Dear David, Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response. I'm sorry that I haven't been able to reply sooner, but I assure you that I am interested in your feedback. I will now try to clarify some of my earlier statements in light of your comments. > > It is however > > the last newsletter which finally prompted me to write to you. I realize > > that so-called "scientific" creationism is inherently dishonest by its > > very nature, and that creationists are by no means bound to the same > > ethical standards as scientists, but I found your latest article to be > > unusually sleazy even by creationist standards. > > We disagree with the premise of your personal attack on scientific > creationists. We find creation scientists no less (and no more) honest than > scientists in general. All scientists are human, and sometimes make > mistakes. A mistake is not necessarily a sign of dishonesty. I did not mean to imply that all creationists are necessarily liars as individuals (any more than anybody else), only that scientific creationism forces them into that position. The basic premise of SciCre (to use a common abreviation) is to put forward an argument that its proponents know to be false, namely that their opposition to evolution is based on scientific grounds. The real reason they adhere to creationism is as a consequence of their religious beliefs, and by their own admission any supporting evidence in the natural world is secondary to their faith in the Bible. SciCre is an after-the-fact attempt to show that the natural evidence (if one tries hard enough) could be made to conform to their faith if one so desires. The objective of SciCre (as one finds in the small print at the bottom of any ICR publication) is clearly evangelism, to whip up the faith of the hesitant and as a point of attack towards new converts. The emphasis on "scientific" arguments, such as intelligent design, is an artifact of the political battle which is taking place in the U.S. over control of the public school system. Most SciCre-ists, if given the choice, would much prefer to openly teach the bible as fact. "Balanced treatment" is simply a debating position they are forced to adopt as a result of the 1st amendment. One could call this a political tactic, rhetorical device, spin doctoring, or a number of other terms, but the slide into outright dishonesty has been too difficult for many to resist. It is also important to point out that "dishonesty" means different things to different people. SciCre-ists have a fundamentally different concept of reality from that of scientists. A scientist attaches a high value to factual data, and considers any misrepresentation of it to be an unpardonable sin. To a SciCre-ist, however, reality is simply a matter of biblical interpretation. Any argument they have to make in order to justify that interpretation is acceptable because the bible is, by definition, always right. The integrity of the data needs to be respected only to the extent that it serves their purpose in evangelism. It is this difference in perception that causes scientists to label as dishonest arguments which SciCre-ists do not consider to be so. > We are surprised at your use of the word "sleazy" to describe our last > newsletter. I believe it captures the gist of what I've said above. You are of course welcome to suggest a better term. > Remember, the point of our article was that both creation and evolution > should be held to the same standard. If one theory of origins can be > excluded because it does not satisfy a bad definition of science, then the > other theory of origins should be excluded too, if it does not satisfy that > same bad definition. It would be unfair (even dishonest) to hold one origin > theory to any definition and not hold the other one to the same definition. The definition if science is not the test which both are being held to. As is clearly explained in the Court's decision, it is the three-pronged test of separation of church and state established by legal precedent. SciCre is excluded because it fails all three prongs of the test, one of which is the lack of sufficient scientific value to offset its trasparently religious effect. > > The definition of evolution we used is not one that came from ICR or any > other creationist organization. It is the definition that we honestly > believe the court used. If we are mistaken in this belief, please send us > the reference that tells the definition actually used by the court. The text of the decision is available directly on the internet, and can be linked to from your own site. Surely you must have read it yourself. The definition of evolution used in the Arkansas law (as quoted in the Court's decision) was shown to be derived directly from ICR material. > > It is quite true that there are many definitions of evolution. Some of them > are as simple as, "Evolution is change over time." That doesn't have > anything to do with the origin of life. We believe that the definition of > evolution quoted in our March newsletter is an excellent summary of the > theory of evolution as taught in U.S. public schools. (Our newsletter is > sent mostly to residents of Ridgecrest, California, so that is our primary > audience. We realize, however, that the web page is accessible world-wide, > and that might cause some misunderstanding for international readers like > you.) Although, as you noticed, I am not American, I spent over ten years living in 4 different states (including CA) and have done time in the U.S. public school system. I am reasonably aware of the issues involved. That the definition you quoted may actually be taught in some schools is certainly more horrifying to scientists than anybody else, and one of the reasons they are so opposed to creationist material entering the school system. > > You then follow that up with an > > uncharacteristically high number of bald-faced lies. Was this just > > a bad month, or does it represent a shift in editorial policy? > > We don't believe that lying is an effective way to win an argument, > especially when the truth is on our side. As far as we know, all the > statements we made are true. Specifically, what statements did we make that > you feel are untrue? While the bible may be on your side (although that is debatable), the facts of science most certainly are not. The issue boils down to which one chooses to use to define "true". And I disagree; lying _is_ an effective way to win an argument. That is what makes Duane Gish such a convincing performer in front of uneducated audiences. > We could argue that most evolutionists avoid the real issues and attack > character and credentials. We could say they tend to make vague, > unsubstantiated charges. For example, our favorite critic says things like, > "Duane Gish takes his quotes out of context." When asked to give a specific > example, he responds, "Oh, come on! He does it all the time." There is a good overview online at //mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/gish.html > So, let's not get sidetracked into arguments about how either side argues. > It isn't productive. Well, to quote an old campaign slogan, "character matters." In a scientific debate, certainly, personal attacks are not relevant. The laws of motion do not depend on whether or not Isaac Newton beat his wife (or for that matter, modern biology doesn't care if Darwin recanted on his deathbed.) But this issue is not scientific, it is political. It is about school boards and equal-time laws and constituional amendments. It is very relevant to know whether or not those people who want to teach your children intend to lie to them. Most people (whom I've talked to at least) consider SciCre to be a symptom of a widespread scientific illiteracy, and propose more and better education as the solution. I believe that the problem is much deeper than that. There is a famous quote about giving people the benefit of the doubt (let me know if you know the source), "never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." The question therefore is whether or not SciCre can in fact be adequately explained by stupidity. That is why I am interested in understanding where creationist arguments come from and how creationists think. The answer is important both in educational philosophy and in shaping the political and cultural debates over the place of religion in society and in government. That is also why I personally find it so fascinating even though it is (thankfully) much less of an issue where I live. > Then we can search for the truth together. With pleasure, -John.
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