January 13, 2006
Dr. Tenke's reply to my criticism simply illustrates the existence of the blind spot among many scientists. He says it does not matter if many scientists answer the purpose question "no", since "no legitimate scientific question has been asked!"
I have three problems with this.
First, this does not answer my question as to why "no" is not an issue but "yes" is totally objectionable. If he is correct, and the entire question is scientifically illegitimate, all answers are equally illegitimate, and the problem that only one side is being complained about remains. Dismissing Dawkins as an isolated example not worth replying to is not an answer.
Secondly, Dawkins is not alone in this. Similar statements are being made all over, and worse is being done. Ask Dr. Richard Sternberg, who as editor of a small peer-reviewed journal published the first article in such a scholarly publication that raised some of the questions of 'Intelligent Design' (apparently the distinguished scientists in the peer review process thought a legitimate question had been asked). Neither a Christian or a believer in design – one of his two PhD's is in evolutionary biology – Sternberg got the modern equivalent of tarring and feathering (see the Wall Street Journal column on this.
Thirdly, there is the question of what a "legitimate scientific question" is. There is currently no widely accepted definition of science itself – every one that is suggested leaves someone or something out that serious scientists believe should be included. Yes, Intelligent Design raises serious problems of testability and falsifiability – but so do many other theories about ultimate origins. I read one abstract of a paper by some of our most respected theoretical physicists that proposed the existence of a number of additional dimensions of space that failed to expand at the time of the Big Bang – how do you test for them? However, they are needed to make the math work... and the math has to work, or in the authors' own introduction, the Big Bang would have too many Anthropic constraints!
The bottom line is that when science refuses to deal with questions – calling them unscientific – it is being unscientific. Prove wrong what you can, prove right what you can, theorize carefully, answer "I don't know" without shame. Remember that some things branded unscientific fifty years ago are orthodoxy now – and remember that all science is affected by the biases and prejudices of researchers, and no human, not even scientists, are free of those.Rev. Kevin Ford
MIT Board of Chaplains
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