Tag Archives: Dissent from Darwinism

Darwin Is The 1000th Steve!

From Science News / AAAS: Darwin Is The 1000th Steve.

Eugenie Scott is executive director of the National Center for Science Education, an organization dedicated to keeping evolution in the public schools. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, six years ago, she launched Project Steve — a tongue-in-cheek response to a list of Darwin-doubting scientists that another group had collected to challenge the authenticity of evolution. Scott’s parody project encouraged scientists named Steve (or any related name, such as Stephanie, Stephen, Stefan, Etienne or Esteban) to formally endorse evolution.

The first year there were 220 signatory scientists. A little over an hour ago, Scott — again at a AAAS annual meeting — announced to reporters that the 1000th Steve had just been added to her list. Later this evening (when his delayed flight from New Orleans finally arrives), Steven P. Darwin — yes, Darwin — of Tulane University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (and director of its Herbarium), takes the top spot. He will receive a thumbless-panda statue (a cute if tacky stuffed animal affixed to a block of wood) from another member of the far-from-elite Stevie pack: writer Steve Mirsky of Scientific American.

Approximately one percent of Americans are named Steve or some variation of that, Scott says. So the current signatories to Project Steve represent an estimated 100,000 scientists who accept evolution, she contends. And yes, this fete comes the day after Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday.

For comparison the intelligent design supporters list (Dissent from Darwinism) has about 700 signatories – of which 8 are Steves! (See Dissenters from Darwinism in context & Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?).

Thoughts after watching “Expelled”

I recently watched the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. As expected from most reviews I have seen I found the film profoundly dishonest. It’s very much ideologically driven, using the old “when are you going to stop beating your wife?” approach. We are used to such tactics in political propaganda but it’s a lot worse here because this propaganda film targets science – the source of human knowledge.2007-07-09-wheel_of_misfortune

However, it got me thinking. The film claims that there are many scientists who support creationist/intelligent design (ID) ideas. But I can’t remember personally encountering a single scientist supporting these ideas in my whole scientific career. Religious door-knockers – yes. But no scientists. I came across scientists who believed in astrology, spirits and ghosts. I came across scientists who had racist or sexist beliefs. I even came across one who was a member of the Act party! But never a scientist who believed the creationist/ID story.

I know they are out there – after all three New Zealanders signed the Discovery Institutes’s Dissent from Darwinism petition. But clearly, the number of scientists supporting such ideas is very much smaller than Expelled implies.

US survey of scientists

Perhaps the proportion of US scientists supporting creationism/ID is greater – after all that’s where most of the political controversy occurs on this issue. But, again, I think this proportion is overblown by the propaganda in Expelled.

A recent survey of Texan scientists – specifically biology and anthropology faculty members of Texan public universities and the largest private institutions – provides some interesting figures (Download report – Evolution, Creationism & Public Schools: Surveying What Texas Scientists Think about Educating Our Kids in the 21st Century).

Only about 2% expressed any degree of sympathy for creationism/ID (this included 1.4% who accepted much of evolution but wished to invoke “periodic intervention by an intelligent designer.” No of the scientists teaching at the graduate level supported creationism/ID.

This is particularly relevant because of the current attempts by creationists to introduce changes aimed at weakening the teaching of evolution into the Science Standards of the Texan Education Board . This is clearly a political action with no scientific justification or support.

But that is the nature of the ID controversy – it is a political controversy, not a scientific one.

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Prostituting science

One thing that disappoints me is the way that some scientists prostitute their science. The way that some scientists use their academic qualifications or reputation to support unscientific messages. I realise that everybody who does this has their own reasons and these are usually related to ego, ideology or money.

This is something we should all be aware of when “experts” are rolled out to support questionable or controversial causes, as well as when they are used to advertise commercial products. A blatant example of this was revealed in a blog report on a recent debate about intelligent design (ID) (see ID Was Spanked In Fort Worth). The main speakers were Dr. Lawrence Krauss (opposing ID) and  Dr. David Berlinski (supporting ID). After the debate an audience member:

“heard Krauss ask Berlinski why he wasted his intellect advocating for intelligent design. To which Berlinski replied that he doesn’t believe a word of it, but is happy to cash the checks the Discovery Institute writes him. Strangely enough, this would be consistent with Berlinski’s odd statement early on in which he admitted that his own ethical orientation was focused on living as contentedly and as selfishly as possible. It was a weird aside at the time; realizing that he could be exercising that ethic by making chumps of the Discovery Institute seems somehow poetically appropriate.”

I realise that this is hearsay – and Berlinski may well deny these comments whether he made them or not. However, I think the report does illustrate the problem.

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