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Authority and Qualification

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Written by Basil on 02/25/2006 12:16 PM. Filed under:

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Doctors for Dissent

Ran into this on Fr. Joseph’s blog.

…if you have a Ph.D. in engineering, mathematics, computer science, biology, chemistry, or one of the other natural sciences, and you agree with the following statement, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged,” then please contact us…

No. I don’t care what a medical doctor thinks about how my submarine works. I don’t care what an astrophysicist thinks about how my spleen works.

And I don’t care what mathematicians, medical doctors, physicists, veterinary doctors, computer scientists, or my local car mechanic have to say about biological evolution, because they are unqualified. They have no authority in the relevant fields.

The New York Times ran an article on this, noting the lack of biologists and noting that signers often possessed beliefs that verged on fundamentalism — including scriptural literalism and disbelief in the great age of the earth and the cosmos (4.5 and 15 billion years respectively, give or take a few billion).

Several said that their doubts began when they increased their involvement with Christian churches.

Some said they read the Bible literally and doubt not only evolution but also findings of geology and cosmology that show the universe and the earth to be billions of years old.

Roger J. Lien, a professor of poultry science at Auburn, said he received a copy of the petition from Christian friends.

“I stuck my name on it,” he said. “Basically, it states what I believe.”

Dr. Lien said that he grew up in California in a family that was not deeply religious and that he accepted evolution through much of his scientific career. He said he became a Christian about a decade ago, six years after he joined the Auburn faculty.

“The world is broken, and we humans and our science can’t fix it,” Dr. Lien said. “I was brought to Jesus Christ and God and creationism and believing in the Bible.”

He also said he thought that evolution was “inconsistent with what the Bible says.”

Just in case you wondered, the advice of a chicken doctor on how to read the Bible also doesn’t interest me.

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4 Responses to “Authority and Qualification”

  1. matt Says:

    What you wrote was one of the most snide things I have ever read. First, signers include 154 biologists (out of 500 scientists who signed the statement), as well as 76 chemists and 63 physicists. The New York times was wrong when they noted “the lack of biologists” on the list of signers.

    Second, you were insulting to Dr. Lien (I do not know him).

    Here are his academic credentials:
    1988-89 – Post Doc Research Assoc, Reproductive Physiology, Univ of Minnesota
    1988 – Ph.D., Physiology, North Carolina State University
    1984 – M.S., Poultry Science, Texas A&M University
    1980 – B.S., Wildlife and Fisheries Science, Texas A&M University

    Additionally, his research is directed at improving the physiological and economic performance of broiler and broiler breeder chickens. Sounds to me like this guy knows about genetics and mutation. It seems to me that someone with his degrees and research experience (you dismiss him as a “chicken doctor”) ought to know something about evolution. I think you should care if someone with his education and experience is skeptical of the claims of evolutionists.

    Now as for your belief that medical doctors don’t know enough to be authorities on evolution: In my parish is a lady who is a M.D. she does research on HIV at Stanford. Among other things, she researches how mutations in genetic sequence in the virus have different affects on human beings. There is that word: Mutation. She rejects Darwinian evolution.

    For post like yours God created shame.

  2. Victoria Says:

    But, the different kinds of scientists mentioned above DO all have expertise in one completely relevant topic: the scientific method. One does not have to be a Nobel-prize winning expert in a specific topical area of science to be able to critically evaluate the claims of that area *on their scientific merits.* One does have to understand enough to ask questions about methods, true.

    Also, I think it’s pretty limiting to imply, for example, that a chicken doctor could have nothing of value to say about anything *except* poultry. The particular example you give is rather idiotic, but the press *can* make intelligent people sound awfully stupid.

  3. Basil Says:

    The question of evolution — as most people understand it — is a question of biology, so the small number of biologists signing this statement is absolutely relevant. If my tone is snide, it is because I am so bloody tired of hearing that a computer scientist — A COMPUTER SCIENTIST — is qualified to judge the entire field of biology. “The entire field?” you ask. “Only evolution is in question.” Evolution now serves as the central explanatory model of biology; the entire field is in question.

    Dr. Lien had no problems with a scientific explanation of our origins until he became a Christian, which tells me his views on the subject are determined now not by his academic pedigree but the fundamentalist teachings of his particular sect.

    As I have stated previously, I don’t care whether you accept science or not. Your salvation is far more important to me. Believe in Genesis literally or believe in it in a way that is consistent with modern science; belief in creation is more important than acceptance of modern science. But don’t pretend that you can believe in Genesis in a literal fashion and also accept modern science as if it were a smorgasbord from which to pick and choose what you believe. Be a man and chuck the whole thing, if you have the courage. But if you don’t, you have to accept some things on the authority of scientists.

    Victoria correctly notes that a scientist is qualified to address questions of the scientific method. But are physicists really qualified to ajudicate the past one hundred or so years of evidence and peer reviewed research supporting the scientific account of our origins?

  4. Victoria Says:

    IF the physicists are willing to admit they need to learn some biology to do so, then yes.

    Good point about Dr. Lien’s change of mind.