When Science Fails to Communicate
- If science uses a peer review process to monitor the funding of research and to oversee publishing research findings, then isn't objectivity built into the business of science?
- What consequences does any scientist face if their investigations reveal results that run counter to what is a commonly accepted view on origins?
- Aren't all textbooks—those used in high schools, colleges, and major universities—essentially accurate?
- If there is evidence supporting something different than the standard Darwinian story, then why doesn't 'science' inform the public?
Previous WindowView feature articles note how material naturalism and Darwinism are founded in part or whole on assumptions. If assumptions influence the way the business of science is conducted, then there is potential for science to fail. First, to fail by lacking objectivity. Second, to fail by assuming data will continually support a specific position, evolution for example, because it's just the accepted theory of the day. Third, funding, research projects, and reports in published peer-reviewed journals all become subject to the frailties of assumption.
What chance does a scientist have of obtaining funding for projects that do not fit the prevailing reasoning and logic of mainstream assumptions? In fact, the tenure track system in certain academic disciplines is thus held hostage to generations of assumptions. Any discovery that counters the mainstream is better left undisclosed or kept as a curiosity for side discussions. Why? Because the effort any single scientist must raise to counter the mainstream will overcome his or her best efforts to be heard. It's like fighting City Hall, this may not be fair or objective, but a corporate system of rules and attitudes is in place. Something like a political battle is required, not one entirely composed of the necessary data alone. If it concerns truth, then the battle will eventually surface and certainly all signs are the educational system becomes the battleground.
So, who profits if there are other credible areas of investigation worth exploring, but are avoided or unexplored because 'science' finds itself in a metaphysical rut. Seems like an Orwellian scenario where the State holds oversight on what truth is and is not. But evolution today is in fact the State accepted myth on origins. This is Federally funded and deemed the acceptable substance of the public school curriculum. Constructive critical thinking—even based on science data—that counters the mainstream notion of what is acceptable runs into certain condemnation. That's evidence of entrenched bias.
In reality, all this describes not how science fails but how persons working in science disciplines fail ... especially when the power of scientific tools exhibit the growing potential to reveal evidence that goes beyond the standard story.
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The credits to Jonathan Wells' book, Icons of Evolution includes the following note:
In addition to the people named above, other scientists at universities in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom helped with various parts of the manuscript, but prefer to remain anonymous. In several cases, they chose anonymity because their careers might suffer at the hands of people who strongly disagree with the conclusion of this work. For those scientists, public acknowledgment will have to wait. Wells (IE) Page xiv
Dr. Wells is indicating something goes on behind the scenes and not often obvious to the public at large. The notion that scientists are not free to express themselves nor explore science outside commonly accepted bounds is truly a sad commentary on where we find ourselves. Yet this is now inherent in what we see in the Western world. The content of Dr. Wells' book (see feature article on Icons) is certainly cause for reexamining evidence used in support of evolution—if nothing else but to open a most interesting discussion.
What if research findings become academically filtered simply because of expectations held by persons working within science. Graduate students in many scientific disciplines should easily identify with the influence that their major professor holds (or previously held) over the course of a thesis or dissertation research project. If that influence is not entirely objective, then the following comment should be no surprise:
Suppose that paleontologists became so committed to the new way of thinking that fossil studies were published only if they supported the theory, and were discarded as failures if they showed an absence of evolutionary change. As we shall see, that is what happened. Darwinism apparently passed the fossil test, but only because it was not allowed to fail. Johnson (DOT) Page 48
And this is not a recent development associated only with origins or evolution theory. The history of getting stuck in thought-bound ruts is perhaps as old as investigative science itself.
All of us, especially scientists, like to think of ourselves as reasonable people, willing to change our minds when we are confronted with contrary data. Kuhn, however, presented historical evidence that scientists generally resist or ignore anomalies and act to preserve the paradigm within which they conduct their research. For example, by the sixteenth century there were many observations inconsistent with a simple model of planets and stars revolving around the earth; yet rather than discard the Ptolemaic paradigm, astronomers continually adjusted it by adding epicycles, ad hoc corrections to the original theory. Wells (MC) Page 67
One viewpoint on science is that only the natural world provides the explanation for the way things work. But accepting this is to be bound by material naturalism (e.g., we can only relate to material causes for every effect in the universe, that's it, nothing else applies). But think carefully, for we are not discarding material observations, nor the laws by which nature works. But if scientific materialism slips into a philosophical mindset then we may find words and expressions coming out of the scientific community that are neither warranted nor objective. The idea is to drop undue restraints and keep science open to the data gathering that science can accomplish. The following example illustrates how a critique of the philosophical drift—drift that the scientific community sometimes encounters—can make for telling corrections:
The critique by Johnson and others of the materialist philosophy that is so prevalent in our educational system was surely at least in part responsible for the National Association of Biology Teachers' backpedaling when in 1997 they revised their definition of evolution. The NABT dropped the words impersonal and unsupervised from their official definition of evolution, no longer characterizing evolution through that language. This represents a fundamental concession even if it was motivated by public-relations concerns. Chapman (MC) Page 456
Again, entertaining material explanations within science is not a problem. Wording that creeps into the venue that science maintains as a whole is therefore reflective of minds behind the words. Opening a forum with a balanced treatment for how evidence is considered is key to a truly sustainable and productive science—free from personal bias. Remember, science cannot explain chemical origins, nor the origin of the numerous conditions supporting life, nor life that appears aside from what probability indicates. Adding words like impersonal or unsupervised, as noted above, means someone is editorializing science. So, the science community fails where such bias comes into play. Developing an open forum requires additional 'tools' for learning in relation to the standing evidence. Consider the following example
The Foundation For Thought and Ethics [FTE] in Dallas is in the forefront of getting public schools to acknowledgment the growing questions about evolution and the scientific evidence for design. Long before the Mere Creation Conference and also since, the FTE has been an important publisher of textbooks that provide an alternative to the overreaching materialism of secondary school instruction. Chapman (MC) Page 456
When considering origins, there are certain terms that immediately polarize discussion. Here again, you may have to work at getting beyond emotional flash points to see what evidence exists and how the media at times misrepresent both terms and evidence. This is a check you can perform for the sake of thinking critically about information that is put in the public domain.
Sometimes the debate is clouded by confusion over terms like creationism, wherein opponents of design insist on reenacting old battles, since these are the ones they won. There is also the entertaining but distracting attention in the news media given to the growing dissension among the orthodox defenders of neo-Darwinism (e.g., the vitriolic exchanges between Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins). Moreover, the complexity of the scientific issues are at times difficult to communicate the general media. Chapman (MC) Page 457
Even so, not only has there been progress in refuting the materialist implications of Darwinism, but also observers outside science are beginning to see the significance of this battle for the future of the culture as a whole. Chapman (MC) Page 457
Modern scientists, even those who have come across evidence that counters the Darwinian story, fail to openly consider design, creation, or other hypotheses because the social norm makes this unpopular. But this reason for non-communication is obviously not science! Peer pressure in the academic world in the west is that strong. To not find alignment with Darwinian or material naturalistic thought is strongly discouraged ... to the point of becoming tradition over truth.
You may not agree that this could be possible in an open society, Close examination reveals that the ideology shift in the mid-1800's—during the Victorian Era of enlightened thinking that propelled Darwin's evolution theory to prominence—is still a major factor in shaping our thoughts and educational philosophy. Indeed, this has less to do with science and everything to do with (expressed personal) philosophy. But a proper open exercise with both science and philosophy can also keep science on the right track.
Science cannot be practiced in thin air. In fact, science itself presupposes a number of substantive philosophical theses that must be assumed if science is even going to get off the runway. Each of these assumptions has been challenged, and the task of of stating and defending these assumptions is one of the tasks of philosophy. The conclusions of science cannot be more certain than the presumptions it rests on and uses to reach those conclusions Moreland (CH) Page 16
The process noted by Moreland is one of continued testing of ideas. This is a platform that helps to dismiss personal bias overlaid atop data interpretation and can open a dialog for seeking objective expressions based on current evidence. To suggest science has a cultural component that entrains thinking along certain lines counters that objectivity.
What we wish to recognize is exactly what Jonathan Wells noted in the opening acknowledgments of this book (see quote at top of this article) wherein he thanks science reviewers who wished to remain anonymous. Participating in the review is not improper, but public recognition for such an effort—even today if recognized by disapproving peers—comes with an academic price tag. Until a completely open forum exists to entertain a full review of the evidence, there remains the standard story.
Increasingly, it's highly theoretical and metaphysical nature was forgotten, and gradually Darwinian concepts came to permeate every aspect of biological thought so that today all biological phenomena are interpreted in Darwinian terms and every professional biologist is subject throughout his working life to continued affirmation of the truth of Darwinian theory. Denton (ETC) Page 74
Perhaps the best approach is one that entertains some skepticism and one that also allows apparent dissenting voices some review. If materialism offers insight, so be it. But to be fully invested in one view, philosophically or scientifically, to the exclusion of counter points (theistic or even scientific) is certainly narrow minded. Even WindowView may appear to be spun about some bias, but in reality we are opening the view by pushing into areas that some want to close out entirely. No apologies here. If science is the data, then the only source for bias is people. Scientists are human and can be motivated for personal reasons as well as anyone. So that's the point. But overall, when 'science' fails we don't get the entire picture ... and that's what we are looking to pull together in this window.
An Necessary Reflection on the Word: Evolution
Clearly, various views exist, both from scientific and theological perspectives. The ongoing ‘evolution/creation debate,’ or simply confusion over use or misuse of words (i.e., case in point: evolution, creation, or variations such as evolutionism, creationism) can immediately produce resistance or tensions that prevent open discussion, exploration, or review. Some of the skill in making an objective statement—in the face on a complex forum of diverse ideas—is like walking to the other side of a mine field. One misstep and any progress toward achieving a ‘good and objective look at what is out there’ and the whole effort blows up. The ‘window’ is a place to think, discern, and gain some clarity. One challenge is to be objective and weed out the subjective.
When you read an article, anywhere, see if you can determine if a word is being used inconsistently, that is, in various places in the same text the word is employed different ways. The word ‘evolution’ can express different meanings based on the context of usage.
Evolution is a good word and even within the WindowView there are appropriate uses of this term. Related terms are equally good (such as natural selection, mutation, variation). The precaution we raise to your attention is the ‘one size fits all’ use of any term. Also, be aware of misuse that empowers a word in a way that goes beyond definition.
Recently, in reading a single article in the journal Science we encountered the term evolution over a dozen times and clearly the definition was changing from use to use. To even determine this is happening should reveal that an author is not clear on use of terms. What then does that say of the paper's content or the journal editors who should be reviewing drafts before publication?
There are word uses that come out of a cultural context. In a strictly science as science use, evolution can appropriately mean “change over time.” That works here just fine. But when evolution is employed to account for ‘origin’ and not ‘change,’ then evolution is creating and that is a word usage with an assumption.
Natural selection is sometimes empowered to mean ‘directing evolution’ as if to ‘decide’ when the process is actually (defined) by random or chance events—ask: "Does 'selection' think?" The assumption is not science and the word use needs to be recognized for what it is (and that could include a belief, cultural bias, and unsubstantiated ‘fact’). Science as belief system is not science.
If you want to claim the writers and authors quoted here at WindowView are biased in some way … we will say that we are in the same situation as everyone else. The whole WindowView experience is about discerning truth. Overall, the challenge to you is to work toward being objective and not be surprised when you encounter biases or assumptions.
In a broader field of view, one can work with new questions, new angles, and then refine perspectives. This in part is like saying: “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, but let us discern a way to wash baby!” Again, to be clear, the WindowView science scenario is not ultimately about ‘evolution.’ The perspectives gained here focus on questions and where evidence leads to a realization of something more … where life is defined with new insight—data viewed as evidence for where it leads us, to the extent it can and no further—and overall some parameters defined by science and some added parameters in context with other perspectives observed elsewhere in the window.
Quotations from "The Creation Hypothesis" (CH) edited by J. P. Moreland and "Mere Creation" (MC) edited by William A. Dembski are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.
Quotations from Dr. Michael Denton's "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" are used by permission of Adler and Adler Publishers Inc., 5530 Wisconsin Ave, Suite 1460, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
T. Peterson, Ph.D., Editor
The WindowView drops many of the typical presumptions to take another look. What does scientific data tell us if we start without assumptions? And ... how contiguous is science information if examined along with scriptural perspectives provided by the Bible? The Bible is the only religious or holy book we know of that is in fact consistent with science. While not a textbook, the Scriptures are either contradictory or complementary to scientific perspectives. Have you looked at these perspectives? To see 'Science and Scripture in Harmony' is to reveal life, reality, and your future.