[asa] Denyse's advice

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Thu May 03 2007 - 13:50:18 EDT

I'm back from my therapist. Yeah, it was a pretty short meeting--they had to fit me in between a TE who was losing her faith in evolution after reading "Icons of Evolution" and a YEC who had already lost his faith in God after seeing a story about new stars forming, right now, before our eyes. It was ugly. I'm glad to say, my therapist convinced me not to join the AAAS, and my Christian beliefs are still intact. Whew--that was close.

I want now to respond to one of Denyse's suggestions for the ASA. I've already gone on record that we need to do exactly what she suggests here:

"Change the name of the “ASA list”, take it private, or shut it down." I fully agree, but my opinion is not the only one worthy of consideration.

This is the one I want to comment on now:
"Cease the campaign against the young earth creationists. To the extent that YEC is a doctrinal position, just don’t get involved. If YEC scientists are subjected to persecution based solely on supposition about their point of view and not on failure to perform work to standard, defend them as one would defend any Christian subjected to persecution."

In passing, I will note that the document Denyse implicitly refers to here, the one from Jack Haas that Bill Dembski quoted on UD, did not ultimately lead to an official ASA publication of any kind. Nor does it seem likely that it will, at this point. I also restate the point that the ASA is always interested in showing ordinary Christians various ways in which to approach origins issues. It is abundantly clear from Jack's letter that our concern as an organization was to find ways to help Christians see that the spiritually viable options extend beyond YEC. I would be surprised if Denyse herself did not agree with the final 6 words of the previous sentence.

But this is incidental. As for the suggestion itself, that the ASA ought not to "campaign against the YECs," I would have several things to say.

First, the ASA has to weigh any "official" response on such an issue against two key principles, as follows:

(1) The ASA as an organization "does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue." By itself, this suggests that we should not get involved directly in opposing YEC beliefs, just as we have neither officially supported nor opposed ID, TE, or various other approaches to origins that Christians hold. By itself. But it isn't "by itself."

(2) We must also realize that ASA members "share a commitment to integrity in the practice of science." A very large majority of our members (nearly all, to the best of my knowledge) believe that the way in which YEC views are *usually* advanced (there are notable exceptions) violates "integrity in the practice of science." We do not believe, e.g., that scientific evidence at all supports a "recent" creation of the earth and universe in the past 10-20K years; more to the point, we believe that many creationist materials badly misrepresent this conclusion, in ways that do raise questions about "integrity in the practice of science." To be even more specific, the "RATE" project released in Nov & Dec 2005 by ICR & CRS, and strongly supported by AiG (http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/1107rate.asp), appears to mislead the ordinary person in the pew about the enormity of the challenge posed to the YE position, even though the YE scientists who conducted the study are ful!
 ly aware that the evidence is very strongly against their conclusions. Much more will be said about this in a forthcoming issue of PSCF. For the moment, I note only the bald contradiction between what is said *in the technical publication* of the RATE project (volume II, 2005), which most laypeople will never read, vs what is said in the popularizations of those views that continue to tell people in the pew that the evidence supports a "recent" creation. Furthermore, the very selective and (again) highly misleading way in which certain data are treated in the technical publication raises serious questions about "integrity in the practice of science."

Several ASA members are committed to the YEC position. I think esp here of Kurt Wise, who candidly states that scientific evidence does not presently support the YEC position. He and some others hold out hope that future discoveries will alter that state of affairs, and in the meantime he believes what he does on the basis of Scripture. But Kurt does not misrepresent the scientific facts. The ASA as an organization does not oppose the YEC position, per se, even though nearly all of our members think it is very far from the truth. We do think that Christians should be shown other options in a favorable light (not as straw men to knock over), and that's what Jack's letter was about. We also believe that the YEC position is very often presented in ways that do not uphold "integrity in the practice of science." The individuals who engage in this might believe sincerely in what they are doing, but we do not believe that scientific integrity is upheld in many instances.

As for viewpoint discrimination, I have no doubt that this happens for many reasons to academics--esp I suspect in the humanities, where viewpoints are more clearly seen and usually more directly relevant to intepretations made by scholars. The National Association of Scholars, a highly secular organization, likes to document such cases and call people to account for it. Whether the ASA should add this to its agenda, in cases involving our own members, is I believe a fair talking point. We presently lack financial resources to do it on an ongoing basis--it does take time and energy to do this--but if we were in a stronger financial situation it might perhaps be possible for us to act formally in certain cases. Informally, I know that I am not the only ASA member who defended Guillermo Gonzalez in public and private ways (the latter are often no less important), and I also defended Rick Sternberg on PT (a rare exception to my rule to avoid blogs). Whether not YEC scienti!
 sts should also be defended in this way, is much harder for me to say. See above. If a geology professor (e.g.) tells her students that the scientific evidence for an old earth is not very strong, I think the institution would be in a good place to deny her tenure. Ditto for an astronomy professor who tells his students that star formation is not going on in the universe right now.


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Received on Thu May 3 13:51:25 2007

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