Chances are, we’ve all attended a lecture, a conference, or some other event that was said to be “critical,” “momentous,” or even “life-changing”…only to find ourselves, a year later, unable to recall what that meeting was even about. Some of us, on the other hand, are fortunate enough to have attended an event that truly changed the direction of our lives for the better.
Allow me to share one of my own: the Center for Science & Culture’s annual Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design. The Summer Seminars, with two tracks focusing respectively on Natural Sciences and Science and Society, is now accepting applications, and I want to share with you my own experience of it. But first some background.
During my high school and college years, my fascination with biodiversity was insatiable. I spent hours reading books and nature magazines. I collected everyday specimens and studied them under a dissecting scope late at night. Given the chance to travel, I took my field guides and cameras to distant corners of the globe — always in search for unusual or astonishing creatures to add to my growing list of nature sightings. Everywhere I turned, I saw complexity, order, interdependence, and beauty…all things that pointed to design.
After college, I took graduate courses in ecology, worked brief stints in research labs for the USDA and EPA, and then spent a few years teaching STEM in public schools and museums. Everywhere I turned — in the curriculum, in the literature, and in the media, I heard only of evolution, of our pale blue dot of a planet, of our lives as a speck on a speck orbiting another speck in the middle of specklessness…all things that pointed to purposelessness. What a shame. With my appreciation for design and purpose in nature, I started to wonder…is there really a place for me in the scientific establishment of the 21st century? How many others are as impressed as I am by the staggering beauty and intention exhibited by the natural world?
In 2011, I took the recommendation of a close relative, a student of biochemistry, and joined in applying for the CSC’s Summer Seminar on ID in the Natural Sciences. I had heard of the CSC, from reading books by Center fellows Michael Behe, Jonathan Wells, and others. But I knew little of the scope or impact of its mission. All I knew was that these people got me. They spoke of purpose and design in life. And to my great delight, I was accepted to attend. So, taking a brief hiatus from tropical research on the island of Hawai’i, I hopped over to Seattle for a week and a half of the best science conversations I had ever experienced. Eight days of intense immersion, critical thinking, and open dialogue, with some of the most astute and accomplished scientists and thinkers in the movement. This was an event that changed my life.
My intuitions, though unshaken by the oppressive talk of life’s meaninglessness, were now bolstered even further by the countless and weighty arguments for the plausibility — if not necessity — of intelligent design in nature. And this renewed zeal was shared by almost fifty other students and professionals from around the globe, and from various fields of study, who joined me for this unparalleled week of learning and sharing.
The recurring question in my head all week was simply this: If every honest student knew what we now know…would not Darwin’s far-reaching theory of evolution and Sagan’s talk of a purposeless pale blue dot quickly become a conversation of the past?
Now it’s six years later, and I am at Discovery Institute, helping to coordinate the very program that I attended back in 2011. Few things have given me more joy than to see fellow thinkers travel from every corner of the planet to share in these life-changing conversations about intelligent design and the social impacts of neo-Darwinian evolution. And then, in the months to follow, to see these alumni take their learning and apply it to their studies, their blogs, their church communities, their careers, their classrooms…making ripples wherever they go. One attendee last year — a young professor at an esteemed university in Japan — wrote recently to say that she took the opportunity to share with her students the incredible design exhibited in the life cycle and natural history of the Monarch butterfly. Dozens of students responded, in open-ended reflections, that this was the first time they had heard of an alternative to the evolutionary tale. They were intrigued, or in some cases, convinced. Another student from last year, from Nicaragua, has applied his bilingual talent to the ongoing translation of countless ID articles for the new Spanish Edition of Evolution News.
How about you? How would this event change your life?
Now that we look forward to another exciting opportunity to host our annual Summer Seminars, on July 6-14 this year, I want to invite you — or someone else that comes to your mind — to apply for this incredible program. We are looking for upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students, as well a few working professionals from various fields, who will take what they’ve learned in these seminars, and apply it to their own careers, to grow the ID movement on every front. Does this sounds like a good fit for you or someone you know?
Take a moment to read more about the program here, and find the seminar track that best fits your interests and career — the Seminar on Intelligent Design in the Natural Sciences or the C.S. Lewis Fellows Program on Science and Society. The seminars are paid for by our generous donors, including your lodging, meals, and tuition, so that all you’ll need to arrange is your travel to Seattle. Some partial travel scholarships will also be made available on a need basis.
Or, if you would like to make it possible for others to attend, consider supporting this incredible program by making a donation today! I am personally grateful for the support I received to attend, and would love to see the Seminars continue and grow with your contribution.
Still have questions about the 2018 Summer Seminars? Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you!
Photo: Stephen Meyer teaching at the 2017 Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design, by Daniel Reeves.