What do you give a great scientist for his birthday when he’s already got everything? He’s got absolutely all the scientists behind his theory. All the media. All the Officially Smart People, as Jay Richards calls them. Well, today is Darwin’s Day, the birthday of the venerated Charles Darwin, whose theory is a fact beyond question. Right? The journal Nature assures its readers, “Scientists can treat evolution by natural selection as, in effect, an established fact.” Or as philosopher Michael Ruse wonderfully put it, “Evolution is a fact, fact, FACT!”
Cause for Skepticism
The insistence on this point encourages a certain skepticism, though. As others have commented, evolution is supposed to be as certain as gravity, yet nobody goes around saying, “Gravity is a fact, fact, FACT!” and nobody says gravity is as certain as evolution.
Against this backdrop, Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture noted last week that the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism has topped 1,000+ names. Today, over at the Dissent from Darwinism website, we’ve added a birthday present for Charles Darwin, a video introduction to some of the signers. Check it out, there or here!
As I’ve also pointed out, while that number surely represents a scientific minority, it also no doubt vastly understates the number of Darwin-doubting PhD scientists. When it comes to evolution, persecution is an all too well known fact of academic life. Endorsing Darwinian evolution is the safe careerist move, while questioning it can easily mean the end of your career. So for every signer of the Dissent list, there is some multiplier’s worth of private skeptics in science, acting self-protectively. That is beyond reasonable doubt. The multiplier could 2, or 10, or 100. Who knows?
Determining Scientific Truth
“But scientific truth isn’t determined by lists of names, even of people who hold PhDs,” protests evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne in response. True! He goes on, “It’s determined by the published work of scientists and whether it’s accepted by the scientific community.” Not quite true! The “scientific community” can be mistaken, dramatically so. See, “How to Think About Minority Science Views — The Case of Plate Tectonics.”
Where there’s a genuine controversy, as there is about Darwinian theory, anyone in search of truth has no choice but to weigh the evidence for himself. The observation that, beyond doubt, thousands of scientists are skeptical, and that a thousand of them publicly call for further “careful examination” of the question, is one reason every thoughtful adult owes it to herself to consider the evidence without just passively swallowing the majority view.
As John West notes, the consistently poor quality of Darwinist rejoinders to leading skeptics is another reason. The latest skeptic to demonstrate this is Michael Behe, whose new book Darwin Devolves just got a really incompetent pre-publication review from authors Joshua Swamidass, Nathan Lents, and Richard Lenski, writing in Science. How to celebrate Darwin Day? Pre-ordering Professor Behe’s book is another fine idea!