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

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Jan 22 2004 - 18:11:36 EST

John W Burgeson wrote:
> George wrote: "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."
> Yes. But George, I have a specific, if yet not fleshed out, proposal to
> solve the problem. You say it will not work, and you may be right. But
> you, yourself, offer no counter proposal.

        Boy, you seem uncharacteristically combative. I thought that I was agreeing
with you that we couldn't deal with YEC simply by ignoring it, but that we differed on
how it should be addressed. If you will, I'm trying to provide some constraints for
fleshing out your proposal so that it doesn't result in making it seem as if YEC is a
viable proposal for mainstream science. That is very different from just saying it
won't work.

> The boat is leaking. I say to you and the other sailors -- "Bail."
> You sit back and say "They won't listen."

        If I said this I was referring to hard-core YECs like Ham et al. That does not
at all mean that average conservative Christians who accept YEC more or less passively
can't be reached. Much less does it mean that those who are uncommitted can't be kept
from falling for it.

> And the boat continues to settle, for you understand that you and I
> together can't do enough to stop it.
> While bailing, I say to you "OK, George. What is YOUR plan?"

        My "plan," if I can call it that, is to tell students why good science
rules out YEC claims. But I see the problems with that - the danger of appearing to
engage in an attack on religious beliefs.
> "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."
> Again you set up a strawman to demolish my argument, which does not, not
> in the least, suggest that.

        Your argument has been so unfleshed-out that I can't tell whether o not this is
a legitimate criticism. Briefly & precisely, how you you propose to deal with YEC in
the classroom?
> "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."
> George, try reading what I write and avoiding inferences. You so often
> catch what I do not throw! <G>

        What "inference"? What part of "The gov't ought not take a stand for or against
any particular position, no matter how solid the science behind it" did I misinterpret?
If that's not what you meant to say, fine. Just say so.
> "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."
> "In principle, of course, it is the reification argument.
> "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. "
> Assuming you are a member of the APS, they spoke for you, whether or not
> you like it. Of course, the APS is not a "person." It is a peculiar
> concept that an organization, or a corporation, can be reified into a
> "person-like entity." Yet it is also clear that organizations and
> corporations must speak as "persons" on occasions. Such statements should
> be made very carefully, and done in a POSITIVE way. Thus, if the ASA
> wished to counter that YEC book in a bookstore, a better book would be a
> good answer. A "get that offending book out of there or we will make you
> look foolish" would not be a good answer (no matter how bad the book
> might be).

        Maybe, maybe not. If a store started carrying a book entitled _Hitler was
Right_ that glorified the Holocaust (not an impossibility with the rising tide of
anti-Judaism in Europe), I think "get that offending book out of there or we will make
you look foolish" would be a more effective (& quicker) response than writing a book to
show that genocide is bad.
        No, I am not equating YEC with Naziism but simply pointing out that sweet reason
isn't always effective. & yes, this is a legitimate reductio ad absurdum because of
your closing parenthetical statement.
> ..................
> "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."
> A reasonable objection, and you may be right. What I perceive you saying
> is that an implementation of the FRACTURE principles to the YEC problem
> will result in the YECs winning at a faster rate than they are now.
> I think you are wrong, but I concede that until we try it we will not
> know. Maybe my bailing (see story above) is making the boat leak faster.
> Again, I don't think so.
> So, George, we are sinking. There seems to be general agreement about
> this -- at least I don't recall anyone arguing otherwise here. I have
> offered "Plan B." You reject it -- I await "Plan C." Plan A is not
> working.

        I have not simply "rejected" it but have offered some cautions - to the
extent that I can in its unfinished state. Flesh out "Plan B" & we'll see. Maybe my
concerns will be assuaged by details.

> .......................
> "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."
> That is a useful task, but frankly, I see it as neither necessary or
> sufficient. Just useful within the overall discussions for some (not
> most) people, who could care less about obscure bits of history.

        If you're going to explain why YEC is wrong, you have to present the arguments
that have led scientists to reject it. Of course I don't mean that it would be
necessary to go through all the fits and starts of the historical process.


George L. Murphy
Received on Thu Jan 22 18:14:45 2004

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