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The Pro-Science Petition

The Pro-Science Petition

Here is a question for you: Do you know what the petition said? It is only two sentences:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

One more question: Have you updated your knowledge about evolution since you took it in high school? If not, as part of doing so, you might want to know that a lot of things we were taught (things I used in leading the debate team side "for evolution" in my high school science class) have been shown to be fabrications or falsified, e.g., see Survival of the Fakest, By: Jonathan Wells American Spectator, January 1, 2001. (Lots of copies online.) (Of course there are also lots of new findings as well, hopefully more trustworthy than the earlier ones.)

The petition is pro-science. It is good science to express skepticism, and even better when that something (all of life) has not been shown to be fully accounted for by random mutation and natural selection, the latter of which can only remove individuals from the population. Great scientists recognize the essential value of doubt in science, even if it is in regard to today's prevailing views.

If we were not able or did not desire to look in any new direction, if we did not have a doubt or recognize ignorance, we would not get any new ideas. There would be nothing worth checking, because we would know what is true. So what we call scientific knowledge today is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty. Some of them are most unsure; some of them are nearly sure; but none is absolutely certain. Scientists are used to this. - Feynman, Richard [1963] The Uncertainty of Science

Yes, death and taxes are absolutely certain, but that's not science.

This experience makes me think we should be worried about how it has become impossible to question work in just this area without eliciting instant ridicule and ridiculous assumptions. For example, nobody I know seriously questions microevolutionary findings or the existence of random mutation and natural selection, but everyone who signed the petition was instantly labeled "anti-evolution" despite that the statements above say nothing of the sort. There is an enormous amount of ridicule (I won't dignify it by posting the invective, comparisons to Nazis, and more my group and I have been sent.)

Frankly, more people should express doubt, because they have it, but I bet they don't because who wants to suffer the ridicule that is heaped upon those of us who do?

So do I regret signing it? I regret that my students, staff, and boss have been bombarded by rude emails. It is not fair to spam them just because I stuck my neck out to take an unpopular position. I regret people lambasting scientists for showing skepticism and asking for more evidence, when it would be better to put that energy into inquiry. I regret people reading more into the statement than what it says, and drawing all kinds of inferences from false assumptions. Despite all this, I signed it because I believe what the two sentences state. I still believe the two sentences. I am pro-science, and so is the petition.