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Why don't you really do some real science? Then we'll talk

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  • Todd S. Greene
    Two letters, excerpts from: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/how_to_respond_to_requests_to.php [link may be line-wrapped]
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 25, 2009
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      Two letters, excerpts from:
      [link may be line-wrapped]


      David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute writes to professor Nicholas Gotelli of the University of Vermont:

      | Dear Professor Gotelli,
      | I saw your op-ed in the Burlington Free Press and
      | appreciated your support of free speech at UVM. In light
      | of that, I wonder if you would be open to finding a way
      | to provide a campus forum for a debate about evolutionary
      | science and intelligent design. The Discovery Institute,
      | where I work, has a local sponsor in Burlington who is
      | enthusiastic to find a way to make this happen. But we
      | need a partner on campus. If not the biology department,
      | then perhaps you can suggest an alternative.
      | Ben Stein may not be the best person to single-handedly
      | represent the ID side. As you're aware, he's known mainly
      | as an entertainer. A more appropriate alternative or
      | addition might be our senior fellows David Berlinski or
      | Stephen Meyer, respectively a mathematician and a
      | philosopher of science. I'll copy links to their bios
      | below. Wherever one comes down in the Darwin debate, I
      | think we can all agree that it is healthy for students to
      | be exposed to different views--in precisely the spirit of
      | inviting controversial speakers to campus, as you write
      | in your op-ed.
      | I'm hoping that you would be willing to give a critique
      | of ID at such an event, and participate in the debate in
      | whatever role you feel comfortable with.
      | A good scientific backdrop to the discussion might be Dr.
      | Meyer's book that comes out in June from HarperCollins,
      | "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for
      | Intelligent Design."
      | On the other hand, Dr. Belinski may be a good choice
      | since he is a critic of both ID and Darwinian theory.
      | Would it be possible for us to talk more about this by
      | phone sometime soon?
      | With best wishes,
      | David Klinghoffer
      | Discovery Institute

      Dr. Gotelli (a guy with a *real* Ph.D., by the way) writes back to Klinghoffer:

      | Dear Dr. Klinghoffer:
      | Thank you for this interesting and courteous invitation
      | to set up a debate about evolution and creationism (which
      | includes its more recent relabeling as "intelligent
      | design") with a speaker from the Discovery Institute.
      | Your invitation is quite surprising, given the sneering
      | coverage of my recent newspaper editorial that you
      | yourself posted on the Discovery Institute's website:
      | http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/02/
      | However, this kind of two-faced dishonesty is what the
      | scientific community has come to expect from the
      | creationists.
      | Academic debate on controversial topics is fine, but
      | those topics need to have a basis in reality. I would not
      | invite a creationist to a debate on campus for the same
      | reason that I would not invite an alchemist, a
      | flat-earther, an astrologer, a psychic, or a Holocaust
      | revisionist. These ideas have no scientific support, and
      | that is why they have all been discarded by credible
      | scholars. Creationism is in the same category.
      | Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren't
      | members of your institute publishing their ideas in
      | prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature,
      | or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences?
      | If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and
      | scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic
      | publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas
      | that have credible empirical support are carefully and
      | thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more
      | exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific
      | disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of
      | the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning
      | work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the
      | prominent mainstream journals.
      | "Conspiracy" is the predictable response by Ben Stein and
      | the frustrated creationists. But conspiracy theories are
      | a joke, because science places a high premium on
      | intellectual honesty and on new empirical studies that
      | overturn previously established principles. Creationism
      | doesn't live up to these standards, so its proponents are
      | relegated to the sidelines, publishing in books, blogs,
      | websites, and obscure journals that don't maintain
      | scientific standards.
      | Finally, isn't it sort of pathetic that your large,
      | well-funded institute must scrape around, panhandling for
      | a seminar invitation at a little university in northern
      | New England? Practicing scientists receive frequent
      | invitations to speak in science departments around the
      | world, often on controversial and novel topics. If
      | creationists actually published some legitimate science,
      | they would receive such invitations as well.
      | So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer.
      | I will wait patiently to read about the work of
      | creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But
      | until it appears there, it isn't science and doesn't
      | merit an invitation.
      | In closing, I do want to thank you sincerely for this
      | invitation and for your posting on the Discovery
      | Institute Website. As an evolutionary biologist, I can't
      | tell you what a badge of honor this is. My colleagues
      | will be envious.
      | Sincerely yours,
      | Nick Gotelli
      | P.S. I hope you will forgive me if I do not respond to
      | any further e-mails from you or from the Discovery
      | Institute. This has been entertaining, but it interferes
      | with my research and teaching.
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