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January 11, 2006


Dear Editor,

Some of your readers may be surprised to find out that I'm such a hard-nosed conservative - at least in my science. In my own literature, I've had occasion to preach that regardless of whether you apply a new method or a conventional one, science only works if you're faithful to the scientific method and rigidly adhere to parsimony. If you sometimes happen to be wrong, get used to it. That's just how science works. It is in this spirit that I must reply to Rev. Ford's comments on my Viewpoint article. You see, bad science isn't science at all, but something else altogether.

Rev. Ford starts off quite well, but somehow goes on to restate the same error that I tried to correct. He states, "If science cannot answer the question, then answering "no" is as unscientific as answering 'yes.'" The error is NOT that the question is answered "no," but that no legitimate scientific question has been asked! Some questions can be rephrased as legitimate, testable questions, while others simply can't. By analogy, what's 12 divided by 0? There is no logical error in saying that it's undefined. In fact, insisting on "an answer" yields the family of mathematical gibberish that "proves" that 1=0. Of course, you could be persistent about it and find another way to get to an answer - like limits and calculus. If someone discovers a scientific approach to the question of purpose, more power to them... but then again, isn't that the domain of religion? Meanwhile, please let scientists do science.

Dawkins is another matter. I find his tack to be an entertaining piece of pure rhetoric, though quite unworthy of comment. Again, it has nothing to do with science, and likewise shows no understanding of religion at all. Great Britain may be a different country than the USA, but I sincerely doubt that this series will become a part of the science curriculum. However, like Intelligent Design, it's fine for a class in philosophy or politics - maybe even a philosophy of science class. It just isn't science.

While I greatly appreciate Rev. Ford's well-meaning comments, the fact that he still believes that scientists "categorically refuse" to "deal with one differing answer" underscores the urgency of my plea. From the looks of the polls, there are MANY well-intentioned citizens who have no problem with teaching something other than science in our science classes. Please help us to assure that our scientists continue to be trained in science, and that they will continue to do it faithfully and meticulously. To insist on an answer to an unasked question like this one isn't dogma - it's politics!

Craig Tenke
Center Moriches, NY

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