Sunday, October 02, 2005

What are evolutionists afraid of?!

I just read a letter to the editor that once again repeated the tired old Creationist question, "Why are evolutionists afraid of letting students hear about alternative ideas about the origin of species?" It's a disingenuous question, because it's not a matter of simply mentioning another, equally valid scientific explanation, but, rather, a thinly-veiled attempt to inject a particular religious viewpoint into the science classroom as if it were science while deprecating the theory of evolution (and mischaracterizing the scientific method in general).

Here's a letter to the editor I wrote in response:


To the Editor:

A question often asked by the anti-evolution crowd is, “What are the evolutionists/Darwinists/scientists afraid of?” This question is posed in the context of an effort to present creationism (which includes Intelligent Design) as a valid, scientific alternative to evolutionary theory, sometimes as a seemingly innocuous addendum, statement, or disclaimer to a discussion of evolution.

Scientists are concerned about such actions for several reasons. For one thing, such statements are untrue and give the impression that there is significant doubt amongst scientists about the power of evolutionary theory to explain biology and that evolutionary science is of trivial importance. We worry that engendering an attitude like that would have unfortunate consequences for the progress of medicine, technology, and, indeed, all of the other sciences, at a time when our nation requires constant progress in these fields in order to remain competitive in the global economy.

We also are concerned that such actions, especially when encouraged or sponsored by the government, can lead to the displacement of the scientific method (which has been enormously successful in solving many problems) with an ideological orthodoxy. We understand the serious repercussions of such a state of affairs, having witnessed the devastating effects of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union. Lest anyone doubt the situation here could get as bad as that, let me remind you that several of the leading Intelligent Design proponents, and their “manifesto,” the Wedge Document, have explicitly stated the goal of replacing science as currently practiced with what they call “theistic science.”

2 Comments:

Anonymous Brian Ogilvie said...

Hi! Good letter (was it published?). But I'm posting actually in response to your comment on "Stranger Fruit," http://darwin.bc.asu.edu/blog/?p=564, regarding John Landon. Landon is not quite a perpetual-motion inventer, but close: he has a new, astounding view of history, the "eonic effect," which forces us to completely rethink everything we know about history. Of course, the rest of us evil historians are in a conspiracy against him....

He used to post fairly regularly to the H-Ideas listserv, and its logs (available at www.h-net.msu.edu) provide a good overview of his ideas (as does his website). He has had the dubious distinction of showing up on crank.net. Like many cranks, he knows enough to provide some reasonable critiques of alternate views and to sound halfway plausible to those who don't know much about what he writes about.

Cheers,
Brian

11:19 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Yes, my letter was finally published after 3 weeks (see next post). That would be more frustrating if it concerned a more dynamic situation, but as the next post says, Creationists continue to raise the same old issues.

Thanks for the dope on Landon; I couldn't find him at "Quintessence of the Loon" but it sounds like he belonged in that menagerie.

8:41 PM  

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