Re: [asa] Role of research scientist

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Wed Feb 28 2007 - 12:37:39 EST

On 2/27/07, Randy Isaac <> wrote:
> Mills and Clark list a number of "propositions" for both researchers and
> decision makers Here's one for researchers:
> "Research scientists must be prepared to respond to harsh critiques and
> attacks meant to undermine their credibility or to challenge their work. In
> cases with which we are familiar, research scientists have been attacked
> both professionally and personally, evidently in an attempt to undermine the
> credibility of their work because of its implications for the policy
> outcome. One of the best ways to cope with this scrutiny is to stay in the
> science role using time-tested strategies.. If someone wants to debate the
> science, they must play by the rules of science, using peer reviewed
> information, clearly stated assumptions, and rationale. This often reveals
> that the debate is not about science information at all but about
> different value positions."

This clearly illustrates the damage to the credibility of Christians that
slash and burn debating causes. Unfortunately, that is all too common in the
evangelical community. The problem as I see it is this restriction keeps lay
people from standing in judgment of secular experts of all stripes and
apparently that's an intolerable option. So, they collect their bombs to
throw from the usual suspects, not realizing they are innoculating secular
scientists from the truth. If we don't stay within the so-called rules of
science when debating, then our colleagues will conclude, perhaps rightly,
that we are more interested in an "outcome" than the truth. This does not
mean we don't determine the truth by means outsides of the narrow confines
of science because the method is self-limited by design. Rather, it means
that when we debate science we stay within those boundaries. More below.

> I think this is particularly true in areas of science and Christian faith.
> It's so easy to move the debate outside the realm of "the rules of science"
> when we don't like the conclusions or implications of mainstream science. We
> would even prefer to change the rules of science to make a better fit.
> Perhaps it would be much better to humbly admit we don't know how to
> reconcile the two rather than distort either the theology or the science to
> forcefit concordance.

I believe this is too narrow. When debating science it is altogether fair to
remain in the rules of science. If we expand the forum to the nexus of faith
and science this is too constraining. May I suggest a higher principle? Be
rigorously circumscribed by the truth. Staying in the rules of science is
but an example of this. The scientific method like capitalism is a system
that accommodates our falleness. But, sometimes we have to go into areas
where the "rules of science" doesn't give the needed protection from
ourselves. Then, we have to have the self-control not to blow smoke, set up
straw men, and a whole host of rhetorical devices that our fallen, yet
brilliant, nature can create. Mixing in a liberal dose of humility never
hurts, either.

In being the ambassadors both to the scientific and Christian lay
communities we should be Nathaniels without guile. We may lose the debate
but I have found we may gain the person with whom we are debating. Which is
as it should be because people are more important than debates.

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Received on Wed Feb 28 12:38:28 2007

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