If you thought the scientific community was a place of free and open discussion, you'd better think again. Northern Kentucky University recently announced a mock trial involving a fictional public high school teacher who is fired for teaching creationism in a biology class. The program is part of a series the university is sponsoring on controversial issues. But there are some people who don't want the debate to happen at all.
According to Inside Higher Ed, NKU University president James C. Votruba has received hundreds of e-mails asking him to call off the debate. It isn't the conservatives who are complaining, says the article, "scientists are." “Evolution is science and creationism is faith,” Vortuba told the online education magazine, but, he added, that's no reason to be afraid of a debate on the issue.
But there are those in the scientific community who think otherwise, and their voices seem to be growing louder by the day. “What this really is is an attempt to contrive a debate between science and superstition in which the superstition side gets to pretend they have equal status. [sic] And, of course, science issues are not settled in a courtroom, ever,” said PZ Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris, whose weblog Pharyngula, purports to be a watchdog on anti-evolution activity.
Myers is just one of many voices that in recent years have tried to shout down any debate about issues involving human development and origins on the grounds that any debate would give undeserved credibility to the anti-Darwinist side. The dogmatic tone Myers strikes is one being heard increasingly among those who hold to Darwinism, the reigning paradigm in the scientific community.
Earlier this year, advocates of Darwinism strongly opposed a bill passed by the Louisiana State Legislature that advocated objectivity, logical analysis, and critical thinking skills in the discussion of science and other controversial issues in state schools, claiming that the measure was a thinly veiled attempt to impose creationism in the classroom.
When you are reduced to arguing that objectivity is a creationist plot, you'd better start revising your public relations strategy. And when you have to abandon the very principles that you advocate on every other occasion in order to protect your beliefs, it's probably time for an intellectual gut check.
Tolerance and diversity are the academic watchwords when it comes to views that challenge other dominant paradigms, so why are they abandoned so quickly when it comes to discussion of controversial issues like evolution?
Why is there such a fear of debate?
"Within the larger scientific community, the issue is settled, but in the public policy arena, it’s not a settled issue,” Mark Neikirk, executive director of the university’s Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, told Inside Higher Ed. Scripps Howard, along with the university’s law school, is sponsoring the event. “In the real world, there is a public policy debate over how to handle this topic. Many Americans believe in intelligent design. Many Americans believe it should be taught."
Advocates of Darwinism are understandably frustrated. Despite the fact that they have had control of the nation's science education for decades, a majority of Americans still hold to some form of creationism, or at least intelligent design, a broader theory that would include creationism but also includes those who belief in some form of evolution guided by a designer.
Maybe one of the reasons there are so many people in this country who maintain a suspicion of Darwin's theory is the behavior of those who are its most ardent advocates. If the evidence for Darwinism is as airtight as its advocates claim, then why are they so opposed to the discussion of the issue in an academic forum?
In other words, their failure to convince the larger public may turn out to be their own fault.