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Why ID Has No “Project Steve”


The National Center for Selling Evolution (NCSE) has a widely publicized, in their words, “tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of ‘scientists who doubt evolution’ or ‘scientists who dissent from Darwinism’.” They call it “Project Steve.” (Go here for a description of the project and here for the list; go here for the list of dissenters from Darwinism that prompted Project Steve.)

It’s a source of continual merriment at the NCSE that the list of scientists with first names “Steve” that they have been able to get to sign their list as supporting Darwinism is much longer than the list of scientists who are willing to put down their names as dissenters from Darwinism. I want to suggest that Project Steve might not warrant the triumphalism that the NCSE, for now, seems to associate with it. Take the following note from a math colleague who helped me solve a combinatorial problem needed to prove a theorem I was after (the relevant paper is on my designinference.com website here). In context, I was asking him whether he felt comfortable having me acknowledging him by name in the article:

March 4, 2005

Dear Bill,

I genuinely enjoyed the problem, and am glad it was of use.

As for the acknowledgement, it may be best the way you have it [i.e., I simply listed him by his initials — C.J.]. In an ideal world, I’d be happy to be mentioned by name, but it might be best to keep a lower profile. (Not only am I coming up for tenure, but I have a federal grant).

Best Regards,

The fact is that the Steves who signed their names to the Project Steve list have nothing to worry about — their careers are secure. On the other hand, scientists who declare for ID place their careers in jeopardy. The point to appreciate is that many scientists realize this and are not happy about it.

Over time, expect scientists to become bolder about their sympathies for ID and their skepticism of Darwinism.

i've always felt the claims of project steve were overstated. consider the fact that in 1997, larry witham reported in the washington times that 5% of all scientists he surveyed were YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISTS! surely there are a much larger percentage of scientists out there who are not YECs but disagree with Darwinism. It would seem that Darwin-skeptics make up at least a sizeable minority. (witham's data was reported in The Washington Times on April 11, 1997, in "Many Scientists See God's Hand in Evolution", ) Art
I'm no scientist, but I don't follow the point of the parody in the NCSE "Project Steve." Presumably the point of the initial listing of scientists who doubt evolution (the parodied list) is to show that one can be a qualified scientist in good standing and still doubt evolution. What follows from the parody listing of "Steves"? Presumably, the parallel point that one can be named "Steve" and be a qualified scientist in good standing. So? If the point of the parodied list had been that every scientist doubts evolution, then NCSE would humorously expose the fallacy of that position by listing Steves, and implicitly showing that simply because a selection of scientists has the property of being named "Steve," it does not follow that every scientist has that property. But that obviously isn't the point of the parodied list. Carnap
A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay on this very topic which I entitled "Which Numbers are Really Relevant? : Intelligent Design, Evolution and Project Steve" which can be found here: http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/Project_Steve.html. The bottom line is that I thought that there were several reasons for scientists failing to sign onto ID. In addition to the fear of reprisal (which is certainly real based on my own conversations with some scientists here in New Mexico), I think that the misrepresentation of ID in the popular press as "creationism in disguise" also gives them the wrong impression of the validity of ID as a scientific discipline. BK

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