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No Controversy? No Funding

Michael Egnor


Recently at ENV, Casey Luskin contributed a great (and disturbing) article about Ohio State evolutionary biologist Steve Rissing. Rissing is a signatory of a repugnant letter sent to Ohio State authorities, claiming that a doctoral candidate’s thesis that analyzed the educational benefits of teaching evolutionary biology objectively to high school students (i.e., teaching the strengths weaknesses of Darwinian theory) amounted to "unethical" human research and "deliberate miseducation."

Rissing signed the letter stating: "There are no valid scientific data challenging macroevolution."

No surprise, the man is a hard-core Darwinist. His "research," according to his faculty webpage:

The evolution of cooperation in starting ant colonies through selection above the level of the individual. Effective science education with focus on evolution and undergraduate students. Application of evolutionary science insights in public policy formation.

His focus is on ants, indoctrination of students, and — umm — "evolutionary science insights in public policy formation" (perhaps Anthony Weiner was just trying to mate?).

You may share my discomfort with the idea of this Darwinian fundamentalist teaching students. But there is a straightforward remedy that we should consider.

Rissing insists that "there are no valid scientific data challenging macroevolution." Since we’ve been studying macroevolution since 1859, it is reasonable to infer that Dr. Rissing believes that no such valid data will be forthcoming. Why then are we wasting public money on macroevolution research?

"Oh," you may say, "there is no data challenging macroevolution, but there is much to learn about the details."

"But," I reply, "if macroevolution is a fact, like heliocentrism or Newtonian gravitation, we shouldn’t fund research in it at all. The National Science Foundation doesn’t fund heliocentrism research, not even about the details of heliocentrism (is the sun in the exact center, or are the orbits ellipses?), nor does it fund Newtonian gravity research (are we sure it’s an inverse square law, not an inverse cube?). The government funds no research on any of the "unchallenged" facts taught in high school science classes — the gross anatomy of the heart, Newton’s Second Law, the charge on the electron, the chemical formula of methane, etc.

Research funding is in short supply. The government doesn’t fund any research on any topic that is uncontroversial — any topic for which there are no valid data that challenge it. Funding should be directed at controversies, open questions, not settled facts.

So why, pray tell, are we funding Rissing’s ant evolution "research," or his evolution indoctrination "research," or his evolution-public policy "research"?

A straightforward remedy for these Darwinist true believers is to defund research on their "unchallenged" theories. Lets fund research about topics that we can debate. If there isn’t any controversy, why is there any funding?

Image credit: 401(K) 2013/Flickr.