Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dr. Gotelli Explains The Difference

A Discovery Institute employee hammering out another treatise. (Image credit: Gabe.)

In two exquisite paragraphs, University of Vermont Professor Nicholas Gotelli explains the difference between real science and an imitation. He was responding to a request by David Klinghoffer, of the Discovery Institute, for a debate on creationism versus evolution at Prof. Gotelli's university:

Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren't members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas that have credible empirical support are carefully and thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the prominent mainstream journals.

"Conspiracy" is the predictable response by Ben Stein and the frustrated creationists. But conspiracy theories are a joke, because science places a high premium on intellectual honesty and on new empirical studies that overturn previously established principles. Creationism doesn't live up to these standards, so its proponents are relegated to the sidelines, publishing in books, blogs, websites, and obscure journals that don't maintain scientific standards.

How To Respond To Requests To Debate Creationists

Do yourself a favor and click on the link to read the whole thing.

As almost anyone who knows about the history of biology can tell you, the debate between creationism and evolution was settled among biologists within a couple of decades after Darwin and Wallace announced their theory. Two different scientists, with different personal backgrounds, both came to the conclusion that there was such a thing, based on the emerging knowledge of their time. In part, evolution became the preferred theory because the mental gymnastics biologists had to use to explain what they were learning about the world in creationist terms became increasingly obvious. It has withstood the questioning and skepticism of far better people than work at the Discovery Institute.

Conspiracy theories about scientific cabals suppressing embarrassing new hypotheses are no doubt satisfying to a certain segment of the public, but I have yet to encounter such a hypothesis that actually can stand the light of day. In the case of creationism, the pattern has held true.

1 comment:

Dana Hunter said...

The illustration and caption together are a masterpiece. It's a good thing I wasn't drinking just then is all I can say.