Re: Full disclosure (was Grand Canyon Tears America Apart )

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Wed Jan 21 2004 - 10:57:17 EST

Burgy wrote:

"What I do call for is for mainstream science to pay more attention
to the YEC arguments, by "welcoming" them into the discussion (in
moderation, of course), and publicly refuting them in discussion."

A problem with this approach is that you're unlikely to effectively refute "informed" YECs in a public discussion. YECs will bring out their technical arguments, scientists will present technical reasons as to why those arguments are invalid, but the public will just see two sets of experts that disagree on technical details. Unless a member of the audience is unusually well informed and can follow the arguments, he will have little reason to change his mind. Furthermore, it's often the YEC who's the more practiced and effective debater, as debating skills are usually of secondary importance for scientists.

There's no substitute for careful consideration and evaluation of the scientific evidence of the sort one should engage in when taking a geology course. Limited public discussion cannot cover enough territory to settle anything.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: John W Burgeson<>
  Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 11:51 AM
  Subject: Full disclosure (was Grand Canyon Tears America Apart )

  Thanks for the added conversation on my proposal. We are probably not
  really very far apart on this.

>>The "campaign against Velikovsky" (~50 years ago) had a different
  1st, V's claims were novel, unlike those of YECs, which have been weighed
  in the balance
  & found wanting numerous times. 2nd, some of V's critics apparently
  never read _Worlds
  in Collision_ with any care before reading it. (~ 30 years ago I wrote a
  paper for
  Pensee, a journal publicizing V's ideas, in which I examined his physics
  claims & found
  them wrong but not quite as absurd as some critics had suggested.
  Unfortunately the
  journal went broke after accepting the paper but before it could be
  The "martyrization" of V would have had less effect if the initial
  critques of
  his work had been done more carefully - & from an interdisciplinary
  standpoint. (...The interesting thing was that the historians &
  archaeologists there all knew that his history was baloney but thought
  that physicists had found
  support for his claims, while as a physicist I knew that his physics was
  wrong but
  had thought that maybe some of his historical claims had some

  I remember having exactly the same reaction, George. Thanks for pointing
  out the differences (above), with which I do agree.

>>But I suppose your point is that the use of economic leverage by the
  community to keep V's stuff from being published was wrong & conferred
  "martyrdom" on
  him. I don't agree that there's anything wrong in principle with using
  such economic
  leverage. (Cf. strikes, the Birmingham bus boycott, &c.)>>

  I do not claim that it is "wrong" in the sense of being an immoral
  action, but I do claim that it was, in V's case, wrong pragmatically; it
  gave his ideas more credibility than they deserved. Not among the
  scientists, perhaps, but among other people who could all too easily see
  the "heavy hand of orthodoxy" trying to squash him and so reacted in a
  direction the "squashers" did not anticipate.

  As one who participated in the 60s Civil Rights movement, I think I see
  your point but don't really see its applicability. The 60s issue was one
  of deep immorality promoted by governments; this one does not have that

>> 1st, YEC is "marginalized" only relative to the scientific community.
  As you have pointed out ("They are winning"), in the larger society, &
  especially conservative Christian churches, it is mainstream. >>

  True enough. Good point.

>>2d, YEC hasn't always been marginal for scientists: It became so
  gradually as scientific evidence for an old earth &
  evolution accumulated. De-marginalizing it scientifically would mean
  going back to ~1800.>>

  I don't think I called for this. I don't see, really, how it could be
  done. What I do call for is for mainstream science to pay more attention
  to the YEC arguments, by "welcoming" them into the discussion (in
  moderation, of course), and publicly refuting them in discussion. The
  current strategy is to ignore them, and it is that strategy which is
  leading to their gaining adherents outside the scientific community.

>>3d, "marginalizing" YEC may give them a _plausible_ reason to declare
  as martyrs but that is not the same as a _legitimate_ reason. >>

  Of course. But when you can claim a "plausible reason," as they do, and
  have that reason accepted by many, as obviously happens, it does no good
  at all to stand outside and say the reason is not "legitimate."

>> & 4th, the "who is to say" argument assumes a relativity of truth that
  neither scientific societies nor the
  govt is bound to accept, nor should they. Keith's post makes this point
  very well.>>

  I'm not sure of your point here. I replied to Keith separately.

>>The 1st Ammendment says that the govt can't make an establishment of
  but it says nothing about govt agencies recognizing some scientific
  theories as better
  than others. Again I refer to Keith's excellent post. If the govt can't
  make any scientific distinctions then the CDC has to accept the theory
  that diseases are caused by invisible demons on the same level as the
  theory that they're caused by viruses or bacteria. >>

  You are arguing against a view I don't hold and have not argued.

>> scientific organizations should be able to express their displeasure
  what's on sale & use their influence to keep bad science from
  masquerading as good.>>

  Maybe. You reify "scientific organizations," which bothers me. A PERSON
  is always able to do this, of course. I'm not altogether convinced about
  any organization ought to do so (of course, they are not so prevented,
  nor should they be). But I may not have though this part through.

> 2. Have you read FRACTURE?


  I presume you read my review. Maybe I did not praise it sufficiently.

>>Of course evidence for an old earth & universe & for evolution should
  presented, & areas (such as the origin of life) that "orthodox" science
  hasn't dealt
  with adequately should be acknowledged. This could certainly include
  putatively scientific YEC claims & showing the massive problems with
  them. & of course
  students shouldn't be _forced_ to accept one view or another, though they
  can be
  required to understand the theories & evidence on tests. But this
  material should
  certainly _not_ be presented in a "some say this, some say that, you can
  make up your
  minds" manner.>.

  We are in massive agreement here. Except I assert that the word "could"
  in your second sentence above ought to be replaced with the word
  "should." That is the core of my argument.

>>Furthermore, if YEC views are "presented as what they are," teachers
  will be
  free to critique them, & it will be very hard to keep them from sliding
  over into
  ridicule of the biblical creation accounts if they want to. & I think
  all Christians
  should be concerned about that.>>

  Yes, that is an exposure. I think it is an acceptable one.

  I had earlier said: " c. The education arms are (usually) competent to
  give them the exposure
> they deserve. d. Their exclusion today is one case of the
  marginalization I speak of."

>>I'm not sure if you mean "case" or "cause" here.>>

  Sorry. Cause.

>> Either way, I repeat what I said above: YEC got marginalized
  scientifically by an accumulation of scientific
  evidence & the development of scientific theory. >>

  Yep. But that is hardly a responsive comment to what I said.
  I had written:" e. By ignoring the YEC view, credibility is given it that
  it does not deserve."

>>No. This may provide grounds for claiming "martyrdom," as noted above,
  but there is no way it can be said to give "credibility." Is phlogiston
  theory made credible today by the fact that no one (outside history
  classes) teaches it?>>

  You set up a straw man here, my friend. If there was no YEC "cause,"
  there would be no problem. There is no "phlogiston cause," therefore
  there is no problem. But to be complete, I could have written: "e.
  Because the YEC position is widely taught, by ignoring the YEC view,
  credibility is given it that it does not deserve."

  Sometimes you have to remember previous parts of the argument. <G>

  I had also written: " f. By ignoring the YEC view, the case against it
  is never taught."

>>The case for an old earth & evolution should be taught. If you want
  teachers to
  add "therefore the earth isn't young & life didn't appear suddenly," it's
  OK with me.>>

  No. Simply saying that does no good. The YEC arguments should also be
  discussed -- and refuted.

>>In reality evolution has been, & to some extent still is, either
  ignored or
  (more likely) downplayed in many public schools. There are plenty of
  teachers who have
  no problem with evolution itself but are nervous about teaching it
  because of the flak
  they'll get from YEC parents &c. This returns to the point about
  While YEC is marginal - & properly so - in the scientific community, it
  is not marginal
  in the communities in which many public school teachers live & work.>>

  Yeah. That IS a real problem. It is my assertion, however, that
  pretending it does not exist is making the problem worse, not better.

>>Finally, on the general question of the best way to counter YEC claims.
   I agree
  that giving a movement plausible reasons to claim "martyrdom" may give
  them publicity &
  appear to give their claims more credit than they deserve.>>


>> But I also think that one should not place undue faith in the liberal
  idea that if ideas are freely & openly
  discussed, the truth will always win out. (Here I don't use "liberal" in
  a pejorative Limbaughish fashion but simply as a designation of a classic
  position.) While such exchanges of ideas are very valuable, there is no
  guarantee that truth will emerge from them. >>

  Here it is (finally) where you and I have a potentially serious
  disagreement. If the essentials of Mills' ON LIBERTY are not valid for
  our society, then you are right, and perhaps we can muddle along anyway.
  I happen to think (strongly) that they ARE valid, and that to the extent
  we modify them for one or another issue, we are the poorer for it.

>>This is especially the case when a relatively uninformed public tries
  to debate a technical subject, & even more so when the material for one
  side of the debate is supplied by people with a clear ideological agenda.
   That applies to laissez faire capitalists who want to deny global
  warming as well as to YECs.>>

  Could not agree more. It is the thesis of FRACTURE that "full disclosure"
  is the only possible answer to this. It is ONLY those issues which are
  "supplied by people with a clear ideological agenda" that are of interest
  here. The author of FRACTURE analyzes three of these groups, the
  Sojourners, The Religious Right and the Berrigan Brothers. The
  application of his arguments could just as well been applied to the YEC

>>A democratic society depends to some extent on the belief that the
  electorate can make intelligent decisions about issues if they are
  discussed openly. But in a scientific & technological world that will
  work only if the electorate has some basic scientific understanding of
  the world. & that means that education in good science, and its
  distinction from bad science, is essential for the long term viability of
  such a society. (It is, needless to say, a necessary but not a
  sufficient condition.) >>

  We end on a note of agreement. What I see as key in the above is your
  phrase "and its distinction from bad science." That distinction is NOT
  being made today, and I am reminded of a popular bumper sticker I saw
  many times last year in Denver:

  "What am I doing in this handbasket?"

  Burgy<> (Review of THE FRACTURE OF GOOD ORDER)

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Received on Wed Jan 21 10:52:58 2004

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