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Discovery Institute Speakers Get a Hearty Reception in Africa

All photos courtesy of Casey Luskin.

From late August through mid September, three scientists and scholars from Discovery Institute — Brian Miller (physicist), Richard Weikart (historian), and myself (geologist and attorney) — went on a speaking tour in South Africa and Kenya. All of our lectures were organized and sponsored by local groups and they kept us very busy. We quickly settled into a rhythm where we would speak during the day, return to our lodging, and then immediately start prepping for the lectures of the next day. 

Highlights from South Africa

The trip was a great success. All told, between August 23 and September 16, Drs. Miller, Weikart, and I gave over 65 lectures to over 4,000 people (in person, not counting online viewers) on 7 university campuses and at various churches and conferences as well. 

Some highlights from our time in South Africa include:

  • Four lectures at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where Brian Miller and I engaged with thoughtful undergraduate students from the UCT Space and Astronomy Society.
  • Multiple lectures before multiple courses at Northwest University of Potchefstroom, especially students from the engineering department. 
  • A two-day conference for faculty and students at Akademia, an Afrikaans-speaking university near Pretoria. 
  • Multiple radio interviews in the Pretoria area. 

At the top is a shot of Brian Miller speaking to students in South Africa about the engineering design of the human body.

Nuanced and Careful

Richard Weikart was only able to join us for the South African leg of the trip, but his message was warmly received — he spoke on the atrocities historically committed under the influence of Darwinian ideas. 

A professor of history at Cal State University Stanislaus, Professor Weikart’s message is nuanced and careful. He makes clear that of course he’s not saying that all living evolutionists are Nazis, racists, or eugenicists. But he does document the historical reality that Darwinian ideas have been used to justify many horrific racist and genocidal policies — and he documented examples of where this has historically happened in Africa specifically. Here he is speaking at Akademia University near Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. 

In Kenya, Brian Miller and I were hosted by BioCosmos Kenya, a group affiliated with BioCosmos Africa, dedicated to promoting awareness of intelligent design around Africa. This is an active organization led by ID-friendly academics of various disciplines. One of their many successes is an initiative to help students start clubs on Kenyan university campuses to learn about intelligent design. We spoke at four universities in Kenya and met many students involved with these clubs. Some highlights: 

  • Four lectures to over 1,300 students at the University of Eldoret, located in Eldoret, the fifth-largest city in Kenya. Here, we were greeted with — no joke — a band and a red carpet. There’s a reason this university was so excited to hear about intelligent design — they offer courses on ID and we even got to help give out certificates to students who had completed coursework on the subject.
  • Another series of lectures at Great Lakes University of Kisumu, just a few miles away from Lake Victoria, where we spoke to 300 students and then participated in a tree-planting ceremony. 
  • A day speaking to pastors and church leaders at African International University in Nairobi. 
  • Lectures to about 150 undergraduate students and faculty — including many studying engineering and the biological sciences — at the Technical University of Kenya, in the heart of bustling Nairobi. Here’s a photo of me speaking at the university:

Meeting Summer Seminars Alumni

In both South Africa and Kenya we constantly had students coming up to us to say that they had attended the CSC’s Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design. They agreed on the major impact that ID and the work of Discovery Institute had on them. 

In fact, everywhere we went we were warmly received — by faculty, administrators, and students, eager to hear what we had to say. Sometimes they were new to ID, but in some instances we were pleasantly surprised at how our audiences already knew about ID. At one university (I won’t say where to protect the innocent), a high-level university administrator gave a speech welcoming us, and started quoting Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe and eruditely explained the concept of irreducible complexity. It turns out that this administrator has a PhD in biology, has avidly followed intelligent design during his career, and was very excited to have representatives from Discovery Institute speaking at his school. He invited us to form a partnership between Discovery Institute and his university. 

Getting Acquainted with African Birds

Of course, no trip to Africa would be complete without a visit to a game park or two. At South Africa’s Pilanesberg National Park we saw lots of rhinos — but thanks to Richard Weikart’s hobby as a birder we also became experts in identifying South African birds! Here’s a fantastic shot that Richard took of a fish eagle at Pilanesberg game park:

In Kenya, during our one day off we had the opportunity to visit the famous Nairobi National Park. Below is a shot of a majestic male lion just waking up from an afternoon nap:

And here’s a special find — a ~1.5-meter-long Nile monitor lizard we saw enjoying a walk next to a watering hole: 

In sum, this was a hectic but incredible trip. We returned to the United States wildly behind on emails but also greatly encouraged that interest in and support for intelligent design is burning brightly across the continent of Africa.