RE: [asa] Expelled Explained

From: Austerberry, Charles <cfauster@creighton.edu>
Date: Tue Apr 15 2008 - 09:46:14 EDT

I've been aware of, but trying to ignore, this film for several months.
Intelligent design (ID) is an issue that engenders a lot of controversy.
Both sides feel they are victims.
 
The pro-ID crowd feels that their scientific credentials are ignored
when in fact some of them do have scientific credentials, and that they
are all unfairly lumped in with the creationists when in fact some ID
advocates are not Biblical-literalist creationists.
 
The anti-ID crowd feels that the normal scientific process, in which
open questions are valued as promising avenues for further research, is
being trashed by the ID advocates' desire to say "you don't have a
non-design explanation yet because there isn't one." Anti-ID folks feel
that ID explanations lack sufficient detail to even be tested, even
while the pro-ID advocates demand complete detail of any tentative
non-design explanation. The anti-ID crowd also doesn't appreciate it
when the only examples of anti-ID scientists displayed in movies like
"Expelled" are outspoken atheists such as Richard Dawkins.
 
Lots of heat, very little light.
 
For what it's worth, I tolerate quite a bit of pro-ID views in a
scientist if that scientist is also doing great work apart from his/her
advocacy of ID. From my experience, however, that is rare. I've yet to
see a good pro-ID argument in my own field of molecular biology. I've
seen lots of bad ones, most coming from non-scientists, and only a few
coming from molecular biologists who do decent work outside of their ID
advocacy.
 
I don't like what the ISU religion prof. Hector Avalos did to Gonzalez.
It wasn't necessary. No one would think ISU is pro-ID just because one
of its professors is pro-ID. But, I also think it's possible that the
ISU physics dept. decided the tenure case fairly. Tenure decisions
themselves are hard to judge from the outside as to their fairness. I
just don't think Dr. Gonzalez should have been the target of a faculty
letter complaining about his intelligent design work.
 
I think Dr. Behe was wise to wait until he had tenure before publishing
his intelligent design views; his tenure decision was cleanly based on
his other work. I disagree with Dr. Behe's irreducible complexity
argument, and I am skeptical of Dr. Gonzalez's privileged planet
argument. Nonetheless, I believe in academic freedom, so I think both
Behe and Gonzalez should be able to make their cases without being
unfairly targeted.
 
From what I hear, Ben Stein's movie does not appear to focus on the
scientific merits (or lack thereof) of intelligent design arguments.
Rather, I hear that Stein focuses on what he sees as censorship. But
intelligent design books are widely available, and they sell quite well.
The issue is not censorship, but whether people can keep their jobs if
they espouse views out of the mainstream.
 
The tenure system has protected Behe's academic freedom, and that of
many other ID proponents, exactly as it should. Academic freedom is not
only fair, it's important for the health of the academy. But remember,
freedom cuts both ways. Some (though not me) who reject ID honestly
feel that a researcher's views on intelligent design cannot be divorced
from the tenure decision. They may feel that anyone who accepts ID
misunderstands the scientific method, or the mathematics of probability,
or some other religiously-neutral but academically important issue. So
I think we need to be generous in giving both pro-ID and anti-ID folks
the benefit of the doubt, and not assume that their positions are
illogically warped by religious or anti-religious ideology. But such
generosity appears to be absent from the films on the ID issue that I've
seen or hear about, including Expelled. It's pretty rare among the books
I've ready too.

Cheers!

Chuck

*********************************************************
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2008 06:14:55 -0700
From: Donald F Calbreath <dcalbreath@whitworth.edu>
Subject: RE: [asa] Expelled Explained

My colleagues on this listserv really disappoint me. I posted this last
Friday and got only one response, and that's not really a response. Am
I to assume that everyone here agrees with the intellectual lynching
that is taking place in our academic institutions? Do you really feel
it's OK to treat people the way these folks have been treated? Do you
run ID and YEC members out of your churches? I would hope we could
separate the differing opinions we have from the abysmal treatment given
to these "dissenters".

Don (ASA member, but probably not for much longer)
*********************************************************

Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Hixson-Lied Room 438
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
 
Phone: 402-280-2154
Fax: 402-280-5595
 
e-mail: cfauster@creighton.edu
 
Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education
http://nrcse.creighton.edu
 
 

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Received on Tue, 15 Apr 2008 08:46:14 -0500

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