Friday, June 29, 2007

Should we worry about the Creation museum in Kentucky?

The new Creationism museum has opened in Kentucky with full media coverage. Despite its $27 million price tag, I never thought that it would be a serious cause to worry. While wrong in its conclusions, Intelligent Design movement at least raises interesting "God of the gaps" arguments, that are also areas of intense scientific research. But a 6000 year old Earth? An ark full of all representative species? Dinosaurs living with humans? Really...?? This is what it has come down to? Apparently quite a large number of people take this seriously and the museum has been getting 10,000 visitors a week since its opening on Memorial Day. The museum is built by an Australian Biblical literalist, Ken Ham, who is also the founder of Answers in Genesis. If you have any doubt about his nuttiness, check out this video of his lecture. It is tricky to talk about him and his museum. Any criticism is free publicity for him and he acknowledges that openly. Furthermore, this sort of criticism (i.e. appealing to science and reason) really doesn't impact his target audience, and perhaps bolster his support even more. Here is a New Yorker article that looks at this museum beyond simple amusement: Dystopia in Kentucky

The Creation Museum takes the usual trajectory of science education and turns it upside down: the Enlightenment initiated the dark ages, and only the discovery of Biblical truth can lead us out of it. There’s very little attempt to persuade visitors with even spurious scientific argument. The truth is asserted within a hermetically closed system of belief. For example, the explanation of the fossil record:

Views about fossils have come and gone. But fossils themselves do not tell us where these creatures come from or how they died. Fortunately we have another source of factual data—the first book of the Bible, Genesis. This book makes it obvious that carnivory, disease, and death, as seen in the fossil record, came after sin. So the fossil record had to be formed after sin entered the world.
It hardly matters that the Creation Museum is bound to appall secular visitors. They are not its audience. It exists to tell Christianist families that they are right and the future is theirs.
...and the museum exhibits are directed toward kids. Thus parallel views of the natural world are being created quite successfully. I appreciate George Packer's stance on this in the New Yorker and his broader take on the museum:
Most of the families—overwhelmingly white, mainly blond, and about the most pleasant, cheerful collection of tourists imaginable—seemed to accept what they heard and read as they were coaxed along the explanatory trail, with the children delighted by the cleverly designed animal displays. This expensive frolic through a sinister fairy tale was made for the young.

Many of the quarter of a million people expected to visit the Creation Museum by the end of the year will be children. They will be indoctrinated into an ideology that systematically warps their understanding of the physical world and fills them with hostility toward the facts and concepts of modernity. As we have learned over the past few years, this doesn’t mean that they’ll be outcasts and failures. A great political party has largely abased itself before their world view and offered them unprecedented access to government power. The Creation Museum, a combination of a natural-history museum and a Communist Party propaganda center, will help to arm and arouse the next generation of Christianists in the ongoing war against secular and scientific America.
and his own experience at the museum:
My experience was different: I had the sense of being a dissident surrounded by the lies of a totalitarian state, and I kept my reactions to myself. As I was driving away, I realized what the barrage of falsehoods written on slick signboards reminded me of. It was the telescreens in “1984.”
I don't know how to approach this topic without giving unnecessary publicity to Ken Ham and his brand of creationism - perhaps evoking dystopian imagery is the only way to go.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is there any room for the soul?

Whenever evolution is discussed in religious context, the issue of soul is brought up. Many are willing to accept evolution as long as there is room for "special" soul for humans. This way we can claim that we are different than any other creature on Earth and retain human uniqueness. But more and more it is becoming clear that human mind is simply a product of evolution without much room for the soul. Here is an article in New York Times, Science of the Soul?, that talks about this issue and presents three different interpretations:

no soul = no God (its all in the head):

The idea that human minds are the product of evolution is “unassailable fact,” the journal Nature said this month in an editorial on new findings on the physical basis of moral thought. A headline on the editorial drove the point home: “With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.”

Or as V. S. Ramachandran, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, put it in an interview, there may be soul in the sense of “the universal spirit of the cosmos,” but the soul as it is usually spoken of, “an immaterial spirit that occupies individual brains and that only evolved in humans — all that is complete nonsense.” Belief in that kind of soul “is basically superstition,” he said.

For people like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, talk of the soul is of a piece with the rest of the palaver of religious faith, which he has likened to a disease. And among evolutionary psychologists, religious faith is nothing but an evolutionary artifact, a predilection that evolved because shared belief increased group solidarity and other traits that contribute to survival and reproduction.

soul = something else or still need a definition or everything has a soul:

For Dr. Murphy and Dr. Haught, though, people make a mistake when they assume that people can be “ensouled” only if other creatures are soulless.

“Evolutionary biology shows the transition from animal to human to be too gradual to make sense of the idea that we humans have souls while animals do not,” wrote Dr. Murphy, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. “All the human capacities once attributed to the mind or soul are now being fruitfully studied as brain processes — or, more accurately, I should say, processes involving the brain, the rest of the nervous system and other bodily systems, all interacting with the socio-cultural world.”

Therefore, she writes, it is “faulty” reasoning to want to distinguish people from the rest of creation. She and Dr. Haught cite the ideas of Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century philosopher and theologian who, Dr. Haught said, “spoke of a vegetative and animal soul along with the human soul.”

Dr. Haught, who testified for the American Civil Liberties Union when it successfully challenged the teaching of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism, in the science classrooms of Dover, Pa., said, “The way I look at it, instead of eliminating the notion of a human soul in order to make us humans fit seamlessly into the rest of nature, it’s wiser to recognize that there is something analogous to soul in all living beings.”

soul = not a scientific question:

For scientists who are people of faith, like Kenneth R. Miller, a biologist at Brown University, asking about the science of the soul is pointless, in a way, because it is not a subject science can address. “It is not physical and investigateable in the world of science,” he said.

“Everything we know about the biological sciences says that life is a phenomenon of physics and chemistry, and therefore the notion of some sort of spirit to animate it and give the flesh a life really doesn’t fit with modern science,” said Dr. Miller, a Roman Catholic whose book, “Finding Darwin’s God” (Harper, 1999) explains his reconciliation of the theory of evolution with religious faith. “However, if you regard the soul as something else, as you might, say, the spiritual reflection of your individuality as a human being, then the theology of the soul it seems to me is on firm ground.”

Dr. Miller, who also testified in the Dover case, said he spoke often at college campuses and elsewhere and was regularly asked, “What do you say as a scientist about the soul?” His answer, he said, is always the same: “As a scientist, I have nothing to say about the soul. It’s not a scientific idea.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Science Times special issue on Evolution

Today's Science Times has a series of wonderful articles on Evolution . Its a great relief to move away from the mundane debate over IntelligentDesign (yes - this blog will keep on doing the dirty job of covering those stories...) to the more interesting aspects of what is really happening in the field of evolution. The lead story is on the field known as evo-devo:
Just coming into its own as a science, evo-devo is the combined study of evolution and development, the process by which a nubbin of a fertilized egg transforms into a full-fledged adult. And what these scientists are finding is that development, a process that has for more than half a century been largely ignored in the study of evolution, appears to have been one of the major forces shaping the history of life on earth.

For starters, evo-devo researchers are finding that the evolution of complex new forms, rather than requiring many new mutations or many new genes as had long been thought, can instead be accomplished by a much simpler process requiring no more than tweaks to already existing genes and developmental plans. Stranger still, researchers are finding that the genes that can be tweaked to create new shapes and body parts are surprisingly few. The same DNA sequences are turning out to be the spark inciting one evolutionary flowering after another
There are two excellent articles on evo-devo:
From a few genes, life's myriad shapes and Darwin still rules, but some biologists dream of a paradigm shift, where the latter talks about possible future directions of evolutionary studies, including evo-devo. If you don't have time to read these and like pretty pictures, here is a very nice 5-minute video introduction to evo-devo - especially check out the bit on icefish.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cover story of Discover Magazine on "Science & Islam"

The lead story of the July issue of Discover is on the conflict between science & Islam. Its not a very deep analysis, but it provides anecdotal snapshots of attitude towards science and religion in Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan.

Science and Islam in Conflict

All over the world, no matter what the cultural or language differences, science is more or less guided by scientific principles—except in many Islamic countries, where it is guided by the Koran. This is the ultimate story about science and religion.

Cairo, Egypt: “There is no conflict between Islam and science,” Zaghloul El-Naggar declares as we sit in the parlor of his villa in Maadi, an affluent suburb of Cairo. “Science is inquisition. It’s running after the unknown. Islam encourages seeking knowledge. It’s considered an act of worship.”

What people call the scientific method, he explains, is really the Islamic method: “All the wealth of knowledge in the world has actually emanated from Muslim civilization. The Prophet Muhammad said to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. The very first verse came down: ‘Read.’ You are required to try to know something about your creator through meditation, through analysis, experimentation, and observation.”

Read the full article here

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Apocalypse later: Newton's calculation of end of the world

Newton was a deeply religiously man. This should not be that shocking since most scientists were religious a few hundred years ago - perhaps owing to the fact that the best and the brightest were going into clergy and were inspired to know about the world created by the God they worshiped. So its interesting that news stories express such a shock when they find that a scientist like Newton was also religious.

Sure, Newton is a more extreme case. He wrote more on theology than on physics and mathematics, and he was also into alchemy and astrology. But, this was 300 years ago...and lot of the occult sciences had not been completely discarded. So here is a story about documents showing Newton's prediction of end of the world:
Newton, who died 280 years ago, is known for laying much of the groundwork for modern physics, astronomy, math and optics. But in a new Jerusalem exhibit, he appears as a scholar of deep faith who also found time to write on Jewish law -- even penning a few phrases in careful Hebrew letters -- and combing the Old Testament's Book of Daniel for clues about the world's end.
And it seems that we don't have to start selling off stuff yet:

In one manuscript from the early 1700s, Newton used the cryptic Book of Daniel to calculate the date for the apocalypse, reaching the conclusion that the world would end no earlier than 2060.

"It may end later, but I see no reason for its ending sooner," Newton wrote. However, he added, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."

Phew. Ok, we still have time. And here is the customary surprise over Newton's religious interests:

The Newton papers, Ben-Menahem said, also complicate the idea that science is diametrically opposed to religion. "These documents show a scientist guided by religious fervor, by a desire to see God's actions in the world," she said.
Lets be surprised again for Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), Copernicus, Mendel, Boyle, Linnaeus, etc. However, science has indeed changed in the past few hundred years. While, today any scientist can be religious (there is a big range here and how you define it), combing Bible for physical explanations of the world would justifiably lead to a skeptical response. A case in point (though he is justifying what is in the Bible through physics): Frank Tipler

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Three reviews of Michael Behe's new ID book

Michael Behe's first book, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, brought Intelligent Design to mainstream. It was in that book he argued for "irreducible complexity", the idea that certain biological features are too complex to have evolved via natural selection, and hence must have been designed (he left out the name of the designer - but we all know who/what he is talking about). Now he has a new book out, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, and here are three reviews by Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll, and Michael Ruse:

If you want to get a very detailed review of the ID controversy and about Behe's work, check out this fantastic review by Jerry Coyne in the New Republic Online: The Great Mutator
In the review, he has an excellent section about misunderstandings regarding "random" mutations:
Behe finds his bugbear in evolutionary theory's view that "random mutation" provides the raw material for evolutionary change. And to understand his critique, we first have to grasp how mutation fits into evolutionary theory, and what scientists mean when they say that mutations are "random."

If evolution is a car, then natural selection is the engine and mutation is the gas. Although evolutionary change can be driven by several processes, natural selection is almost certainly the main one -- and the only one that can adapt organisms to their environment, creating the misleading appearance of deliberate design. Yet natural selection, which is simply the preservation of genes that give their possessors greater reproductive success than their competitors, cannot take place without genetic variation. Although Darwin had no idea where this variation came from, we now know that it is produced by mutation -- accidental changes in the sequence of DNA that usually occur as copying errors when a molecule replicates during cell division. We also know that mutation-generated variation is pervasive: different forms of genes produced by mutation, for example, explain variation in human eye color, blood types, and much of our -- and other species' -- variation in height, weight, biochemistry, and innumerable other traits.

Once the variation exists, those genes that enhance an individual's "fitness" are preserved, and those that reduce it are discarded. (Natural selection is not really a "process," but simply a description of the differential and adaptive survival of genes.) The polar bear, for instance, has a white coat (its hairs actually lack pigment but appear white because they reflect light), and since this color is unique among bears, the polar bear presumably evolved from a dark-furred ancestor. The likely scenario is that mutations occurred that produced individuals varying in their coat color. Bears with a lighter coat had an advantage over others, for they would be more camouflaged against the Arctic ice and snow and better at sneaking up on seals. Lighter bears would then outcompete darker ones at getting food and thus produce more offspring, leaving more copies of the "light-coat" genes. Over time, the population of bears would evolve lighter and lighter coats until they were almost invisible against the snow.

On the basis of much evidence, scientists have concluded that mutations occur randomly. The term "random" here has a specific meaning that is often misunderstood, even by biologists. What we mean is that mutations occur irrespective of whether they would be useful to the organism. Mutations are simply errors in DNA replication. Most of them are harmful or neutral, but a few of them can turn out to be useful. And there is no known biological mechanism for jacking up the probability that a mutation will meet the current adaptive needs of the organism. Bears adapting to snowy terrain will not enjoy a higher probability of getting mutations producing lighter coats than will bears inhabiting non-snowy terrain.

What we do not mean by "random" is that all genes are equally likely to mutate (some are more mutable than others) or that all mutations are equally likely (some types of DNA change are more common than others). It is more accurate, then, to call mutations "indifferent" rather than "random": the chance of a mutation happening is indifferent to whether it would be helpful or harmful. Evolution by selection, then, is a combination of two steps: a "random" (or indifferent) step -- mutation -- that generates a panoply of genetic variants, both good and bad (in our example, a variety of new coat colors); and then a deterministic step -- natural selection -- that orders this variation, keeping the good and winnowing the bad (the retention of light-color genes at the expense of dark-color ones).

It is important to clarify these two steps because of the widespread misconception, promoted by creationists, that in evolution "everything happens by chance." Creationists equate the chance that evolution could produce a complex organism to the infinitesimal chance that a hurricane could sweep through a junkyard and randomly assemble the junk into a Boeing 747. But this analogy is specious. Evolution is manifestly not a chance process because of the order produced by natural selection -- order that can, over vast periods of time, result in complex organisms looking as if they were designed to fit their environment. Humans, the product of non-random natural selection, are the biological equivalent of a 747, and in some ways they are even more complex. The explanation of seeming design by solely materialistic processes was Darwin's greatest achievement, and a major source of discomfort for those holding the view that nature was designed by God.

Here is Sean Carroll's review in Science: God as Genetic Engineer
Talking about the scientific literature Behe ignored, he writes:

Is it possible that Behe does not know this body of data? Or does he just choose to ignore it? Behe has quite a record of declaring what is impossible and of disregarding the scientific literature, and he has clearly not learned any lessons from some earlier gaffes. He has again gone "public" with assertions without the benefit (or wisdom) of first testing their strength before qualified experts.

For instance, Behe once wrote, "if random evolution is true, there must have been a large number of transitional forms between the Mesonychid [a whale ancestor] and the ancient whale. Where are they?" (12). He assumed such forms would not or could not be found, but three transitional species were identified by paleontologists within a year of that statement. In Darwin's Black Box, he posited that genes for modern complex biochemical systems, such as blood clotting, might have been "designed billions of years ago and have been passed down to the present … but not 'turned on'." This is known to be genetically impossible because genes that aren't used will degenerate, but there it was in print. And Behe's argument against the evolution of flagella and the immune system have been dismantled in detail (13, 14) and new evidence continues to emerge (15), yet the same old assertions for design reappear here as if they were uncontested.

And here is a review by Michael Ruse: Design? Maybe. Intelligent? We have our doubts
He appears to be tired of this debate (can't blame him) and this is how he ends his review:

I know my fellow evolutionists will like the book, because now they have the excuse to write yet more articles against IDT. For myself, with so many important issues waiting for attention in our society, I am just a bit depressed that anyone would think that something like IDT is worth pushing or that it gains so much attention others have to spend time refuting it.

Certainly, if I were a Christian, I would be terrified of it. If God really does have to get involved in His creation every time something complex needs producing, why does He not get involved in His creation whenever something simple but awful needs avoiding? Many genetic diseases are the product of just one molecule gone wrong. Surely an all-powerful, all-loving God could have taken five minutes off from creating the irreducibly complex to tweak those rogue molecules back into line?

If you have not read Darwin's Black Box, then read it to find out what the controversy is all about. If you have read Darwin's Black Box, then don't bother to read The Edge of Evolution. Same old stuff, without the style of the first book.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The American Chemical Society (ACS) reinstates Iranian members - well almost

Just a few months back ACS had dropped 36 Iranian members from its fold. ACS has now reversed its decision after protests from its members and other organizations. However, these Iranian members still cannot enjoy full member benefits.

From Science (May 18, 2007):
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has reinstated 36 Iranian members dumped in January because of the U.S. trade embargo. But ACS will continue to withhold certain member benefits until it obtains a government license.

Although U.S. organizations are prohibited from doing business with anybody in Iran, Cuba, or North Korea, an exemption enables U.S. scholarly societies to have members in those countries. But late last year, ACS officials decided that the full range of membership benefits--which includes discounted journal subscriptions, career counseling, meeting invitations, and insurance--crossed the line.

That ruling drew protest from scores of ACS members. And ACS Executive Director Madeleine Jacobs says she was not part of the decision. "I learned about the move from Science," she says (Science, 30 March, p. 1777). Last week, the society reversed its decision. But it could be months before ACS obtains a license that would enable it to provide Iranian members with discounted meeting registrations and career-development services.

Curious, that the Executive Director of ACS was not consulted nor informed about a decision with definite political overtones. ACS has now reversed its decisions and lets hope now that they restore full benefits to Iranian members soon.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Origins of Resistance to Science: Lessons for science & religion debates

There is a fascinating article in Science (May 18, 2007) by Paul Bloom & Scolnick Weisberg. It is titled Childhood Origins of Adult Resistance to Science and some aspects, such as the existence of soul or opposition to evolution, feed directly into science and religion debates. Paul Bloom was our first speaker for our Science & Religion lecture series at Hampshire College, and he talked about the origins of dualistic thinking in children that possibly leads to a concept of God. If interested, check out his excellent article, Is God an Accident? in the Atlantic Monthly (February 2001).

The Science article claims that some resistance to science is a human universal and is rooted in what children know about science intuitively and how they learn. A modified version of the paper is published at Edge. Here is the abstract for the paper:
The developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations. This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and will be especially strong if there is a non-scientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are taken as reliable and trustworthy. This is the current situation in the United States with regard to the central tenets of neuroscience and of evolutionary biology. These clash with intuitive beliefs about the immaterial nature of the soul and the purposeful design of humans and other animals — and, in the United States, these intuitive beliefs are particularly likely to be endorsed and transmitted by trusted religious and political authorities. Hence these are among the domains where Americans' resistance to science is the strongest.
You can read the full article here.

About resistance to science:
There are two common assumptions about the nature of this resistance. First, it is often assumed to be a particularly American problem, explained in terms of the strong religious beliefs of many American citizens and the anti-science leanings of the dominant political party. Second, the problem is often characterized as the result of insufficient exposure to the relevant scientific facts, and hence is best addressed with improved science education.

We believe that these assumptions, while not completely false, reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of this phenomenon. While cultural factors are plainly relevant, American adults' resistance to scientific ideas reflects universal facts about what children know and how children learn. If this is right, then resistance to science cannot be simply addressed through more education; something different is needed.
They then talk about children know prior to their exposure to science. For example, young children have a sense of "naive physics" - that objects fall when dropped, as well as a sense of "naive" or "common-sense psychology" - that people act and react in response to social and physical events. While "naive physics" also leads to a number of erroneous scientific conclusions (e.g. a ball out of a curved tube will follow a curved path), it is "common-sense psychology" that is more relevant for science and religion debates.

First you have the issue of seeing purpose and design everywhere:
One significant bias is that children naturally see the world in terms of design and purpose. For instance, four year-olds insist that everything has a purpose, including lions ("to go in the zoo") and clouds ("for raining"), a propensity that Deborah Kelemen has dubbed "promiscuous teleology." Additionally, when asked about the origin of animals and people, children spontaneously tend to provide and to prefer creationist explanations.

Just as children's intuitions about the physical world make it difficult for them to accept that the Earth is a sphere, their psychological intuitions about agency and design make it difficult for them to accept the processes of evolution.

Then there is the issue of "dualism" or mind/body separation, that leads to ideas about soul, etc:
One of the most interesting aspects of our common-sense psychology is dualism, the belief that minds are fundamentally different from brains. This belief comes naturally to children. Preschool children will claim that the brain is responsible for some aspects of mental life, typically those involving deliberative mental work, such as solving math problems. But preschoolers will also claim that the brain isn't involved in a host of other activities, such as pretending to be a kangaroo, loving one's brother, or brushing one's teeth. Similarly, when told about a brain transplant from a boy to a pig, they believe that you get a very smart pig, but one with pig beliefs and pig desires. For young children, then, much of mental life is not linked to the brain.
(check out Paul Bloom's Descarts' Baby for more details)

These conceptual errors, however, can lead to real social consequences:
The strong intuitive pull of dualism makes it difficult for people to accept what Francis Crick called "the astonishing hypothesis." Dualism is mistaken — mental life emerges from physical processes. People resist the astonishing hypothesis in ways that can have considerable social implications. For one thing, debates about the moral status of embryos, fetuses, stem cells, and non-human animals are sometimes framed in terms of whether or not these entities possess immaterial souls. For instance, in their 2003 report (Being Human: Readings from the President's Council on Bioethics), the President's Council described people as follows: "We have both corporeal and noncorporeal aspects. We are embodied spirits and inspirited bodies (or, if you will, embodied minds and minded bodies)."
But how do children learn about science:
Some culture-specific information is not associated with any particular source. It is "common knowledge." As such, learning of this type of information generally bypasses critical analysis. A prototypical example is that of word meanings. Everyone uses the word "dog" to refer to dogs, so children easily learn that this is what they are called. Other examples include belief in germs and electricity. Their existence is generally assumed in day-to-day conversation and is not marked as uncertain; nobody says that they "believe in electricity." Hence even children and adults with little scientific background believe that these invisible entities really exist, a topic explored in detail by Paul Harris and his colleagues.

Other information, however, is explicitly asserted. Such information is associated with certain sources. A child might note that science teachers make surprising claims about the origin of human beings, for instance, while their parents do not. Furthermore, the tentative status of this information is sometimes explicitly marked; people will assert that they "believe in evolution."

When faced with this kind of asserted information, one can occasionally evaluate its truth directly. But in some domains, including much of science, direct evaluation is difficult or impossible. Few of us are qualified to assess claims about the merits of string theory, the role in mercury in the etiology of autism, or the existence of repressed memories. So rather than evaluating the asserted claim itself, we instead evaluate the claim's source. If the source is deemed trustworthy, people will believe the claim, often without really understanding it. As our colleague Frank Keil has discussed, this sort of division of cognitive labor is essential in any complex society, where any single individuals will lack the resources to evaluate all the claims that he or she hears.
This is not just limited to science and we do that for other areas as well. Children do the same:
Adults thus rely on the trustworthiness of the source when deciding which asserted claims to believe. Do children do the same? Recent studies suggest that they do; children, like adults, have at least some capacity to assess the trustworthiness of their information sources.
So in a nutshell,
the developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations. This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and will be especially strong if there is a non-scientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are taken as reliable and trustworthy. This is the current situation in the United States with regard to the central tenets of neuroscience and of evolutionary biology. These clash with intuitive beliefs about the immaterial nature of the soul and the purposeful design of humans and other animals — and, in the United States, these intuitive beliefs are particularly likely to be endorsed and transmitted by trusted religious and political authorities. Hence these are among the domains where Americans' resistance to science is the strongest.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A peer-reviewed Creation Journal

I was away the past few weeks so I couldn't update the blog. But when I got back I saw this in the May 18th issue of Science:
The intelligent design (ID) movement has suffered setbacks lately, but the biblical literalists known as young-Earth creationists are going strong. This month, the Institute for Creation Research, based near San Diego, California, launched the International Journal for Creation Research.

Described as a "professional peer-reviewed journal," the publication promises to supply "hard data based on cutting-edge research" to support theories such as "the young earth model, the global Flood, [and] the non-evolutionary origin of the species."

The editor-in-chief is Andrew A. Snelling, a former geologist for a uranium-mining company who has a Ph.D. from Sydney University and is now in Brisbane, Australia.
So now what to do? A number of scientists have been saying that ID or Creation scientists don't publish in peer-reviewed journals. I guess they forgot to mention who the "peers" should be. I don't think ID will be far behind in creating their own peer-reviewed journal. Nevertheless, their guidelines will not be as entertaining as those for the International Journal for Creation Research:
According to the instructions to authors, papers will be evaluated as to whether they "are formulated within a young earth, young universe framework" and whether they "provide evidence of faithfulness to the grammatico-historical/normative interpretation of Scripture."
No these guidelines are real and not from the Onion.

Here are the full guidelines:
2. Review the Paper for possible inclusion into the IJCR review process. The following criteria are to be used in judging the papers:

(a) Is the Paper’s topic important to the development of the creation model?

(b) Does the Paper’s topic provide an original contribution to the creation model?

(c) Is this Paper formulated within a young-earth, young-universe framework?

(d) If (c) above is not satisfied, does this Paper offer a very constructively-positive criticism and provide a possible young-earth, young-universe alternative?

(e) If the Paper is polemical in nature, does it deal with a topic rarely discussed within the origins debate?

(f) Does this Paper provide evidence of faithfulness to the grammatico-historical/ normative interpretation of Scripture? (if necessary refer to Walsh, R.E., Biblical Hermeneutics and Creation, Proceedings First International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, 1986, Vol. 1, pp. 121–127).
First paper for submission: Carl Sagan was wrong in using "Billions & Billions". He should have used "Hundreds and Hundreds".