Friday, August 19, 2005

Backwoods USA

One of the things I love most about living in the DC area is the proximity to the many museums, libraries, conferences, memorials and schools. The free flow of ideas is part of what makes this nation so wonderful and vibrant, yet solemn and reverent as well.

People here, for the most part, share a love for learning along with a general respect for the history of this great country.

This is why I was so shocked to see an article this morning outlining the egregious means some of the leaders of the very learning institutions I so admire, have gone to in order to stifle a certain area in this exchange of ideas.

The article states that some of the top "senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution" have circulated emails throughout the Smithsonian Institution and to outside sources that are filled with false and defamatory claims against a fellow scientist in order to discredit him. The misinformation runs the gamut from claims that he had accepted bribes, was a sleeper cell spy, even that he wasn't even a scientist at all. The effect of all this malicious character assasination was the "running off" of this previously highly praised scholar.

Why? What had he done to be driven by this torch carrying mob from the halls of learning?

He dared to question something that in their minds was "thoroughly understood."

(Case closed. No more discussion. Any further inquiry into this area will be met with extreme retribution and ostracism. Everything that can be discovered has already been discovered. We might as well shut down the labs and universities and turn them all into museums for what we already know.)

This editor, who holds two PHD's in the questioned area, who draws high praise from his former professors, and was awarded a highly-prized and coveted research associate appointment at the Smithsonian Institution in 2000, has now been ostracized from the same community that had so warmly embraced him.

Apparently, he touched on a very raw nerve for the scientific community to go to such underhanded efforts to discredit him. An independent agency came to the conclusion that he was, in fact, smeared as retaliation.

What could cause such an unethical reaction from those who claim to constantly be searching for truth:

This scientist, Dr. Richard Sternberg, published an article written by a Cambridge University educated philosopher of science in a journal he had been asked by the Smithsonian to edit. Before allowing it to print, he sent the article to three separate scientists for peer review. The consensus among the peer reviewers was that the article should be printed in order to air the views within it and open up the topic for discussion.

The article in question, written by Stephen C. Meyer, argued that "evoluionary theory cannot account for the vast profusion of multicellular species and forms in what is known as the Cambrian "explosion", which occurred about 530 million years ago. (new paragraph) Scientists still puzzle at this great proliferation of life. But Meyer's paper went several long steps further, arguing that an intelligent agent -- God, according to many who espouse intelligent design-- was the best explanation for the rapid appearance of higher life forms." (taken from the Washington Post Article I read this morning.)

But what was the effect of the printing of this article on the Smithsonian leadership? One of the senior scientists in an email stated that Sternberg
"..has made us the laughing stock of the world, even if this kind of rubbish sells well in backwoods USA."

Well, I guess I am from backwoods USA. But I am also an American citizen and I live here in DC-- I frequent the Smithsonian's museums. Why is my opinion one that should be held up as "laughing stock" material? Sure, I'm not a scientist. But, when someone who has spent his entire career as an evolutionary biologist thinks the idea should still be open for discussion, why is it seen as an embarassment that needs to be placed into cement shoes and dumped into the Potomac?

The article closes with what I think is an amazing quote by Dr. Sternberg:

"I loathe careerism and the herd mentality. I really think that objective truth can be discovered and that popular opinion and consensus thinking does more to obscure than to reveal."


Mandy D said...

Yes. How dare a well-educated and respected evolutionary scientist support freedom of exploration. Of course I am saying this with severe sarcasm. It's so hard to imagine how such well-trained minds could betray their very own ideals in order to prevent a discussion on God. Whether or not they believe in the Creator or His Son is beside the point. This is so typical of the Liberal "all's fair as long as you don't talk about God" mind set. Well, I pray that these so-called professionals meet God is such a way that they have no other response but to worship Him as the Almighty Creator and Savior of the world.

Jimmy said...

An excellent post. We "backwoods" layman who do not have advanced degrees in science can only use our own powers of common sense and observation. We can see how a debate is conducted, and the treatment of this scientist by the academic dictators is disgraceful. Their use of ad-hominem attacks instead of logic and reason speaks volumes.
One need not be deeply religious to look at evolutionary theory and say "hey, this doesn't quite explain everything."
It's interesting that these bullying scientists who claim to be the intellectual descedants of Galileo are actually more in line with the Pope who persecuted him and refused to look through his telescope.

flippnsweet said...

Mandy D, Jimmy-

Thanks for posting, you guys.
I'm glad to hear that I am not the only one who is disturbed by this.

The Libertarian Republican said...

Can evolutionary theory account for the vast profusion of cells that came to be known as The Fattest Dog in the World?

flippnsweet said...

While the Baxter is a most unnatural looking creature-- Fatty foods from Mom's hand to Baxter's face theory completely accounts for this gross proliferation.

However, it does not solve the whole hippo/beagle hybrid question.

Scientists everywhere are still stumped by that one.

BlackVelvetLace said...

Sweet, I was just reading the Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. Meyers is interviewed in his book. His views on evolution and it's serious flaws as a theory are excellent. Many scientists are throwing the towel in on Darwinism and going with Intelligent Design. It may not quite be deism, and it is a far cry from the personl God we know, but at least it's a start.

Southernspeak4 said...

Hi Flippn,

Interesting post, I like you're style.

I have never understood why the two "theories" can't be combined to some degree, why we have to choose between them.

I mean, we've already ruled out spontaneous generation as being scientifically possible. We already have the first law of thermodynamics, "Energy cannot be created or destroyed."

So....we are expected to believe, thinking scientifically, that all of the essential ingredients just hopped in together and cooked themselves in the primordial soup.

The odds of that are like, 1:10 gajillion? (Actually, I've read somewhere like 1:100,000,000,000, but still...not likely.)

As my grandma says, "A cake can't bake itself", and anyone knows that any "experiment" needs a master manipulator.

I don't think it's an either/or kinda thing. God actually loves science, he created science...he's the master scientist.

Yes, true, you can't serve two masters, you will love one and hate the other...but what if science and God are part of the same whole and it's our perception of him that is skewed, we make them polar opposites.

Taking this forward to the point of ridiculousness (or not), we know God made animals first, if you believe the bible in its entirety and literally.

What if God said, "Hey...this ape is pretty cool...I like the opposable thumb thing. Now what if I use this as a prototype, have it stand upright all the time, give it a bigger brain, the ability to reason through and learn from its mistakes...oh oh OH, I like that, I'm makin' it."

P.S. I'm a Christian liberal.

Christian liberals: They're not what you think.;)

flippnsweet said...

Southern~ Thank you for visiting and for your insight.

Christian Liberal, huh?

Someone recently told me I was an "extremist". (huh?)

I suppose a belief in God as "Author and finisher" and not in self is "extreme"!

If that's true--
I guess I'm not what I thought I was either. ;)

Christian extremists: Not just for crusades anymore!

Southernspeak4 said...


Heya Flippin,

People mistake being passionate about your beliefs as "extremist" all the time. They usually throw out these terms when they don't have a rebuttal for the excellent point you just made, lol.

Christian liberals: It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye for an eye.

??? lol

flippnsweet said...

too funny!

You already know this because you are fluent in Southernspeak, but, my usual response when someone says I am "extreme" is:

"Aw, bless your heart." ;)

Southernspeak4 said...

LOL! Yes, that all-encompassing phrase.

"I just soiled myself"...

...aww, bless your heart.

"I hate everything you stand for!"

...aww, bless your heart.

Another way to temper it is to add a "honey"...

"Honey? Well, bless your heart!" northerners, it's a way to soften the blow, and often it is.

But BEWARE when you are honeyed...

To southerners, it's a warning that should be taken seriously..."Stop now or one of my seven brothers with the first name Bubba will kick your sorry butt."

flippnsweet said...

Southern~ Ah yes, the "honey" was not just for catching flies where I'm from either.

Also, when someone put the words "pea-pickin" into the whole "bless your heart" phrase.... you knew they had been "slammed". Oh, and woe be the person whose "little" pea picken heart was blessed!

duncan said...

Interesting post, flippnsweet. I was very disturbed to read that story in the Post. Did you see Sally Jenkins yesterday in the sports section? - favorable to the discussion of intelligent design. She pointed out that intelligent design didn't arise from religious scholars but from those in the fairly new math field of complexity theory. But it's hard to get any information about these ideas in the popular press as all that is ever discussed is the political battle - looking at everything as a sports contest is easier than any in-depth analysis or discussion of the underlying issues, and requires less education. I'm not a religious person but I am in favor of openminded discussion and exploration, and most especially in science. Trashing a scientist's reputation - especially based on misinformation and lies - is not only immaterial to the issue at hand, it's wrong, and completely antithetical to the very values of science these trashers claim to uphold.

On another topic, I clicked over from Rachel Fuller's blog and found yours to be interesting and comment-worthy (if I may say so :-).

flippnsweet said...

Thank you for your post Duncan.
You must certainly have good taste, coming from Rachel's blog. She is an amazing artist. Her music impresses me. So, I will take your "comment-worthy" observation as a compliment.

I had not read yesterday's article (I tend to avoid the sports page). Interesting read to be sure. Who knew you could find such information amid the game stats and other testosteronese? ;)

duncan said...

Thanks flippnsweet, you do seem sweet. I read sports every day and as the Redskins are starting soon, maybe even more :-) By the way, if you haven't been here during a Redskins winning season (and they've been pretty rare lately :-( ), you would not believe what this area can become - well, since you're from Texas, maybe you can :-)

We all have good taste over at Chez Rachel, I agree heartily.

Sally Jenkins writes in the Post sports section but frequently her columns have little or nothing to do with sports. Worth checking out - she doesn't write that often but she's on the sports first page. I think she won an award for the best sports column in US. So what does Intelligent Design have to do with sports? Nothing really, but who cares - it's a worthwhile subject. I'll bet her inbox was *burning up* this morning ;-)

duncan said...

Yes, comment-worthy's a compliment. It's a beautiful blog with good and interesting pictures and lots of your own thoughts well-expressed - it's you! Just what a blog should be!

flippnsweet said...

Thank you Duncan. That was a very nice thing to say. :D

duncan said...

flippnsweet, oh I do that! :-) just so it's crystal clear, I am being entirely sincere in my compliment here...despite my sometimes (dare I say it?) flippant nature

Mark Pettigrew said...

To hear people from the "mainstream" scientific community and the liberal press, one would think that anyone who questions evolutionary theory must be a complete idiot. Well, my I.Q. was tested a number of years ago, and my score was 140. That isn't high enough for me to qualify as a genius, but it's hardly the I.Q. of an idiot, either.

I went to public schools where I was indoctrinated with the view that evolution was a proven "fact", and where contrary views were generally dismissed or ignored. Nevertheless, I find evolutionary theory to be lacking in credibility.

Evolutionary theory is historically associated with the term "survival of the fittest". We are told that evolving from one species to another was nature's way of adapting to change which was so extreme that pre-evolutionary life forms could not have survived without evolving.

That begs the following question:
If apes needed to evolve into human beings in order to survive, why is it that the apes seem to have survived even to the present day? If they were so "unfit" that they needed to evolve into human beings in order to survive, then shouldn't chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas logically be extinct? Clearly, evolution was not necessary for their survival.

We are told that the long neck of the modern giraffe was an evolutionary response to the fact that vegetation was increasingly scarce, and giraffes needed their long necks in order to be able to reach the branches of the tallest trees. That is ludicrous. Anyone who has observed the complex ecosystem present in modern Africa can see that there are plenty of other species there (such as various antelopes which subsist on low-lying vegetation) which have managed to survive quite nicely without the benefit of such long necks.

Moreover, even if a particular species proved to be truly unfit for its environment, one cannot help but be struck by the realization that genetic evolution is a mighty extreme response to a changing environment, given the fact that other responses, such as migration to more hospitable climates, would make much more sense. Unlike evolution, migration is a recurring natural phenomenon which can be easily observed, year in and year out.

Even if the Galapagos Islands where Darwin first conceived of evolution were so isolated that migration would have been impossible for the species living on that island, it does not follow that it wasn't an option for animal species living on larger continents. Yet Darwin and his followers essentially claimed that evolution occurred in all parts of the world, not just on that remote island.

No rational person would dispute the existence of the fossil evidence cited by proponents of evolutionary theory. But it does not follow from the fact that that evidence exists that a particular interpretation of its significance is correct. Were those scientists actually present, millions of years ago, to witness the evolution from one species to another? No. The most they can do is to engage in speculation about how and why the physical evidence came to be. It may be informed speculation, but it is speculation nevertheless; and while it may be considered plausible by some, it does not follow from the fact that something is plausible that it is indisputably true. It is seldom if ever the case that there is only one plausible explanation for a given piece of evidence.

If scientists were to discover the bones of an animal which looked as if it might be a “missing link” between ape and man, would it automatically follow that it was in fact a missing link? No. It might very well be a completely separate species --- created ex nihilo by God --- which subsequently became extinct.

Evolution cannot be replicated in a laboratory, and in fact, no scientist has ever produced conclusive proof that one species has ever evolved into another species. Genetic mutation, often cited by Darwin in connection with certain moths which mutated over a period of time, is not tantamount to evolution.

Ask yourself: Why is it so important for public school students to accept evolution as fact? How would a failure to do so handicap them in terms of their ability to accomplish things in life?

We know, of course, that certain sciences have numerous practical applications. For example, a person who refuses to accept existing knowledge about aerodynamics may very well be handicapped when attempting to design airplanes and rocket ships. Hence, it would make sense to insist that science teachers teach the science of aerodynamics to students wishing to pursue careers pertaining to aviation.

Likewise, a knowledge of molecular science and chemistry has numerous practical applications, including the discovery of various medicines and the invention of various household and industrial chemicals which can make life easier.

However, I fail to see the practical benefits of accepting evolutionary theory as fact. There is no product currently in use which could not have been designed by a believer in Intelligent Design. No scientist has ever managed to replicate evolution by designing a new species which started out as a different species. So why is acceptance of evolutionary theory so important to the mainstream scientific community? There must be some reason why so many scientists advocate such a questionable theory with such vigor!

My opinion is that evolutionary theory is the foundational premise for a new worldview or cosmology which has the principal unspoken objective of undermining belief in the reliability and primacy of divine revelation. While there are those who claim that Christianity and belief in evolution are compatible, it often turns out, on closer examination, that most of the people making such a claim believe that the authority of the scriptures is limited to moral issues, and that the scriptures are unreliable insofar as such things as miracles are concerned. Apparently, in their view, God can be trusted to tell the truth with regard to right and wrong, but he's hopelessly naive when it comes to scientific facts pertaining to the universe which he created!

This, of course, has the ultimate effect, intended or unintended, of causing people to wonder why God should be trusted to tell the truth about anything at all. After all, as the book of Job makes clear, God's authority to do things which humans sometimes find inexplicable rests on his infinite and vastly superior knowledge of the universe. If God’s knowledge of the universe and the scientific principles which hold that universe together is questionable, then his right to command obedience is also questionable. Not coincidentally, that's exactly what the predominantly liberal people who currently control academic curricula tend to believe. In their view, God may exist, but his existence is irrelevant to modern life. Objective truth, in their view, is a myth, and morality is merely a matter of personal opinion. Their ultimate agenda is to promote a form of "morality" which could best be described as licentious social anarchy.

It would not be the first time the theory of evolution was used in order to advance a social agenda. Racists of all stripes have long argued that if "survival of the fittest" is nature's way, and if some species (and, by logical extension, some races) can be considered to be "unfit", then it is appropriate to engage in that primitive form of genetic engineering known as genocide in order to insure that "more advanced" races will prevail. Such arguments have been described as "social Darwinism". From Margaret Sanger to Adolph Hitler, evolutionary theory has been used in order to justify policies which deny the intrinsic value of human life. If for no other reason than that, it seems to me that Christians ought to regard evolutionary theory with great suspicion.

The scientific method would seem to require that all plausible theories be examined and considered seriously. Yet, evolutionary "scientists" are threatened by anything standing in the way of their social agenda, so genuine dialogue is discouraged. They ostracize and stigmatize those who fail to adhere to the new orthodoxy, which is defined primarily by its rejection of the old orthodoxy based on Judeo-Christian traditions. Such people claim to highly value diversity and tolerance. Very few things could be further from the truth.

flippnsweet said...

Welcome, Mark, and thank you for your comments. It is obvious there are many things to think about on this issue.
It is difficult, however, to get past the personal attacks on character, and to the merits of the argument, when the majority of those involved in the discussion are blinded to the actual unseen battle in which they are fighting.

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