Posted by: Dan | October 5, 2006

Science as a meritocracy

Here’s the thing: there is no such animal as a “big tent” (as the term is used on this list) in science. Science is the ultimate meritocracy. A fragile persona will not survive. Apart from a gentleman’s agreement to treat young students with kid gloves–and even then only for a short while–nobody gets a free pass.


That’s a precisely correct statement from a physicist interested in cosmological ID and apparently devout Christian, in a long post about why Dembski booted him from a discussion list intended for the inner sanctum of ID. His offense? – criticizing young-earth creationism.

And this gentleman, David Heddle, goes on to rail against the free pass that YEC gets amongst IDers, because the topic of the age of the Earth is forbidden in such circles, so as to be all-inclusive under ID’s big tent.

Could you imagine the Flat Earth equivalent? – explorers of the 16th century, who’d been around the world and yet not seen the roundness of the world from space, forbidden to criticize Flat Earther’s arguments and conclusions in discussions on geography, for reasons of fairness. Would that have been intolerant or discriminatory of Flat Earther’s? No, merely pointing out logical inconsistencies.

But this is the “intellectual” culture that Phillip Johnson, William Dembski, and the rest of the Intelligent Design Movement has created for itself – one where the goal is not discovery and scientific inquiry, but “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.”

(HT: Wes Elsberry on The Austringer)

Added thought:
As a member of Cornell’s IDEA club points out on their Design Paradigm blog, some ID proponents do welcome open, honest inquiry – but I’ve still seen zero ID proponents capable of presenting any data of merit, conceive of any predictions that are experimentally testable, or demonstrate any interest in testing their Design Inference in a scientific setting whatsoever. So open inquiry is only one part – the other is the topic of this post – the burden of evidence in a meritocracy.

And one more… a comment on Heddle’s blog post says something else that’s noteworthy:

It’s very easy to see what happened to Dembski and Behe. Bob Park explains it in Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness to Fraud. They start out true believers. They’re sure they’re hot on the tails of a breakthrough. Any day now! They’re genuinely sure of it. They get dissed, people call them cranks, they make bold predictions. Their reputation is on the line. And after a while, as the work continues, they see they were wrong. There’s nothing there. They’ve spent years and failed. But by this time, they’ve got supporters who don’t know any better. They’ve got maybe book deals, and honoraria, and recognition and status from the little community they built. And so they carry on. Rather than face the embarrassment of having been wrong, they retreat to the little comunity which at least provides them with a little easy money and fame.


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