Creation Museum Opening
Dr. Richard J. Neves replies to Dr. Scott:
While I can appreciate the strong feelings evoked in many ‘scientists' when the theory of evolution is challenged, I must question the motives and misinformation contained in this recent non-malacological post to our listserve. The community of professional and amateur biologists on UNIO represents a variety of backgrounds, belief systems, and levels of conviction and opinion about evolution and the origin of life. One important aspect of FMCS is its democratic mode of operation, where freedom of speech, belief, and expression are encouraged. This missive, solely to attack creationism and its subsequent Statement for support by ‘scientists', imposes upon objectivity and fairness to alternative views in our group. Many in our Society are not believers in orthodox evolution but perhaps prefer young- or old-earth creationism, theistic evolution, or some other explanation between neo-Darwinism and literal biblical interpretation.
The debate of evolution vs. creationism vs. intelligent design is a healthy one, in my opinion, with each side encouraged to make their best case, and then to allow people to decide for themselves which belief system is supported by the greatest weight of evidence. The email by Dr. Eugene Scott, Chief Percussionist for the National Center of Science Education, explicitly attempts to make this debate an issue of science vs. creationism. It is not. The straw man argument posed is fallacious; science is not on trial here, but rather scrutiny of the theory of evolution and its arch-rival creationism. When random design is the null hypothesis, evolution looks attractive, but such an hypothesis masks a multitude of sins. The aura of invincibility for textbook evolution is losing lux. Dr. Scott's droning argument is undoubtedly sparked by recent polls which show that roughly half of the U.S. population favors explanations of life and life forms not in keeping with the neo-Darwinian paradigm. Perhaps that public consensus is because
The prepared Statement for scientists to sign (as though real scientists need to be told how to express their opinions on this issue) is amusing. First, there is no mention of evolution (neither here nor in the entire email), as though only attack and not defense is necessary for real ‘scientists'. Second, the claim is that "students are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level" and "these students will need remedial instruction" if they believe in creation. I have had brail boats full of students who have successfully completed science degrees and who have questioned the certainty of evolution. This presumption is patently absurd, again attempting to put all of science as the rival of creationism. There are many scientists of all persuasions and scientific disciplines who do not believe in orthodox evolution; does that disqualify them as scientists because they doubt one aspect of biological science? Quite frankly, this prepared Statement is more an embarrassment than a rally cry to the objectivity and truthfulness espoused by science. This seems to be an effort to win by intimidation and is a clear manipulation of the truth.
Since science is considered the pinnacle of truth, many mathematicians using the purest of the sciences (mathematics) have consistently demonstrated that the probability of life arising from inanimate matter is so incredibly small that it approaches wishful thinking. For example, physicist Dr. Lee Spetner in his book "Not by Chance" provides a lucid and compelling assessment of probability for both the origin of life and evolutionary process through random events using information theory. Perhaps Dr. Scott forgot that Louis Pasteur disproved the theory of spontaneous generation back in the 1860's. To my knowledge, no one has disproved this "scientific" conclusion. My point is that once people are presented with and educated on all alternatives, it is for them to decide on which belief system to accept as their personal choice.
In summary, the distasteful nature of this email stems principally from the attempt to hide the theory of evolution behind the edifice of science, the old bait and switch routine. Everyone, scientist or not, evolutionist or not, atheist or not, recognizes the role and importance of science and its fruits to modern living. Science is not under attack. At issue is really whether the theory of evolution has a sufficient basis of scientific evidence and facts to convince the public that belief in creationism is inferior to the belief in evolution. At a higher level of debate is whether evolution can be considered a true discipline within biological science or whether it is more accurately described as a philosophy, based on assumptions of mechanistic development and application reliant more on faith than proven fact. For those with such an interest in faith vs reason, I strongly recommend anything written by Alvin Plantinga, a world-class American philosopher and warrior in this cognitive war of epistemology and science.
Dr. Richard J. Neves