Re: [asa] Anti-Creationist Psychobabble On the Web

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sat Apr 04 2009 - 17:27:52 EDT

David Clounch wrote:
> Merv,
> You are getting warmer. My belief is that MN emerged from the
> creationism/anti-creationism warfare. Probably subsequent to the
> Chicago world's fair where scientists declared Christianity to be
> dead. This cause a flurry of creationist activity. So MN is sort of
> like scar tissue or a callous forming on one's hands.
> Part of what is suspect is the motivations of proponents. Are the
> motivations truly not religious in nature, and don't have anything to
> do with the intra-mural warfare between religionists? If one could
> show this, then..... what would be left over would be the question,
> does the motivation have anything to do with warfare between
> pro-religionists and anti-religionists? If one could show this
> question is answered in the negative THEN one would have (at last) a
> purely secular concept. And one could then argue the concept has a
> purely secular purpose. Then we would be in a situation where the
> principle truly is like chemistry or physics or math. And belongs
> with the domain of knowledge that includes science.
> I wouldn't care if it was only armchair theologians that were
> entangled with this. But government bodies are officially adopting
> policies where they use one set of Christian ideas to oppress
> another set of Christian ideas. Government simply cannot be allowed
> to do that.
> I don't want government choosing between creationism vs.
> anti-creationism vs. materialism vs. secular humanism vs.
> any_other_ism. To me it basic civil rights. I feel very much in
> the minority on the ASA list and probably in the ASA organization as
> well.
> -Dave C
Okay, time to cook up a really wacky example. Say that a group of
astronomers or astronomy enthusiasts decided (for religious reasons, no
less!) that telescopes are of the devil and have been leading astronomy
astray. And this fringe group makes enough fuss that they become a
by-word among the larger public ---"tabooTelies" or something silly.
Then let's say they actually advocated for naked eye astronomy, pencil &
paper mathematics & models alone and tried to leave out or deny any
astronomy that was telescope-dependent. Of course, mainline astronomy
would have none of this, and so some might reactionarily start referring
to their astronomy as "robust-telescopic astronomy." But the invention
of this latter term alone would not mean that telescopic astronomy
didn't exist before that, way back to Galileo. They just had no need
for such a phrase since nobody had yet challenged it so. It seems
clear to me that MN assumers can at least point back solidly to Francis
Bacon (& Burgy can keep pounding his Greek gong "ascribe nothing to the
gods" --I personally have no problem with that.) But I ALSO DON'T
have a problem with you wanting to ascribe recent religious motivations
to the "MN" movement. If others here don't like that, I'm not sure
why. When some scientists go off the deep end, things like the "MN"
descriptive label may quite well be born of just such messy motivations
and -isms. But you, then see it as grounds for quickly shooing it out
of the science room, or school entirely (since you view it as a
prescriptive "-ism".) And you apparently see this as a most degrading
birth for "MN". But I don't think I follow you there entirely. For
one thing, I don't see it as even remotely possible to remove ideologies
and opinions from a classroom (ANY classroom). Call all practicing
assumptions of science an "-ism" if you must and I will happily concur.
But it is an unavoidable "-ism" since it is just how science "grew up"
over the last few centuries at least. You aren't going to surgically
remove it from science any more than you will remove telescopes from
astronomy. For me, then, it isn't a question of "is there an ideology
in the room?" so much as "whose ideology gets to be in the room."

If I'm not mistaken, you would have parted company with my views by now
since you want NONE OF THIS in the school. I would only challenge you
in this way: let's say you managed to find the "perfect secular" school
that meets your criteria for having no promotion of "-isms" in any
class. I would venture a guess that upon examination of your school,
we could unearth quite a few existing "-isms" that they were forced to
take on as working assumptions at least before they could even begin
teaching. But I think I anticipate your alarm here ---"so we throw open
the doors to promoting every wacky religion and ism out there!" Well,
then I'll step over to your side and agree; I wouldn't want that
either. But I propose you won't get rid of them all; it just can't
humanly be done. So I guess I have no trouble actually promoting "MN"
as a great description of what good science has become since Bacon and
probably even before. And I'll promote for that "-ism" in my science
room as a superior ideology to that of Dawkins, since not all -isms are
created equal. Keith & others may view with alarm the concession that
"MN" may be considered an ideology. But if so, I just don't share the
same squeamishness about ideologies. They are a fact of life. To use
C.S. Lewis' metaphor, the more completely an enchantment has
over-powered you, the less you are aware of its effects. I would extend
that to ideologies as well. I think Dawkins (& maybe to some extent
you?) are imagining some ideal "just the science facts only, please"
kind of a school. --what you may have referred to as the "purely
secular". I'm suggesting that such a line of thought just means you
have unknown or unexamined "-isms" lurking which could prove to be more
dangerous than other examined and controlled ones we are inspecting in
front of us and then choosing to adopt.

Please don't take your perceived minority status as making you
unwelcome. I need to be pushed on some of this above to help me
continue to form my own thoughts & stances. Iron sharpens iron.
Perhaps my pliability is actually an advantage I have over other
veterans here with great credentials and research to their name. As
valuable as that is (make no mistake on that!) it can also serve to
harden one in their positions of self-certainty --sometimes a good
thing, sometimes not..
p.s. Since I teach in a Christian school I actually dodge much of the
controversy addressed here. I don't envy my public counterparts in
trying to find a way out of this mess that is going to keep everybody
happy. Just don't think it's gonna happen. Perhaps it shouldn't.
Keeps us on our toes.

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Received on Sat Apr 4 16:27:54 2009

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