Friday, November 04, 2005

You want to communicate? Then let's communicate!

Over at The Panda's Thumb, Wesley R. Elsberry, who had been attending the Dover trial, reports the following:
Robert Gentry was in the courtroom in the morning, and noticed me sitting with the plaintiffs. At a break, he told me that he was retracting his permission for me to provide his papers on my website. Along the way, he made a rather insulting insinuation that I would alter his materials in some way. Now, back at that press conference, Gentry complained that scientists did not want people to see his papers. I made a good faith offer to host them. I hosted “scientific creationism” files on my BBS back in the old days of direct dial-up, and I certainly did not alter those. I’m a scientist, and I definitely want to rebut the notion that I’m somehow engaged in keeping people from seeing the arguments made by antievolutionists. Far from it. I think antievolution materials make the case for keeping non-science out of science classrooms quite well.

(Bold emphasis added.)

What I was just saying about intellectually honest debate? I think you can see it in this case as well. Scientists cling to the belief that we're all better off if we consider all the arguments -- even (especially!) the ones opposed to our preferred theory or interpretation of the data. And the reason we're better off seeing them is that then we can subject all the arguments -- even our own -- to serious scrutiny, after which we might not have a final resolution but we will at least have better arguments to work with.

The problem is that certain parties seem not to want a serious scientific back-and-forth here. They don't want to subject their arguments to scientific scrutiny. They don't want to respond to any scientific critique, whether on the basis of evidence or logic or methodology. They don't want to be put in a position where they might have to abandon their hypotheses, so they avoid situations in which these hypotheses might be subjected to serious tests. In other words, these folks want no part of the intellectual engagement with the scientific community that is at the heart of the scientific method.

And, that's fine, unless they also want to claim that their hypotheses and arguments are perfectly good science and that those other naughty scientists are ignoring them.

If you want to engage in a scientific debate, engage in a scientific debate. If not, have a spine and be honest about it.

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At 4:53 PM, Blogger Clayton said...

Just came here by way of Leiter's page. I think you are right that there is something very dishonest about the way certain politically active religious groups carry on and it manifests in a variety of circumstances. Just today I had a class discussion in which people essentially said that religious reasons should be used to limit liberties but those reasons shouldn't in turn be held up to scrutiny or open for public debate. Very frustrating.


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