NAS Enters the Evolution Web Wars
MSNBC News reports that “Scientists take evolution fight online: National Academies sets up Web site to defend theory.” (See also Wired News.) The Evolution Resources website of the National Academy of Sciences, nationalacademies.org/evolution, contains online books and articles, but the most recent entry is an address by outgoing NAS president Bruce Alberts (see 03/24/2005 entry) seeking to rally academy members to fight the advance of creationism and intelligent design:
We stand ready to help others in addressing the increasingly strident attempts to limit the teaching of evolution or to introduce non-scientific “alternatives” into science courses and curricula. If this controversy arrives at your doorstep, I hope that you will both alert us to the specific issues in your state or school district and be willing to use your position and prestige as a member of the NAS in helping us to work locally. (Emphasis in original.)
The most recent technical report offered is a teacher’s guide to using evidences of microevolution in the Hawaiian Islands as a case study in evolution and the nature of science.
The MSNBC article written by Reuters quotes only pro-evolutionary sources. It misrepresents the goals of anti-evolutionists, saying bluntly that “some U.S. religious groups want to be taught in schools only if their own views of a divine creator get equal credence.” It also calls alternatives “non-scientifically based,” and quotes the NAS saying, “The theory of evolution is one of science’s most robust theories, and the National Academies have long supported the position that evolution be taught as a central element in any science education program.” The article also carries a link to the staunchly anti-creationist NCSE (National Center for Science Education).
Bruce Alberts is like the out-of-touch king in the Wizard of Id cartoon. A frantic messenger runs into the castle, breathlessly shouting, “The peasants are revolting!” Unalarmed and undeterred, the king responds, “They certainly are.”
So he sends out his PR Philistines to mop up the rebels. Some of his advisors know not to underestimate the field (see 02/27/2004 entry). The NAS Goliath can boast, but he had better be a match for stones of evidence. Observing the Philistine ranks, Brad Harrub at Apologetics Press smells fear in the air.
The new NAS website, with all the charm of a bureaucratic office building, may please academia but will probably backfire with the public. In the first place, its publications are old. It is still touting its very one-sided 1999 report Science and Creationism with all its fallacies and obfuscations. It even advertises a 1990 report “The Search for Life’s Origins,” when much of the interesting biochemistry, and much of the contradiction to evolutionary assumptions, is more recent (see 02/06/2005 and 01/28/2005 entries). Secondly, the website is completely one-sided, offering no debate. Nowhere are evolution critics allowed to present their case in their own words. Readers are expected to hear all the terms of the controversy spun by the Darwin Party hacks, complete with the usual straw man, equivocation, bandwagon, extrapolation and false dichotomy fallacies.*
If the NAS won’t stand up to the debate plate and answer the critics instead of disqualifying them out of court, this website is going to be perceived as nothing more than a power play, and will get no respect outside the Party Faithful. There are too many people out there who will no longer take bluffing and evasion for an answer. Yet bluffing and evasion appears to be official NAS policy. Quote: “Given the organizational skills, experience, and political astuteness of those who promote creationism and Intelligent Design, it is suggested that you NOT agree to enter into direct debates with the proponents if you have not been involved with such activities before” (“Teaching the Science of Evolution”). The very next sentence says, “Cell and molecular biologists have provided some of the most compelling evidence to support the theory of evolution and should therefore be among those who raise their voices the loudest to support science curricula that help students understand the processes of evolution.” Ha! In a day of molecular motors and machines, that is astonishing (see 05/18/2005, 05/17/2005, 04/04/2005, 03/14/2005 and 04/30/2005 entries for recent examples). Does this paper provide any of said evidence? Dead silence. If these two quotes do not illustrate bluffing and evasion, let them come clean and show us how the process of science is served by avoiding debate and making sweeping, unsupported generalizations contrary to the evidence.
Most anti-evolution websites freely quote the very best Darwinists and critique their original sources; Creation-Evolution Headlines, for instance, frequently provides extended quotes, in context, on both sides. Why won’t the Darwinists do better than caricature their opposition? Anti-evolution websites are mushrooming because people are tired of Darwinian dogmatism. We’re waiting, NAS: we want to hear the latest Tinker Bell Tale about the origin of life, the origin of complex language translation and error correction by chance, the origin of molecular machines without an engineer, and the explosion of body plans in the fossil record. That will at least make your new website entertaining.