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

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Wed Jan 21 2004 - 20:36:40 EST

John W Burgeson wrote:
> Thanks for the added conversation on my proposal. We are probably not
> really very far apart on this.

        I think where we do differ is primarily on pragmatic questions - i.e., on what's
going to be the most effecive way to deal with what we both perceive as a serious
problem. But I also think that you have more faith than I in the ability of rational
open discussion to get people to see the light. Perhaps that can eb traced to different
views about the extent of original sin!

> >>But I suppose your point is that the use of economic leverage by the
> scientific
> 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.

        I agree that ham-handed attempts to silence people can backfire.

> >>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......................

        We probably differ on whether or not "discussion" is the best approach. If that
means that we're to start from zero & present both YEC claims & mainstream scientific
views as equal discussion partners then it seems to me that we are in effect trying to
go back to 1800. It would mean having to retrace the history - & while that may be a
worthwhile approach in some cases, I don't know if it's the best way to teach science
for young people.

> >>The 1st Ammendment says that the govt can't make an establishment of
> religion,
> 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.

         You had said earlier, "The gov't ought not take a stand for or against any
particular position, no matter how solid the science behind it." I had understood that
to have the implications I argued against above. If that isn't what you meant then we
have no argument on this point.
> >> scientific organizations should be able to express their displeasure
> with
> 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.

        I can't see why in principle there is a problem with professional organizations
making statements about issues which involve their professional expertise - as long as
such statements are fairly representative of the organization's membership. Of course
such statements may be wrong or go too far. E.g., I have protested against the APS's
statement on evolution because it not only says that evolution should be taught but goes
on to assert that science & religion have nothing at all to do with one another.
> >>Of course evidence for an old earth & universe & for evolution should
> be
> presented, & areas (such as the origin of life) that "orthodox" science
> hasn't dealt
> with adequately should be acknowledged. This could certainly include
> presenting
> 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.

        My only problem with strengthening my statement, as you suggest, is that such
discussion can open the door for YECs to claim that their views are being misrepresented
or ridiculed, that they should be able to speak for themselves, &c. The practical
question is whether that would give them more public leverage than just ignoring them.

> 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.

        It seems to me to be relevant. At the very least, it means that the task now is
to explain to people why YEC got marginalized by the scientific community to begin with.
> 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."

        I don't agree but maybe we just differ on what we mean by "credibility."
> 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.

        OK - but what arguments? How many of them. Many of their arguments are just
spurious claims that there is no evidence for an old earth or evolution.
        Furthermore, it's going to be hard to present the YEC case without bringing in
religious arguments. E.g., the claim that many of the features we observe are due to a
univeral flood makes no sense without some initial reason for thinking that there was
such a flood - which means introducing the Bible & then having to talk about how to read
& interpret it. Even if YECs claim that a flood is simply an induction from the data
with no reference to the Bible, enough students will probably be aware of the biblical
story (& some will be sure that it's straight history) that you're not really going to
be able to deal with these claims without discussing religion.
        & I am not a proponent of strict exclusion of all religious topics from the
public classroom. But here I think a can of worms is going to be opened that in many
cases will work against the goal of refuting YEC.

> >> 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.

        I am not saying that free discussion & exchange of ideas should be suppressed,
and am not advocating govt censorship. (But this doesn't mean that the govt is required
to subsidize or assist in the promotion of all views.) I'm just not sure that such free
discussion is always going to have the positive effects that the liberal tradition
expects. As I said above, this may have to do with differing views about original sin.

George L. Murphy
Received on Wed Jan 21 20:43:15 2004

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