By Hilary White and John Jalsevac

ROME, March 9, 2009 ( – Last week’s highly publicized Vatican-sponsored conference, “Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories,” organized to correspond with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, “shut out” discussion of Intelligent Design theory and biblical creationism, a prominent US research group has alleged.

The President of the Discovery Institute (DI), Bruce Chapman, denounced the conference on the Institute’s official blog as a “parade of atheists, agnostics and theistic evolutionists whose common theme is that intelligent design is not science, not theology, nothing at all, really—merely a reactionary sociological phenomenon.”

Organizers of the conference admitted to the Associated Press last week that they did indeed purposely exclude proponents of Intelligent Design.

“We think that it’s not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one,” said the Rev. Marc Leclerc, the conference director and a professor of philosophy of nature at the Gregorian, according to the AP. “This makes a dialogue very difficult, maybe impossible.”

Chapman said that he believes the conference refused to consider Intelligent Design because it had been funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation, a non-profit group critical of the intelligent design movement. The five-day conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University was also sponsored in part by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Chapman wrote that Charles Harper of the Templeton Foundation “has attacked intelligent design and Discovery Institute.”

“He is not just interested in discussion, but in molding the discussion in certain ways. To that end, Templeton funds go to many groups and individual writers who, perhaps coincidentally, could have an interest in how the Darwin versus design issue is discussed.”

Chapman said that “what you have in Rome right now is largely a Templeton-directed conference.”

“There are many fine speakers. But not only were funds put up by the Templeton Foundation, but leading organizers and speakers and their organizations separately are recipients of Templeton grants. There’s nothing wrong with that, but perhaps it does help explain the animus toward Darwin critics and ID supporters.”

Conference director Leclerc denied the accusations that the decision not to invite ID supporters had anything to do with the Templeton Foundation funds. “Absolutely not. We decided independently within the organizing committee, in total autonomy,” Leclerc said. According to the AP, a representative from the Pontifical Council for Culture admitted that over half of the funds for the conference came from the Templeton Foundation.

The Discovery Institute was not the only critic of the alleged slant of the conference. Dr. Oktar Babuna, a Turkish neurosurgeon alleges that he was censored for daring to ask where the scientific evidence was for evolution, particularly the fossil records of transitional forms that link the evolution of one species to another. Footage of the confrontation during a question and answer period was captured on video and posted to the YouTube video hosting website.

The moderator of the discussion, however, said that the microphone was taken away from Babuna because he had not formulated a question but was instead expressing his opinions.

Dr. Babuna said he was sorry that the Gregorian had sponsored the conference because, “Rome is the center of Christianity and to get involved with that kind of people – they are all atheists.”