Re: [asa] A Message from the RTB Scholar Team (fwd)

From: Stephen Matheson <>
Date: Thu Apr 17 2008 - 17:45:05 EDT


You have accurately captured RTB's self-description. Their biggest problem
(besides a certain amount of typical evangelical arrogance when it comes to
hermeneutics) is their commitment to the denial of common descent, in favor of
a hilariously forced repeated-miraculous-creation position. This has led to
their wholesale adoption of a design paradigm (leaning heavily on Discovery
Institute propaganda) with regard to, for example, pseudogenes and
retroelements in eukaryotic genomes. No amount of sincerity or prostration
before the "two books" altar can create "harmony" between scripture and that
which is evidently false, and the assertion that common ancestry fails as a
scientific explanation is evidently false. They may as well be advancing a
repeated-miracles explanation for the tides, while claiming to seek harmony
between that proposal and extravagant interpretations of Job 9:8.

>>> "David Heddle" <> 04/17/08 4:50 PM >>>
I don't agree with all that RTB does. In particular, I do not like the long
probability chains that Hugh Ross has used. However, they take the position,
to use my own words, that science is the human study of general revelation
as theology is the human study of special revelation. And given that special
and general revelation cannot be in conflict, lest God be a god of
confusion, science and theology should also, in principle, be harmonious.
Contrast this to the (in my opinion) nonsense from the ID movement—which
devolved into fighting a war with science, and has embraced unseemly
Christian victimhood. To me, if you plotted RTB and the ID movement, you'd
need a log plot. RTB, for whatever faults, takes the position that science
is not the enemy. (To be fair, I read don't much of what RTB puts out in
biology.) The ID movement, with its war on "materialism," has been been
totally counterproductive.
 David Heddle
Associate Professor of Physics
Christopher Newport University, &
The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

On Thu, Apr 17, 2008 at 4:15 PM, Stephen Matheson <>

> "Guarded optimism?" Okay, I can do that. :-)
> And I'll go a step further. As disturbing as RTB's misconduct can be, its
> apologists have consistently avoided culture war posturing. They can't be
> believed when they say they respect biologists, but they should be
> not just for this one letter but for their steadfast refusal to heed the
> call to arms. I think this is partly due to their apologetic/evangelistic
> mission and partly to the fact that -- unlike the thuggish Discovery
> Institute crowd -- they seem to be genuinely decent guys.
> It seems to me that it would take relatively little for RTB to become
> respectable, with regard to intellectual integrity. They wouldn't need to
> abandon any of their main themes or beliefs (as silly and dangerous as many
> of them are). They would need only to acknowledge the explanatory power of
> common descent, disavow the kind of folk scientific dishonesty that
> characterizes their work on biological origins, and correct their serious
> but not overwhelmingly common errors. The Discovery Institute, by
> was built from the beginning on culture war and intellectual dishonesty.
> Their efforts are, in my view, unredeemable.
> Steve
> >>> "Rich Blinne" <> 04/17/08 3:36 PM >>>
> On Thu, Apr 17, 2008 at 12:21 PM, Stephen Matheson <>
> wrote:
> >
> > So, yes, kudos to RTB for eschewing the brainless and suicidal call to
> > culture war. But don't be fooled: Reasons To Believe is an embarrassing
> > repository of potentially dangerous folk science, and their breaches of
> > professional scientific integrity should be cause for significant
> concern.
> > And don't be too impressed by their claim to respect the scientific
> > community on common descent. Polite contempt is still contempt.
> >
> Nevertheless, it is good to know there is a line there. Folk science
> eschews
> no argument if it advances the "ideology". In this case, the evidence
> around
> RTB -- namely that secular scientists are not oppressors -- overrode their
> folk science. And it's not merely the physics v. biology thing either
> because Dr. Gonzalez was one of the "expelled". Your blog makes a
> compelling
> case for folk science at RTB but -- call me naive -- I find this letter as
> a
> reason for guarded optimism.
> Rich Blinne
> Member ASA
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Received on Thu Apr 17 17:46:08 2008

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