Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creationism, UVM, and (we hope) the last chapter on Ben Stein

I don't have to go over the whole Ben Stein/creationist/graduation disinvitation thing do I? I didn't think so.

The latest chapter is that the creationist Discovery Institute, always with an eye open for publicity, is still trying to elbow its way onto campus at UVM. Following on the disinvitation of their buddy Ben Stein, they've written to Nicholas Gotelli, a biology proessor at Groovy UV who published an op-ed piece in the Burlington Free Press about the Stein affair, to try to get themselves invited to debate creationism and evolution.

Among skeptic and freethinking circles there is a debate about whether to debate these clowns. On the one hand, they can't go into a legitimate debate and stand up to any criticism; thus, any educated person who watches the debate will see that they have, once again, been thoroughly discredited. On the other hand, even appearing on the same stage with them enables them to claim a degree of undeserved credibility, and to maintain the fraudulent claim that there is a scientific debate in which creationism and evolution are equal competitors.

In this case, Professor Gotelli has it exactly right:

Academic debate on controversial topics is fine, but those topics need to have a basis in reality. I would not invite a creationist to a debate on campus for the same reason that I would not invite an alchemist, a flat-earther, an astrologer, a psychic, or a Holocaust revisionist. These ideas have no scientific support, and that is why they have all been discarded by credible scholars. Creationism is in the same category.

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.

Follow the link for the rest of the story at Pharyngula.

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