In the wake of the Nye-Ham debate.
No, says policy analyst Sean McElwee at Salon:
Consider the story of Kurt Wise, a brilliant student of geology (he studied under the eminent Stephen Jay Gould). Wise writes that in high school he dreamed of a Ph.D from Harvard. He studied evolution intently but struggled to reconcile it with his literal reading of the Bible. Eventually he went through the entire Bible and cut out every verse that he felt could not be true if evolution were true. He concluded,
With the cover of the Bible taken off, I attempted to physically lift the Bible from the bed between two fingers. Yet, try as I might, and even with the benefit of intact margins throughout the pages of Scripture, I found it impossible to pick up the Bible without it being rent in two. I had to make a decision between evolution and Scripture… With that, in great sorrow, I tossed into the fire all my dreams and hopes in science.
That is not someone who has compartmentalized his creationism. It is someone for whom creationism is the overarching lens through which he sees the world. Given how much one must give up to be a creationist (legitimacy, honors, awards, respect), could holding onto these beliefs really be a small detail for scientists? I suspect very much the opposite. Saletan concludes that while “Nye portrayed creationism as a cancer” which threatens scientific institutions, in fact, “It doesn’t. You can be a perfectly good satellite engineer while believing total nonsense about the origins of life… Just don’t let it mess with your day job.” Given that creationists like Wise have agonizingly determined that this is not true, I think we should take them at their word. At the end of “Questioning Darwin,” the narrator says, “Darwin himself never stopped asking questions about his science and about God.” Creationists have, and that is why they cannot be scientists.
Yes, says science writer William Saletan:
Ultimately, McElwee rejects my suggestion that “you can be a perfectly good satellite engineer while believing total nonsense about the origins of life.” He cites Kurt Wise, a former geology student who supposedly abandoned science because he couldn’t square it with biblical literalism. (Wise said he renounced evolution because he was unable to hold a Bible together after cutting out all the verses that didn’t square with Darwin. That sounds to me like just another creationist myth, but I’ll play along.) From this story, McElwee concludes that “creationists like Wise have agonizingly determined” that my claim “is not true,” and “we should take them at their word.”
Sorry, but no. I don’t take them at their word. Even if Wise and thousands of others did claim to have abandoned science (actually, they don’t—you can read Wise’s account for yourself), I’d want verification. Does Wise agree not to use antibiotics when his doctor explains the evolutionary reason to avoid them? And what about the engineers in Ken Ham’s videos—the guys who made demonstrable contributions to science and technology while declaring themselves young-Earth creationists? Those men are what a good social scientist would call “evidence.” They back up the hypothesis that you can be a perfectly good engineer while believing nonsense about the origins of life. We can’t wave that evidence away, any more than we can wave away fossils.
Neither of the above has much use for young Earth creationism.
But now read this, exclusive to Uncommon Descent: From “David DeWitt at Liberty U: Contemplating Bill Nye’s 51 skulls slide“: DeWitt knows his bones, and says, after listing all the problems, “ I can only conclude that the sole purpose of showing such a slide was to confuse and obfuscate, not educate.”
That may well be a fair assessment. So who would be helped if DeWitt wasn’t allowed to teach or research because of his views? Who really benefits if the young Earth creationists get shut up?
Ironically, McElwee writes, “Darwin himself never stopped asking questions about his science and about God.” Creationists have, and that is why they cannot be scientists.”
Should the world believe that people who wanted Nye to shine or just didn’t care much would go to all the trouble of studying each skull shown on the slide, as a YEC expert did? If McElwee has his way, it won’t just be DeWitt who isn’t (allowed to be) asking any questions. No one will be.
Is that, in the end, what we do want? Only pre-approved questions may be asked, and authorities’ pronouncements must be accepted?
All three pieces repay reading.
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