Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Russell quote anti-ID people should think about

It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions make it impossible to earn a living.-- Bertrand Russell, Skeptical Essays (1928) ††

Interesting. So going around and getting people fired who so much as publish a pro-ID essay in a peer-reviewed journal means that thought about that subject is not free. Right??

Also, this kind of operation has the effect of trivializing the charge that ID is not supported in peer-reviewed journals. If people are afraid they will lose their jobs if they publish pro-ID stuff, then the absence of ID from peer-reviewed journals doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. Right??


Blue Devil Knight said...

If someone published slop in any field, no respectable department would give them a job in that field. I don't buy all this crucifixion nonsense from the IDers: if they had good ideas they wouldn't be ostracized.

Ahab said...

Yes, it does seem a little strange. Aren't scientists allowed to have any standards by which to judge those whose ideas are unsound?
I'm not a scientist, but I work in a highly technical area of health care. Unfortunately,despite rather strict educational guidelines, there are those who somehow manage to get certified without a good understanding of the principles and practices of my field. The usual result is that once this lack of knowledge or ability becomes clear to others, they are fired.
Why shouldn't biologists be held accountable for maintaining competency in their own field of study?

Blue Devil Knight said...

A good quote from Koffka, in his classic Principles of Gestalt Psychology (1935), page 13, talking about vitalists:

It required always a full share of personal courage to profess oneself a vitalist, and therefore let us honour the men who were willing to sacfifice their reputations and their careers in the service of a cause which they considered to be a true one.

This is an interesting quote. The arguments from the ID folk are so bad that I often wonder if they are being honest (as opposed to repeating things that they hope will will converts to Christ). However, honest or not, it takes some gumption to come out of the closet as an ID sympathizer in academia. To know that the majority of people will think you are a pre-modern intellectual anachronism locked into superstitions of old, and to still come out pro ID takes some guts!

It is strange that antiDarwinians have outlasted the vitalists! I think vitalism didn't touch on quite as sensitive a theological nerve as Darwin...

Victor Reppert said...

I'm willing to agree the science, and every other field, should exercise quality control. The question is whether or not there is an over-the-top attack on people's careers who provide any aid and comfort to ID. Menuge was mentioning the fact that Sternberg, who is not an advocate of ID, lost a position because he, as editor, allowed a paper by Steven Meyer top be published which supported ID. Somehow Lippard, in his response to this, had gotten the idea that Sternberg was a creationist when he was not.

Now I think it's going over the top more than a little if you start going after editors who allow articles to be published that support ID. Lippard says the paper wasn't good, it may or may not have been, but if every editor gets fired who includes a poor paper, editors are going to start dropping off right and left.

BDK says "if they had good ideas they wouldn't be ostracized." I think this rather naively underestimates what atheist Thomas Nagel calls the fear of religion. For many people, science has been the bastion of anti-religious ideas, and for science to be turned to support theism is, at least for some people, a very scary idea.

I don't think you have to be an anti-Darwinist to have problems with some of the things that have been done in the name of defending Darwinism. I think what happened to Sternberg went beyond proper quality control, and I think I would believe this regardless of what I thought of evolution.

I'll be blogging more on this soon, with some comments on a book review I just read in Christian Scholar's Review.

Ahab said...

First of all, the implication here is that Sternberg was fired for including the ID article. Fact is that Sternberg himself has denied this on his own website. He had already resigned editorship of that publication in October of 2003.

Also, Jonathan Coddington, Sternberg’s supervisor at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, has written the following:
"Although I do not wish to debate the merits of intelligent design, this forum seems an apt place to correct several factual inaccuracies in the Wall Street Journal’s Op Ed article by David Klinghoffer, “The Branding of a Heretic” (Jan. 28, 2005). Because Dr. von Sternberg has filed an official complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, I cannot comment as fully as I would wish.
1. Dr. von Sternberg is still a Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History, and continues to have the usual rights and privileges, including space, keys, and 24/7 access. At no time did anyone deny him space, keys or access.
2. He is not an employee of the Smithsonian Institution. His title, “Research Associate,” means that for a three year, potentially renewable period he has permission to visit the Museum for the purpose of studying and working with our collections without the staff oversight visitors usually receive.
3. I am, and continue to be, his only “supervisor,” although we use the term “sponsor” for Research Associates to avoid personnel/employee connotations. He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever “assigned to” or under the “oversight of” anyone else.
4. Well prior to the publication of the Meyer article and my awareness of it, I asked him and another Research Associate to move as part of a larger and unavoidable reorganization of space involving 17 people and 20 offices. He agreed.
5. I offered both individuals new, identical, standard Research Associate work spaces. The other accepted, but Dr. von Sternberg declined and instead requested space in an entirely different part of the Museum, which I provided, and which he currently occupies.
6. As for prejudice on the basis of beliefs or opinions, I repeatedly and consistently emphasized to staff (and to Dr. von Sternberg personally), verbally or in writing, that private beliefs and/or controversial editorial decisions were irrelevant in the workplace, that we would continue to provide full Research Associate benefits to Dr. von Sternberg, that he was an established and respected scientist, and that he would at all times be treated as such.
On behalf of all National Museum of Natural History staff, I would like to assert that we hold the freedoms of religion and belief as dearly as any one. The right to heterodox opinion is particularly important to scientists. Why Dr. von Sternberg chose to represent his interactions with me as he did is mystifying. I can’t speak to his interactions with anyone else."

The above comment can be found here.

If it turns out that there is merit to Sternbergs' so-called persecution, hopefully it will come out in his complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

Of course, with many matters like this, it may very well turn out that those of us who were not directly involved in the mattter will never know what really transpired.

I'm not sure I understand why you want to keep dwelling on these ad hominem sort of attacks, Victor.

Lippard said...

"Somehow Lippard, in his response to this, had gotten the idea that Sternberg was a creationist when he was not."

Many people came to this conclusion, due to Sternberg's membership in the Baraminology Study Group and his participation in a "closed door" intelligent design conference which non-ID supporters were told they could not attend.