Re: [asa] AGW discussion

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Tue Dec 01 2009 - 01:27:34 EST

I literally cannot follow much of Richard's discussion with Schwarzwald concerning Christians in the sciences in relation to the subject of global warming. I can't tell what Richard's "beef" is. I think, however, that I have discerned one or two things, and that I can usefully contribute a few points:

1. If Christian climate change scientists have not been involved in any dishonest coverup of data or manipulation of the peer-review process, then they have nothing to fear from an open and impartial inquiry into these e-mails or into any aspect of the methods employed by climate change science regarding AGW.

2. When most of the rest of the world looks at this subject of "Climategate", the last thing on their minds is how the affair will reflect on Christian scientists, the witness of Christianity to the world, how Christian scientists are viewed by secular scientists, etc. Most of the world just wants to know if these climate change scientists have been honest.

3. I have yet to see a single article on the web where someone accuses Christians of being nasty or judgmental in connection with the hacked e-mails. In fact, the only place I have heard that concern raised is here. I guess I don't hang around the right Christian places.

4. No secular scientist will have to worry about hearing anything from a Christian scientist to the effect that the secular scientist is dishonest, unless that secular scientist *is* dishonest. But if the secular scientist, though truly honest and truly innocent of wrongdoing, has too brittle an ego to endure questions (whether coming from secular or Christian peers) such as, "Why did you sound as if you wanted to control the peer review process?", or "Why did you speak of "hiding" things, or of altering actual data to give the results required by theory?" then that scientist is far too thin-skinned to be in the science business, and should open a flower shop instead. You don't devote your career to the scientific question that is the hottest of hot potatoes politically and socially, then write cryptic e-mails which to all the world look very suspicious, and then expect that no one will ask you questions about them when they are discovered. You don't play the shocked innocent in such a case. You explain yourself. If these guys who wrote these e-mails are innocent, they will be able to explain themselves; and if they can't explain themselves, I don't care much what they think of either their Christian or their non-Christian interrogators; I just want them hammered and driven out of the profession for life.

5. As for the concern (if that is Rich's concern) that the suspects might "turn against" Christianity because they perceive Christians to be fierce interrogators, well, if they are guilty, they are cheats and frauds and it is unlikely they would have any respect for Christianity anyway, so no harm done. And if they are not guilty, there is no reason they should be any angrier at their Christian interrogators than at their non-Christian ones, since both will be asking for explanation of exactly the same points.

6. I don't like Richard's invocation of Gonzalez. It strikes me as disingenuous or at least misleading. Yes, some ASA members did support Guillermo. But the ASA is about 1/3 TE, 1/3 ID, and 1/3 OEC in its membership, and while some TEs, like Ted Davis I believe, did actively try to help Guillermo, so did many ID people. In fact, Guillermo's work -- the work that caused him *not* to get tenure at Iowa State, I mean -- e.g., his "privileged planet" conclusion (which he didn't even teach in the classroom, as far as I know, but that never matters in these firing cases) -- is essentially an ID sort of inference. It would thus be considered "unscientific" by a good number of the ASA-TEs, just as ID is considered "unscientific" by them. So, while I would praise any ASA-TEs who tried to help Guillermo, I have no reason to believe that very many of them would have wished to be active in his cause. From the ASA-TE point of view, Guillermo is guilty of making "metaphysical" rather than scientific judgments about the design of the planets, the galaxy, etc., and of conflating science with theology. ASA-TEs cannot consistently support such a conflation when the subject-matter is cosmology but oppose it when the subject-matter is biochemistry. So if I am wrong, if just about every ASA-TE was there, fighting in the trenches for Guillermo, there is a massive inconsistency somewhere. (In case anyone is wondering, I wrote a letter to the President of Iowa State, indicating that only Gonzalez's research and teaching should be taken into account, not his private religious or philosophical views. Naturally, my plea was ignored.)

7. "The political polarization at the national level made it difficult" FOR WHOM to support Gonzalez? Any individual is free to stand up to political pressure and insist on principle. There is no excuse for what happened at Iowa State, where prejudice combined with cowardice to deny a job to a man who had more than earned it. Gonzalez wasn't "just another victim of this crazy political nonsense"; he was a victim of colleagues who couldn't look past their secular prejudices and the (alleged) embarrassment of having an ID person on faculty. Richard's attempt to euphemize what happened by passing the blame off to some vague generic cause like "political nonsense" is unacceptable. There was nothing "difficult" about supporting Gonzalez at all, for anyone with calcium in his backbone. But academics are frequently lacking any large concentration of that element in their skeletal structure. In fact, academics are frequently the most morally pathetic people on the planet.

8. I do, however, agree with Richard about Hector Avalos, a "religion scholar" who is the author of some of the shallowest statements about Biblical studies that I have ever seen issue from the pen of a Ph.D. However, his role in the shameless actions of Iowa State makes me sadly note, once again, the ongoing co-operation between explicitly anti-Christian atheists and "mainstream" secular scientists, to the end of excluding ID from the university. It still amazes me how people here don't seem to notice the frequent two-step between atheism and mainstream science. It's a chronic blind spot of this group.

Cameron.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Rich Blinne
  To: Schwarzwald
  Cc: asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 10:30 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] AGW discussion

  On Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 7:02 PM, Schwarzwald <schwarzwald@gmail.com> wrote:

    All that aside. Rich, you so often make hay of the claim that "Christians in science will not identify they are Christians". It's about time someone asks, why?

  It's not because they are Christians, ironically, but rather the false perception of Christianity caused by the politicization of our faith. Things like Christians falsely accuse people and are nasty and judgmental. This is nothing like my Christian colleagues nor I would suspect the people you meet on Sunday morning. That's why I am begging you all to knock it off as you are reinforcing a bad stereotype. The instant a secular scientist hears something from a Christian about themselves they know is not true then they will think that other Christians are just like that even though we both know it's not true. But, believe me once this has happened there's no convincing that can be done.

  All this being said, If you are low-level scientist it's usually not much of a problem. You can organize Bible studies and the like at government labs and at universities very easily. It gets approved by other Christians higher up but it's all very quiet. It's when you are in leadership that this tendency is more pronounced because people will perceive that your Chrisitianity is political.

    Is it because they will have that held against them by their peers and superiors?

  Sometimes but not as often as being a mainstream scientist is held against us in churches. The world is the world and it's to be expected that those who persecuted our Lord will persecute His followers. It's doubly sad, though, to see Christ's little ones persecuted in His church.

    Are you saying that their fellow, non-Christian scientists and employers will keep them from advancing professionally, ostracize them, and generally put pressure on them in their work and research because of their Christian faith?

  Not very often because people recognize the scientists who are Christians do an excellent job. They just don't know why they do an excellent job. Which is a shame both for the loss of witness and there are many scientists who are Christians who are in desparate need of fellowship. If they really knew how many of us were out there they would be greatly encouraged. That's why I a member of the ASA to be able to encourage them and be counted.

    And if so, are you saying that these scientists are justified in doing so because of their perceptions of Christianity? I'd really like to know.

  Of course not. Note that when persecution does happen as was the case with Dr. Gonzalez at Iowa State a number of the ASA stood up for him, protesting to the President of the university on how he was treated. Even though there were viscious atheists on campus such as Professors Avalos and Patterson -- I should know I went there -- the political polarization at the national level made it difficult to support him. It became a science vs. anti-science question even though there was nothing that Dr. Gonzalez promoted that was anything but mainstream. Nevertheless, it didn't make Dr. Gonzalez in any sense responsible, just another victim of this crazy political nonsense.

  Rich Blinne
  Member ASA

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Received on Tue Dec 1 01:29:23 2009

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