Friday, April 07, 2006


What Was It That Forrest Gump Said?

I previously brought up the denial of a research grant to Brian Alters of McGill University in Montreal by Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Alters sought to study how the rising popularity in the United States of Intelligent Design might be eroding acceptance of evolutionary science in Canada. The Research Council turned him down, saying that he had not supplied "adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct."

Janet Halliwell, vice-president of the Research Council, and Larry Felt, a sociology professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and one of the panellists who examined Alters' application, are now saying that the letter was badly worded and, therefore, misleading. Halliwell said that the Federal agency did not intend to cast doubt on the survival-of-the-fittest theories advanced in the 1800s by British biologist Charles Darwin. Felt said he also regretted the "misintended and misphrased'' wording.

On the other hand, Halliwell also claimed there is a growing belief among scientists that certain phenomena in the natural world "may not be easily explained by current theories of evolution." After bestowing rather faint praise on the theory of evolution as a "powerful interpretive tool not without some difficulties, but nothing that renders it obsolete," Felt went on to say that there are features of the natural world including the rapid development of complex organs that "evolution has some trouble accounting for."

So what is going on here? This part of the article near the end is enlightening:

Felt also echoed Halliwell's assertion that intelligent design cannot be easily dismissed as mere "religious dogma"' or "theocratic garbage" being foisted upon the world by conservative Christians in the U.S."

Credible people are trying to see areas where they (evolution and intelligent design) might come together and not necessarily be in conflict,'' he said. There is a "possibility of synthesis,'' he added, that compels scholars to keep an open mind.

Though reluctant to discuss details of the committee's deliberations about Alters's proposal, Felt recalled there was a general consensus on the panel that the McGill professor's research framework was flawed and would have yielded predictable results that "dump on the religious right."

He described Alters' planned study as being framed in "good guy versus bad guy" language that rejected intelligent design out of hand.

What I think you pretty clearly have here is post-modernist, social constructivist, academic babble at work. There is no such thing as objective truth, inasmuch as everything is relative and all cultural responses to the world are equally valid. Science is merely a weapon of oppression used by dominant white males in social conflicts against everyone else, apparently now including the religious right (an ironic thought in and of itself).

So what it boils down to is Halliwell and Felt defending themselves against charges of ignorance by pleading stupidity. That works.
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