Devotees of scientism have always sought to rule out challenges to their faith in strictly materialist metaphysics.
Sometimes their monopolistic claims are not vindicated, and they throw a hissy fit, like this KU professor. They insist on the right to use Other People's Money to promote their faith, masquerading as science, and to filter out all competing views, or evidence that fails to butress their claims.
A useful example of how to combat such pretensions is provided by the following rhetoric-laden retreat from a statement that was too blatantly scientistic, as opposed to scientific, to stand up to serious scrutiny:
NABT Statement on Evolution Evolves
by Eugenie C. Scott
In 1995 the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) issued a "Statement on the Teaching of Evolution" which was reprinted in Reports of NCSE (17(1):31-32). In a list of "tenets of science, evolution and biology education," the first item read:
The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.
After the statement was published, anti-evolutionists criticized the use of the terms "unsupervised" and "impersonal." UC Berkeley lawyer Phillip Johnson (author of Darwin on Trial) and other anti-evolutionists have claimed that the NABT statement is "proof" that evolution is inherently an ideological system, rather than simply a well-supported scientific explanation. Criticisms of the statement have appeared in newspaper letters to the editor, in newsletters and other publications. It appears that when most Americans other than scientists hear evolution described in blanket fashion as "unsupervised", they hear, "God had nothing to do with it" -- a statement which is outside of what science can tell us.
In September of 1997, two distinguished scholars, Alvin Plantinga, John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame University, and Huston Smith, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion at Syracuse University, wrote to NABT Executive Director Wayne W. Carley, suggesting that the words "impersonal" and "unsupervised" were inappropriate because, "Science presumably doesn't address such theological questions, and isn't equipped to deal with them. How could an empirical inquiry possibly show that God was not guiding and directing evolution?"
The inclusion of those two words, Smith and Plantinga said, "...gives aid and comfort to extremists in the religious right for whom it provides a legitimate target. And, because of its logical vulnerability, it lowers Americans' respect for scientists and their place in our culture. If the words 'impersonal' and 'unsupervised' were dropped from your opening sentence [sic] it would help defuse tensions which, as things stand, are causing unnecessary problems in our collective life."
The NABT annual meeting was held in Minneapolis October 8-11, and the letter and its request were considered by the Board of Directors on Wednesday, October 8. The Board initially voted to retain the extant wording, focusing on Plantinga's and Smith's comment that the statement "contradicts the beliefs of the majority of the American people, 90% of whom (according to opinion polls) believe that a personal agent -- God -- supervised in some way our arrival on this planet." Board members considered the comment irrelevant because scientific definitions are independent of the percentages of individuals holding opinions on religion. Carley's October 8 statement to the press underscored this view.
Reflecting upon that decision, Executive Director Carley commented, "We were at the end of a 9 hour meeting, we were tired, and we didn't give the subject enough time." During the next few days of the meeting, however, Board members consulted with other NABT members, and reconsidered the underlying message of the Plantinga-Smith letter. The letter exemplified how describing evolution as "impersonal" and "unsupervised" was being interpreted by individuals outside of science as anti-religious and unscientific.
NABT Board members realized that they had a communication problem on their hands: they had not intended the statement on evolution to include theological positions! President-elect Dr. Richard Storey, one of the drafters of the statement, and other members of the Board called for a reconsideration of the decision, and the Board met on Saturday, October 11, the last day of the conference. After a more extensive discussion than had been possible on Wednesday, the Board considered that:
1) The extant wording which included "unsupervised" and "impersonal" apparently was miscommunicating both the nature of science and NABT's intent;
2) The deletion of those two words would not affect the statement's accurate characterization of evolution, and affirmation of evolution's importance in science education.
Evolution is still described as a "natural process" (the only phenomena science can study), and a later bullet states that natural selection "has no specific direction or goal, including survival of a species." The strong position of evolution in biology and other sciences was not compromised by removing two adjectives that miscommunicated NABT's meaning.
As the leading association of biology teachers in the United States, the NABT speaks with authority on issues affecting science teachers. Joseph McInerney, a former NABT president and a drafter of the Statement has said, "...teachers are at the front, dealing with direct challenges to their teaching from real students and real parents who have immediate questions and immediate demands." One such question is, "Are you a Christian, or do you believe in evolution?" (Reports of NCSE, 17(1):30.) Plantinga's and Smith's letter underscored a very real problem: many people perceive that they have to make a choice between their religious beliefs and evolution. As a science education organization, the NABT needs to avoid giving the impression that they are taking sides in theological issues -- an impression given by the original text of their statement.
As McInerney pointed out, one of the goals of the NABT's statement on evolution was to "provide support for biology teachers when they are confronted with challenges to the teaching of evolution." By eliminating two nonessential words, the NABT Board of Directors made a statesmanlike decision that better fulfilled this goal by reducing a potential source of conflict in the classroom.
May 21, 1998
Yup, that sounds like ID, all right.
Sorry, you don't get to change the definition of science. Science can & always has & always will address the natural world only, and has a myriad of facts on its side to support evolutionary theory. Good for the NABT for reiterating the importance of the theory.
Y'all have been asking for years that ID be given time in the classroom, and now you got it. As they say, be careful what you wish for...