmate goal of the IDers is to create the idea that ID is science so that it can be taught in public schools. This, alone, makes the acceptance of the ID group fundamentally different from the social groups alluded to earlier.

    Reply
  4. Dan Herms
    July 14, 2011

    Carly,

    I’m with you on this one, and I thank you for pushing the issue with ESA. Groups such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Entomologists, Women in Entomology, and Black Entomologists have valid reasons to network in a scientific society that is striving to increase diversity of membership and viewpoint.

    However, Intelligent Design has no legitimate role or place at a scientific meeting or within our scientific society. It has nothing to do with science or how we practice it. As Federal District Judge John E. Jones ruled so very eloquently, lucidly, and decisively, Intelligent Design is not science: (see Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District: pdf here: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf, html here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover_decision.html).

    So why should we provide a forum for a thoroughly discredited pseudoscientific religious construct at our scientific meeting? Are we then also obligated to provide a networking venue for believers of astrology, flat Earth, the Rapture, or deniers of President Obama’s US citizenship? Where should ESA draw the line?

    A few years ago, Judge Jones graciously accepted a invitation from the Department of Entomology at Ohio State University to present a seminar here. He gave a brilliant lecture entitled “The Intelligent Design of Our Constitution.” Perhaps he could be invited to address the ESA.

    Dan Herms
    Professor and Associate Chairperson
    Department of Entomology
    Ohio State University

    Reply
  5. Intelligent design network | Attackonhold
    July 14, 2011

    [...] Explorathon » Intelligent Design in my Science? I don't think so. [...]

    Reply
  6. KG
    July 15, 2011

    I recently found about this session at the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America. This is a scientific meeting where we present our current and past research. A session on intelligent design is clearly out of place in a scientific meeting. While I agree that ignoring them may work well, there are issues in not ignoring them as mentioned by Susan.

    I am curious to know how many entomologists are aware about this session? If the ESA members were aware, how many will support this session? I know there are ecology and entomology list-servers where this information can be posted…..the scientific community may be outraged by this session.

    This session is very different from those for under-represented groups as they are still scientists talking science (and not ID). This is not a valid reason by the ESA to support this session, and publish it in the program. I wonder if next year, I propose a session on something like “the milk-drinking group” (with no disrespect to those who drink milk), if the ESA would accept it!

    Reply
    • expl8461
      July 15, 2011

      Actually,kg, i belive you still have time to schedule a meeting. According to esa, the meeting must have an entomological slant. Im typing from a phone, so i cant check, but i think tbe deadline is july 28.

      Reply
  7. C. David Gammel
    July 15, 2011

    Hi folks,

    I’m ESA’s executive director. I wanted to comment here to let you know we’re aware of this issue. We’ll be back with an update when we have more information to share.

    C. David Gammel
    Executive Director
    Entomological Society of America

    Reply
  8. Andrew Norton
    August 1, 2011

    Hi All,

    The program committee for this fall’s ESA meeting has decided to not approve the proposed ID Entomology Network meeting. The reason for this decision is that a presentation about and discussion of ID at our meeting is inconsistent with ESA’s position on ID, and is not appropriate for a scientific meeting. ESA’s policy on ID can be found here: http://www.entsoc.org/about_esa/members_only/resolutions/intelligent2005

    The function appeared on ESA’s website before the chairs or committee had seen or reviewed the proposal. This should have happened in the other order. Apologies to all for the confusion.

    Andrew Norton & Paul Ode
    Program Committee Co-Chairs
    2011 Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting

    Reply

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