Hello Bill and group;
This sounds a bit like the ruckus that blew up in the 1970's when (as I remember it) a civil engineer at LSU was given the assignment of detemning the safety of storing radioactive waste in salt domes. Of course the mobility of the salt was one of his concerns and that brought in the question of how geologists determine how long it has been since something happened, in this case a significant motion of a body of salt. In checking for dissenting opionions and their basis he came across, or was point to, Robert ________________ work on halos in biotite and he may or may not have found some other information about alternative views. Anyway he desided to have a conference and let everyone get together and bring all all their information so the engineers could see it and talk to the scientists involved and get a good "feel" for just how solid all these different answers were. The geologists threw a screaming fit and I have to say that being a graduate student and knowing about all this from reading only the material in Geotimes each month it looked to me like they were afraid to put their data on the table and to have someone go over it and ask questions. I was teaching introductory labs at the time and I showed many issues to the students and pointed out to them that in my opinion, this was not an acceptable way for scientists to respond to a challenge. Of course there was historical precident. Had't we just got together and told a book publisher that if they didn't quite publishing Velekovsky's works as science books we would ban the use of their other texts in our classes? I remember something to that effect happening.
Having taught now for several years, and having worked in geology for several more, I know that what is obvious to us as geolgists and scientists is not at all obvious to others, sometimes not even to other geologists; and I have found that for myself the most effective way to convince someone a particular view is correct, at least better than theirs, is to listen to their questions, and to their comments, and discuss their data talk specifically about each issue. It takes time, it takes effort, and it can get awfully frustrating.
Perhaps a geological survey bulletin or newsletter is not the best place for such discussions, but on the other side, perhaps there are better reactions than picking up our data and reverting to our shells when someone offers a dissenting opion or some contrary data, or even some real bad logic and then asks us to present or defend our side. If all else fails, and I have gotten to this point myself a few times, a polite statement saying we don't wish to discuss a particular topic, or to have a discussion with a particular person etc and a referral to someone who might be willing to present the traditional side would leave us looking a lot better, get the issue addressed, and solve the problem.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bill Payne" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 12:20 AM
Subject: Re: So. Baptist Spin on BOE Vote
> On Tue, 05 Jun 2001 07:42:49 +1000 Jonathan Clarke
> <email@example.com> writes:
> > > The current scientific consensus is an iron collar choking free
> > > Professionals in America get fired if they challenge the reigning
> > > paradigm. Ask me how I know.
> > >
> > How do you know this?
> Sorry, I didn't really intend to get off on this, but in a nutshell: I
> was the editor for the Alabama Geological Society Newsletter for about 6
> months in ~1995. I wanted to foster open debate/discussion about my
> favorite topic (origin of coal), so I invited Steve Austin (PhD in
> Geology from Penn State) to write an article presenting his view that
> coal consists of transported organics. I also innocently invited Bob
> Gastaldo (geology professor at Auburn University at the time) to submit a
> parallel article presenting evidence supporting his view that coal
> consists of in situ organics.
> Bob and I had a rather tense telephone conversation. The next day he and
> another geologist from the University of Alabama called the Society
> President and complained to him along the lines of the following e-mail
> that Dr. Gastaldo sent to every geology department in the State, along
> with at least one state agency for which I do most of my work. Here is
> the text of his e-mail, which was faxed to me:
> I received a telephone call today from Bill asking if I'd write a short
> generalized article on coal formation for the Alabama Geological Society
> Newsletter. Bill has taken over as the Newsletter Editor and wanted to
> "level the playing field" by having my short article "balanced" by one
> written by Steve Austin. For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Austin, he
> works for the Institute for Creation Research in El Cajun, California,
> is prominent in their literature and videos. Dr. Austin has been very
> active for over the past 20 years in the fight to bring "balanced
> treatment" to the classrooms of America. His present model for coal
> formation states that coal can form "very quickly." He uses the
> accumulation of trees in Spirit Lake after the blast of Mt. St. Helens as
> model for coal formation. His previous model purported to having
> forests" in nearshore marine settings. This model validated the idea
> all coal formed during the Noachian Flood. The article I wrote in 1984
> discrediting this hypothesis can be made available to you upon request.
> I told Bill that I was unwilling to "balance" the presentation in the
> Newsletter because Dr. Austin's premises are not based upon scientific
> inquiry. I also told him that if the push to present "creationist views"
> continues in the Alabama Geological Society, that I will withdraw my
> membership and suggest that others do the same.
> The "push" towards "balanced" (read pseudoscience) treatment has already
> begun in the Newsletter. If you read the article in vol. 9 (no. 3) that
> was sent in August (dated 1 Aug), you will see that Bill Payne has used a
> book by van Flandern to cast suspicion on the accuracy of the geological
> time scale. The article is entitled "Fundamental Principle of Geology:
> Uniformitarianism/Cosmic Catastrophe." I can supply you with a copy if
> do not have one available.
> As you are probably aware, there is a group of individuals in Alabama who
> are associated with the Eagle Forum, a christian-fundamentalist group who
> have tried to place their agenda into the State school system. They were
> partially successful this year with the inclusion of the "nobody was
> present when the first organisms appeared on Earth and, therefore, nobody
> can state how life appeared" statement NOW found in all Biology texts in
> the state. I believe that the Alabama Geological Society will be used as
> "pawn" in this game, particularly if "pseudoscientific" articles,
> to cast skepticism on the principles of geology, appear on an
> issue-by-issue basis. With the Alabama Geological Society granting their
> "approval" of these ideas by publishing them, we will become unwitting
> cohorts in this deceptive game. In the end, we (the members) will all
> "agree" with what has been published and this will be further
> that "balanced treatment" is the right thing to do.
> If the inclusion of creationist-style articles continues in the
> Society Newsletter, I hope that you will react accordingly and drop your
> membership. I would also hope that those of you who regularly
> in the meetings/functions of the Society take a stand against this
> incursion. Please inform your colleagues of this situation.
> Robert A. Gastaldo
> Alumni Professor of Geology
> Auburn University, AL 36849
> The next day I received a call from the Society President who said he was
> getting calls from all over the State about me, and asked for my
> resignation. I felt at the tiime, and I still do, that as a matter of
> principle I was correct in what I had done, and refused to resign. A
> week later I got a letter saying I had been replaced.
> I have reviewed the 1984 article Gastaldo referenced above; it may be
> found at:
> I invited Bob to respond, but he hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.
> These types of stories are not all that uncommon. You may remember the
> editor who was hired for Scientific American who was terminated before he
> began work because it was discovered that he was a creationist.
> Dean Kenyon, author of "Of Pandas and People," had been an evolutionist
> for years, until he began to realize that the naturalistic explanations
> for life were lacking and he became a creationist. As I recall the
> story, his administrators at the Univ of California (?) tried to fire him
> but his fellow profs came to his rescue, saying he was exercising his
> academic freedom.
> And of course there was Halton Arp, who was denied telescope time because
> he kept finding evidence that redshift was not due to recessional
> velocity. Arp finally moved to West Germany where he could experience a
> little academic freedom again.
> And a highschool teacher, maybe in Oregon, who has been prohibited by his
> administrators from presenting problems with the theory of evolution.
> And a public grade-school teacher here in Alabama who was fired
> (actually, his contract wasn't renewed, and they don't have to tell you
> why) because he taught (I think) the concept of intelligent design. I
> understand that he was a great teacher and the kids loved him.
> I'm sure Phil Johnson could fill a book with examples. The point is -
> this trend is real and those who come after you are not very polite when
> you threaten their religion.
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