Darwin Day 2010 at CFI Indy

Last Saturday I had the great opportunity to go to the Darwin Day 2010 conference in Indianapolis. It’s not the first time I’d made the two-hour trek from Louisville to Indianapolis for a Center for Inquiry event, but it is the largest event that I’ve seen there.

The itinerary for the event is here: Darwin Day 2010. Rather than merely give an overview of what each speaker presented, I am going to give highlights of what I thought were some of the most interesting and notable points.

Dr. Eric Meslin gave a talk called “The Evolution of Bioethics,” which was mostly a timeline of notable events in bioethics history. He touched briefly on the “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” by Stephen J. Gould, which he has a few objections to even though he greatly admires Gould. If it is granted that NOMA is truthful, then the place where science and religion touch is bioethics, and the interaction is more like the violent grinding at a fault line than a gentle bumping. What was most astonishing to me about his timeline is just how recently bioethics standards for things like informed consent were put into the laws. In the United States this didn’t happen until 1974, with the National Research Act championed by Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The one name that I recognized before I went to the conference was Dr. Barbara Forrest. I had read about her in the book Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Edward Humes. The book was about the trials over the teaching of Intelligent Design (via a disclaimer about evolution and pointing the students to an ID text) in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2004. However, Pennsylvania is not the only state in which this battle is being fought. Dr. Forrest is also working to fight a statewide legislation in her home state of Louisiana called “The Louisiana Science Education Act of 2005” that would allow teachers to use supplemental materials (read: creationist propaganda) in their science classrooms. She also described the current state of politics in Louisiana, how the local arm Focus on the Family has gained a great deal of influence over local politicians. To me, the most interesting thing in her talk was that the first sign of trouble in Louisiana came in the form of a bill that would establish Bible classes in the schools. It’s interesting to me because the same thing in going on here in Kentucky now, so it’s definitely a situation to keep an eye on.

There were more interesting speakers to write about, but I am running short on time. Look for more posts on Darwin Day 2010 in the near future!