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Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism
Assertion: 100 scientists have signed a declaration denying the evolutionary history of life.

Mark I. Vuletic

Analysis

I. The general irrelevance of lists

History shows that if even a lone individual has truth on his side, he or she eventually will win over the consensus in the scientific community on the force of evidence published in mainstream scientific journals. No one needs to launch a propaganda campaign in major newspapers to appeal directly to the public, or to stack school boards by stealth, or try to convince legislators to force into science classes an idea rejected by the overwhelming consensus of scientists. As Alan D. Gishlick of the National Center for Science Education explains in his critique of Jonathan Wells's Icons of Evolution, this goes even for ideas that initially are met with ridicule by scientists:

When Alfred Wegener first proposed his theory of continental drift, he was laughed at and ridiculed. What did he do? Did he form a non-profit advocacy group and lobby state school boards and lawmakers to force teaching of "evidence against" geosynclinal theory? Write a book called Icons of Uniformitarianism? Evaluate and grade earth science textbooks and demand that they be rewritten to remove examples of "borderlands"? No. He went back and did more research. He found like-minded colleagues and they produced research. He fought in the peer-reviewed literature. He produced original research, not polemical popular tracts or politics. Eventually his ideas were adopted by the whole of geology—not through politics but because of their overall explanatory power. (Gishlick 2008: 64)

Of course, those who do not have truth on their side have no choice but to rely upon propaganda. The contrast between the stated intent and actual practice of intelligent design creationists, as represented in their so-called Wedge strategy, is very telling in this regard. Intelligent design creationists intended first to publish extensive scientific research in mainstream journals to win over the scientific community, and then to go to the public (the way things are supposed to be done). However, in practice, having recognized how scientifically vacuous intelligent design is, these creationists have opted to bypass the scientific community completely. To my knowledge, only one article arguing for intelligent design has been published in a mainstream, peer-reviewed scientific journal; that article promptly was repudiated by the society that publishes the journal, not only because of its non-scientific content, but because the article had been published "[c]ontrary to normal editorial practices" (NCSE, 2004) by an editor with creationist sympathies, who apparently had realized that the article never would have passed proper peer-review. On the other hand, as anyone who has paid any attention to the intelligent design movement knows, creationists have been very active from the start in making appeals to the general public, and in trying to capture school boards and influence legislators: all propaganda, no research. This is the pattern of activity we would expect from ideologues with no evidence on their side, not from scientists.

 

II. Project Steve

 There remains, of course, the question of whether the number of signatories to creationist lists is significant, representing any kind of real controversy within the scientific community. The answer, of course, is that the number is insignificant. The National Center for Science Education has demonstrated this humorously, but decisively, with its Project Steve, a growing collection of scientists who affirm the following statement:

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools. (NCSE 2008)

The special thing about Project Steve is that only scientists named Steve (or an equivalent like Stephanie or Esteban) are allowed to sign. Even with this restriction (only 1% of Americans are named Steve), the NCSE has had no problem easily outstripping the creationist lists. On 14 February 2009, shortly after the 200th Darwin Day, the NCSE announced the 1000th Steve (or kilosteve) to join the Project—the aptly named evolutionary biologist, Dr. Steve Darwin. The odds of the kilosteve having the last name Darwin, by the way? Astronomically small, of course—clearly the hand of God, indicating His approval of evolutionary science, and His utter disgust with creationist shenanigans. As of 26 Nov 2014, the NCSE's Steve-o-Meter shows  1357 signatories to Project Steve.

 

III. Voices for evolution

Amplifying the insignificance of creationist critics, the 2008 edition of the NCSE's Voices for Evolution records statements from over 80 scientific organizations (as well as over 20 religious organizations, and over 40 educational organizations) in support of evolution and against creationism. Every year brings new statements from more societies, as well as renewed statements from some of the ones already on this list. There is no significant support for creationism among scientists.

References

Gishlick A. 2008. Icons of evolution? Why much of what Jonathan Wells writes about evolution is wrong. ncse.com/files/pub/creationism/icons/gishliick_icons_critique_complete.pdf. Spotted 26 Nov 2014.

NCSE. 2004. BSW strengthens statement repudiating Meyer paper. http://ncse.com/news/2004/10/bsw-strengthens-statement-repudiating-meyer-paper-00528. Spotted 26 Nov 2014.

NCSE. 2008. Project Steve. http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve. Spotted 26 Nov 2014.

Last updated: 26 Nov 2014

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