Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we expose the intellectual dishonesty of a commenter and a few scientists.

“Allallt” commented on the Science as true worship, Part I post:

I am currently in my 5th year of study at a university, I worked alongside a biologist for a year, I lived with two doctors, and although I don’t mean to imply that you are lying, I have never met a single person who claimed to know a deficiency in evolution that kept quiet about.
I’ve never met a scientist who thought they could disprove another scientist, who didn’t take the opportunity and the pay for the paper they published.
‘Science’ is a collection of scientists in different universities in different countries publishing in different journal articles. I’m not sure they have the structure to keep such a conspiracy going.
None of this makes biologists right about evolution. But it does mean I am very sceptical of your opening story about a scientist who not only claims to know the deficiencies in evolution, but also thinks everyone else knows but everyone is just a part of a big global conspiracy.

You know you’re dealing with an intellectually dishonest person when he says he doesn’t mean to do something, but does it anyway. As I pointed out to him in my response, I did not say there was a big global conspiracy. Biologists are forthright about the work they’re doing, but they’re not always forthright about the conclusions. Until now, I had assumed it was not always deliberate, and that some scientists are just so locked into a particular paradigm that they can’t admit the obvious — that Darwin’s theory is flawed — to themselves, let alone to the public. However, after reading the following, I’m starting to doubt that.

When I was young, Stephen Jay Gould was derided, as was Carl Sagan. Of Gould, John Maynard Smith, Emeritus Professor at Sussex, once wrote, “Because of the excellence of his essays, he has come to be seen by non-biologists as the preeminent evolutionary theorist. In contrast, the evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed his work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists.” [emphasis added]

This was precisely the point of my anecdote about the biology student who didn’t want to “hand a victory to Christians” with any public admission of flaws in Darwin’s theory. Actual biologists are well aware of Darwin’s deficiencies. The reason most of the general public is not is because any criticisms are deliberately held back from public discourse. So, while there is no global conspiracy to hide the research, how many nonbiologists are going to read through journal papers or even popular level science books with the necessary rigor to realize that Darwin’s theory is as scientifically dead as geocentric theory? Not many, and those who do are derided as “deniers” or “creationists.”

All of this dissembling and labeling betrays an incredibly unscientific attitude, and shows to what degree ideology rules certain scientific fields (see also: climate change). Contrast this with the way physicists openly and even joyfully discuss serious challenges to one of the most successful and widely-accepted theories in physics, the standard model of particle physics:

“It was so weird that people were forced to chuck their favorite theories and start from scratch,” Adam Martin, co-author of the paper, said in a press release. “That’s a fun area of particle physics. We’re looking into the unknown. Is it one new particle? Is it two new particles?”

The LHC’s data shows two deviations from events expected by the Standard Model, which is the theoretical foundation of particle physics. The recent paper examines four possible explanations for the deviations, one of them being a heavier version of the Higgs boson. Further research may open up doors for new models in particle physics or lead to a mundane, anticlimactic explanation, according to Martin.

“People are still cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Everybody knows that with more data, it could just go away. If it stays, it’s potentially really, really, really exciting.”

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