Re: [asa] Fw: Message to Jennifer M. Granholm, Governor of Michigan

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Mon Apr 07 2008 - 13:56:47 EDT

Other areas of science, including social science are quite relevant to
the list generally and evolution specifically. However, the topic of
biological evolution is particularly afflicted by a number of people
who claim to speak authoritatively without any actual training on the
subject. The fact that a chemist thinks something about biological
evolution has in itself no more weight than the fact that a housewife
thinks something about biological evolution. For that matter, the
fact that a molecular biologist thinks something about biological
evolution does not necessarily carry any valid weight. Any of the
above could have done the serious effort to learn about biological
evolution or could be completely ignorant about it. However, someone
with an actual degree in paleontology or organismal biology probably
has had a reasonable dose of study of evolution. Even some of the
latter may have managed to avoid the topic in their studies, done
poorly in those classes, or failed to honestly represent what they
learned when they discuss the subject later, so there is no guarentee
that someone with an apparently relevant degree is a better source
than someone without such credentials. Nevertheless, there is no
reason to give any weight to the DI petition as evidence that there
are problems with biological evolution because 1) there is no evidence
that many of the signees have appropriate credentials, 2) the actual
wording of the statement that people were asked to sign was so vague
as to not require having any problems with evolution in order to sign
it, 3) hundreds of signatures over several years compares poorly with
thousands of signatures in a week for an opposing petition.

Being a sociologist in and of itself does not demonstrate any
knowledge of biological evolution. Some do study it; others deal with
(or advocate) systems that claim to derive from biological evolution
but do not in fact fit with a modern understanding thereof, such as
communism. If a sociologist is claiming something about biological
evolution that is out of line from the conventional biological view,
he had better provide solid evidence if he wants to be taken seriously
by biologists. For that matter, solid evidence is needed to change
any well-established scientific view. Of course, much opposition to
evolution reflects the sociological ideas that claim inspiration from
biological evolution, and sociological analysis is quite valuable to
understanding this aspect.

I can think of several studies that reflect a philosophical
inclination regarding the preferred choice of analytical methods, but
I'm not sure that really fits the "philosophy of science" level of
inspiration. In those studies, the more the philosophical motivation
is emphasized, generally the worse the science (as measured by the
level of concern with how well it approximates physical reality).

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Mon Apr 7 14:36:38 2008

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