[EAS] Evolution (USA ver.2004) re

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Sun Jan 16 23:18:57 EST 2005

Subject:   Evolution (USA ver.2004) redux

Regarding item 1. in a recent mailing, about another Scopes trial,
<http://jove.eng.yale.edu/pipermail/eas-info/2005/000728.html>, I
wanted to share with you some reflections by my good friend and
colleague Dr. Rodion Rathbone (with his permission).  --PJK

At 12:52 PM 1/3/05 -0500, you wrote:
>WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 31 Dec 04  Washington, DC
>It's been 145 years since Darwin published Origin of Species, 
>perhaps the world's greatest scientific discovery.  No other
>idea has connected so many pieces of knowledge.  It's now 80
>years since the Scopes trial.  If any doubts about evolution
>remain, you might suppose that DNA analysis would sweep them
>away.  We can now measure how closely we are related to every
>creature on Earth.  We share half our DNA with yeast.  So
>genetically similar are bonobos to humans that, but for the
>inability of bonobos to talk, they might demand a seat in the
>UN.  Yet, in Dover, PA, a town much like Dayton, TN, the school
>board voted to require that intelligent design be taught
>alongside evolution.  The school board will lose in court, but
>we must ask ourselves why science has been so spectacularly
>unsuccessful in explaining such obvious truths to people.

Might the arrogance of the scientific community have something to do
with it?  No, that couldn't be it.  Given all the scientific
disciplines, surely we understand almost all that's relevant to a
happy human life.  There are some areas where we don't have full
understanding, but surely people must see that we have the only
methodology that makes any sense. The poor ignorant populace, what 
can they be thinking.  Why, most of them don't even know what a
methodology is.

It's easy to see the absurdity and stupidity of the more extreme
positions in some other world view, but we have a more tolerant
stance towards the more radical exponents of our own stance. In the
1800s, there was the statement "I am the master of Trinity College,
and what I know not, is not knowledge."  The intellectual community
of the time saw it as a bit over-reaching, but not too far off the
mark.  From today's perspective, it's ludicrous.  In the early
1950's, 55% of Americans polled affirmed that Joe McCarthy was
basically doing the right thing, even though they had quibbles with
his methods.  By the end of the 1950s, thanks to Edward R. Morrow
and others, few saw him as constructive.  The memory of that time
was long-lived, but not quite long enough.  The stance of "We are
Right, so let's kill them" is again seeking ascendance.  I can see
it clearly on the political right.  Will I recognize this stance
where it shows itself in my own intellectual community?

The Amazing Randi has been a crusader for truth, exposing many a
quick-buck artist posing as a paranormal seer. Thirty years from
now, when we better understand the neurobiology of a 20% placebo
effect in drug trials (sometimes 80%), will Randi's dedication
remind us more of Wyatt Erp in Dodge City, or Cotton Mather at the
Salem witch trials?

>From where I sit, I can only wonder what the answer will be. I
suspect such wondering is one of the strongest contributions we can
make.  Clashes in world views have always had a shortage of
humility. It can lead to engagement and dialog, not dialog with
those on the extremes, but among the rest. This is powerful.  

We have had too much of verbal missiles hurtled over the barricades.
These only serve to prompt more fortifications on the other side,
and prompt the less committed to take refuge under them.  While they
may prompt much cheering on our own side, and that feels
encouraging, I think they advance our cause little.

More information about the EAS-INFO mailing list