The Last Word on Science, Religion and Creationists

From: Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@uncwil.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 16:33:40 EDT


APS News
MAY 2001 ISSUE

The Last Word on Science, Religion and Creationists

Editor's Note: Last November we published a Back Page by Stephen Brush on
the battle between science and creationism. This triggered a deluge of
letters, which then led to a series of replies, which have now generated
even more replies... With the current batch of letters, this discussion in
our pages is now at an end. Please don't send us any more on this topic;
they won't be published.

I was disappointed to see the recent letter by Robert Gentry in APS News. In
Science, Oct. 6, 1989 Odom and Rink rather thoroughly discussed the
anamolous RICHs known as Polonium halos. Adequate mechanisms for the halo
production were presented. Gentry's interpretation and subsequent
cosmological speculations are, as Pauli would say, "Not even wrong."
Wayne Hayes
Greenville Technical College

I was somewhat appalled by the letter favoring "recent creation" in the
March APS News. Clearly scientific training does not clear away what most of
us see as irrational beliefs. However, nothing we may write to the author
will likely change his mind. We need to be aware of how beliefs are melded
into one's world view and be careful in attacking what we feel is
irrational. The psychologist Gregory Lester published an excellent article
("Why Bad Beliefs Don't Die", Skeptical Inquirer, November/December 2000) on
irrational beliefs and how skeptics can best work to dislodge them. His
techniques are patience, patience, and patience.
Tom Barber
Houston, Texas

Adrian L. Melott's letter in the March APS News is replete with
misrepresentations of my January letter. Big Bang cosmology is the precursor
to the evolution of the life itself. Linked invariably with the question of
the origin of man, it is hard to understand how a cosmological theory
developed by man can ever explain the very existence of man. Theories
propounded by man, even the elusive TOE, cannot bring anything into being
and only a Creator can do that-even quantum vacuum fluctuations do not bring
the vacuum into being! I am an evangelical Armenian who believes that man
was created in the image of God and thus has the ability to "detect" God in
a more convincing fashion than we have in inferring the reality of, say, the
microworld. Our belief that "Man shall not live on bread alone" surpasses
all scientific knowledge and lies at the very foundation of the humanity of
man. Our purpose for doing science and reading Scripture is to reconcile in
man scientific knowledge with revealed truths.
Moorad Alexanian
UNC at Wilmington

I'm wondering why the letters to APS News have become a literary discussion
group about works of fantasy. You can have fans of J.R.R. Tolkien write in
and debate the details of Lord of the Rings. I'm not against people doing
that. I'm just wondering why this is taking place in APS News. I thought APS
stood for American Physical Society. I thought APS News was supposed to be
about physics. I'm not against people inventing elaborate fantasy world such
as Lord of the Rings, and describing the details. I've done this myself.
(See my homepage at http://www.geocities.com/jefferywinkler) I'm just
wondering why this is taking place in APS News which used to be about
physics. I'm very interested in mythology, legends, folklore, religion, the
occult, and modern fantasy novels, film, and television, but I didn't know
that these subjects were now under the domain of the American Physical
Society. Perhaps I'll write a paper on the Force in Star Wars, and submit it
to Physical Review Letters.
Jeffery Winkler
Hanford, California

The editors are to be congratulated for publishing Robert Gentry's
creationist letter in front of Patricia Schwarz's letter on religious
apologetics (APS News March 2001). Gentry's letter shows the dangers of
mixing religion in science, dangers which Schwarz seems to want to gloss
over. Gentry is one of a handful of otherwise technical people who want to
read the Bible literally although he has yet to choose which of the biblical
versions of creation he wants taught. Gentry's letter is typical of
creationism in action as described in the accompanying article by Adrian L.
Melott ("Kansan Dissects Soft Creationism"). Overlooking the overwhelming
evidence for a multi-billion-year-old universe and for evolution, Gentry
finds some (to him) problem with age dating and loudly proclaims that the
Earth is only a few thousand years old. This is a classic case of "argument
from ignorance" and "God is in the gaps" rhetoric. One of the current crop
of creationists, Phillip Johnson, a UC-Berkeley criminal law professor,
wants to replace science with something he calls theistic science. In short,
he wants scientists to look for God's hand in everything.

This is akin to the Dark Ages view that angels moved the planets. While
these so-called "intelligent design" advocates claim they don't know who the
"intelligent designer" is, in private they admit they are promoting the
concept of an ultraconservative fundamentalist Christian God. What makes
their deceptive sales pitch so dangerous is that they now have allies in the
White House, Congress and the Justice Department. Our local rabbi has
pointed out that Genesis can be read about 70 different ways because, in the
original Hebrew, there are no capitals and no punctuation and the verb tense
is very, very unclear. He has termed people who read the Bible literally as
"metaphorically impaired". With religious leaders like him science will
continue to advance. But under fundamentalists like Robert Gentry and
Phillip Johnson civilization will sink once again into a world of ignorance
with superstitious beliefs that spirits inhabit everything. The APS and the
American Association of Physics Teachers need to become very active in
turning back this vicious assault on science.
Gary L. Bennett
Emmett, Idaho

1995 - 2001, AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY



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