What - no Monkey Trial?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by Dennis Ruhl, Apr 23, 2003.

  1. Dennis Ruhl

    Dennis Ruhl member

  2. roysavia

    roysavia New Member

    This article isn't surprising. I had an anatomy professor during my undergraduate years who was a darwinist. During his lectures he would remind us that the human body was a product of evolution and not religious "hocus pokus".
    This infuriated most of my classmates. Most of whom were either Christian or Jewish. Those who contested his theories were given a "hard time". I decided to keep my mouth shut.
    When we compared final grades at the end of the semester those who confronted him received lower grades. Their marks were eventually "bell-curved" when a formal complaint was filed with the dean of the faculty of physical sciences.
  3. Jeff Hampton

    Jeff Hampton New Member

    This had nothing to do with grading.

    He refused to give recommendations for medical school to students who did not believe in evolution. There was not even a suggestion that this had anything to do with the students' grades.

    To those who have a problem with this, please explain why this professor has an obligation to give a recommendation to anyone. It seems to me that this is a personal choice and he should be able to use any criteria he pleases.
  4. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Not to mention the idea that someone who denies such a basic tenet of science--one that is interwoven throughout human knowledge--should even enter a scientific field such as medicine. (Sure, there are medical doctors that refute the reality of evolution, but that doesn't make it a good idea.)
  5. Jeff Hampton

    Jeff Hampton New Member

    I suspect there are a few people here who will disagree with you on that one...

    But I would have no problem if the case were the opposite -- if the professor would only give recommendations to creationists. It's his choice. Why in the world is the federal government involved in this?!? Just Big Brother Ashcroft looking out for Homeland Security, I guess.
  6. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    I'm basically in agreement with Jeff on this--if the federal government starts requiring all professors to make their recommendations content-neutral and independent of religious ideology, then it will become illegal for any professor to commend a student for his or her "Christian character" and the like.

    I get the feeling that the professor in Texas is a jerk--not because he refuses to give recommendations to creationists, but because he makes a point of advertising that on his web site--but he has a right to take into account any criteria he wants when it comes to recommending students. I say this knowing that this would free professors up to base recommendations on other factors--such as race, sex, sexual orientation, or disability--that might be precluded by the university's nondiscrimination clause, just as religious discrimination is. But unless we want to make recommendations mandatory and standardized, removing their voluntary character and most of their value, this is the way it has to be.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2003
  7. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    Some of the best doctors I've ever worked with--and I was a CFS kid, so I dealt with an awful lot of them--were conservative Christians, and almost certainly creationists. I can see why the creationism-evolution controversy would be essential to biology, but I can't see why it would be any more than a peripheral issue in medicine. Veterinary science, maybe. Medical research, probably. But not medicine.

  8. kevingaily

    kevingaily New Member

    I actually agree with you on this, (including the part of the professor being a bit of a jerk). If it was mandatory, then it should be regulated so that there wasn't any discrimination, but since it's voluntary, it's up to the individual professors. I would only ask that the professor let one know beforehand so that they can go elsewhere where that issue won't occur. As a side note, it might be wise for a person to look in to these things before going to a school, or taking a particular class.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2003
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I think that recommendations have to be based on relevant criteria.

    "Christian character" might be one of the most important considerations in an intending seminarian, but it would be totally irrelevant to a mathematics graduate student. If a math professor demanded "Christian character" as a condition of mathematics recommendation, he would be out of line.

    In this particular case, the situation is less clear.

    I do wonder whether a creationist would make a good biologist. Evolution is simply too integrated into that science on too many levels. Whenever change over long timescales is involved, evolutionary ideas arise. So I do have some modest sympathy for the professor in that respect.

    But I also doubt whether being a good biologist in that respect is necessary in order to be a good physician. The changes that physicians are most interested in seem to involve much shorter timescales. So that makes me considerably less accepting of this professor's actions.

    I'm unmoved by the assertion that recommendations can be given or withheld for any or no reason, at a professor's whim.

    If that were the case, a professor could refuse recommendations to women, Catholics, white people or residents of Mississippi.

    The relevance of the reasons for giving or withholding a recommendation to the recommendation's purpose has to be considered.
  10. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    I'm afraid this is an accurate assessment of the situation as it exists now. Can you think of anything that would prevent a professor from quietly not recommending women, Catholics, white people or residents of Mississippi? And can you think of a way of changing this situation that would not interfere with the professor's autonomy in recommending students?

    I'm sure there are plenty of biologists who never recommend creationist students, or who never recommend evolutionist students. The only thing the professor in Texas did differently was announce his criteria.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2003
  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    This is what I'm on about. People who wish to refute evolution usually do so for religious reasons, not scientific ones. They attempt to use science to disprove evolution, but it is based on a desire to validate their faith. True scientists would approach the issue dispassionately, letting the facts fall where they may. And they have.

    Evolution is a fact, not a "theory." Species evolve, and always have. What may or may not be in question is the explanation of evolution using natural selection. But this is also in little doubt.

    What I love about it is that natural selection does not infringe upon religion in the least. Even the Roman Catholic church acknowledges this (I've read).
  12. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    You're absolutely correct about the RCC, Rich--His Holiness said a few years ago that evolution by natural selection is now "more than a theory," and does not contradict Catholic theology. But it's important to bear in mind that the RCC has not favored a literalist interpretation of the Bible since Vatican II; see, for example, the Jerome Biblical Commentary (the standard RCC biblical commentary), which routinely refers to source traditions and the documentary hypothesis. So there would be no reason why a scientific teaching that challenges a literalist interpretation of Gen 1 would contradict Catholic theology, since the Catholic interpretation isn't literalist either.

    Protestant groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention, which does seem to affirm a literalist interpretation of Gen 1, are in a much more difficult position. Hence the "Intelligent Design" movement, or an ostensibly honest attempt by theologically conservative biologists to explain the origin and development of life without relying on the theory of natural selection. It's important to note that no scientifically literate creationists--and there are scientifically literate creationists (Duane Gish, for example, has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from UC-Berkeley)--deny the existence of small scale, or micro-, evolution. The issue they regard as controversial is large scale, or macro-, evolution--evolution by natural selection.

    Of course, all one is really doing by proposing natural selection is denying creationism; that which is not natural must be artificial, and vice-versa. We don't talk about decomposition or gravity or entropy by natural selection, but the term applies as much to those phenomena as it does to evolution. We have to specify "natural selection" precisely because we have creationism with which to compare it but, left to its own devices, natural selection is the theory that would naturally come to mind when we observe the phenomenon of evolution, just as creationism is the theory that would naturally come to mind when we observe the diversity of life without being aware of the phenomenon of evolution.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2003
  13. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Here's what Pope John Paul II had to say about the issue of evolution and it's relationship with theology:


    Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis...
    It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.

    Warning: The Pope's remarks employ philosophical thinking, and may therefore be offensive to Degreeinfo readers.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2003
  14. Guest

    Guest Guest

    First, let me start off by noting that I am not anywhere near being scientifcally astute.

    I have however, heard of scientists beyond Christians who question evolution as a theory. As I recall one complained that evolution had indeed become so ingrained as a belief system that is was very difficult to question the dominant paradigm even if there were valid reasons for poking holes in propositions. Again, if I recall he was irritated with what he saw as punishment of non believers in evolution and an almost unscientific science. This was not a case of God created xyz but looking at something other than evolutionary theory.

    At any rate, I did not review the medical reference link and have to agree on the surface that no one is entitled to a recommendation. Notations should be fair but frankly there are bigots everywhere who take that out on folks. One more idiot is not a shock.

    I once had a Critical Sociology Prof (Marxist) and he was among the most fair. He did not want uncritical remarks and support for his theoretical perspective. Hyperbole would not cut it. He was like the Prof from Paper Chase in that he would take students apart who did not think. I have to say I really enjoyed his class even if I did not agree with his perspective. He presented all sides of an argument and did a good job of explaining complex Marxist theoretical perspectives.

  15. Tom Head

    Tom Head New Member

    I remember hearing it translated as "more than a theory" at the time, but that was in an informal context. I should have double-checked; thanks.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2003
  16. Jeff Hampton

    Jeff Hampton New Member

    Actually, I don't think that's what the question is at all. I think that the vast majority of creationists with even a smidgen of knowledge about biology will not argue against evolution within species. This is, indeed, a fact. And, moreover, this is not what this professor was asking.

    Many will argue that there is no evidence that one species can or has evolved into a separate species. I don't know enough about it to assess whether this is a valid argument, but I suspect that it is. Moreover, again, this is not what the professor was asking.

    What he was asking was: "How do you think the human species originated?" There are many, many people who believe in evolution to some extent who would answer that the human species was created by God. And some would even add that He created humans through evolution. How would the professor view that?
  17. Bill Highsmith

    Bill Highsmith New Member

    I see science as resembling the history of Babylon in the sense that governments and civilizations, like science, have hugely dramatic events. The weakness of the analogy is that science is presumed to constantly improve based on past blunders while governments and civilizations, sadly, have shown no such propensity, as Iraq testifies.

    But there is still plenty of dramatic kinetic energy in science. With respect to creationism and evolution (including the evolution of the universe), it is delicious to consider how precariously the evolution of the universe depends, for example, on the assumption that the speed of light is constant. If it is not, then much havoc is released onto many branches of science. For example, Planck's constant is relative to the speed of light, which is not dramatic unless c is not constant. The constancy of the speed of light is assumed in Einstein's equations and atomic behaviour is relative to c.

    c has been measured in many ways over the last couple of centuries. An interesting argument offered by creationists is that historical measurements generally show a decrease in c over time. This change in c stopped in the 20th century, when atomic clocks became the choice for measurement, as they are more accurate. This sounds like a death nell for inconstant c unless you remember that atomic clocks would operate relative to c and therefore would "mask" the decrease, if there is one.

    The historical measurements of c would be easy to reproduce (and are still fairly accurate). This should settle the question since there is considerable historical data which includes lab notes about the experimental methods. Has anyone seen a serious study of this?

    Here is a creationist collection of notes about this general topic: http://www.ldolphin.org/constc.shtml.

    Regarding the attempt to conform evolution with Genesis, I prefer creationists with a take-no-prisoners attitude over those who try to depend heavily on reinterpretation of scripture. I think the former are more likely to prevail or be thoroughly defeated. The latter will always have a soft impact on the thoughts of evolutionists.

    By the way, I don't know anything about the people who put together the mentioned website.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2003
  18. timothyrph

    timothyrph New Member

    If evolution were indeed true, it would probably be the ultimate proof of a higher power. I saw a couple of interesting articles and one can be found at www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-073.htm
  19. timothyrph

    timothyrph New Member

    Sorry I hit return before completing the thought. I would like to note that evolution is not fact, otherwise science would call it the law of evolution (i.e. thermodynamics). It does have supporting evidence but to state it as fact is an error.

    Probability would tend to show that the big bang and evolution could not occur in the time frame allowed. I am not a mathematician but the odds would seem close to a mathematical impossibility (what is that defined 10 to the 50th power?).

    As I became Christian (Southern Baptist), and having a strong biology background in college I struggled with this issue. A friend who is an engineer said something that made sense, common chemistry (dna) and systems can either point to a common origin, or a common designer, or both. But almost always a common designer.

    That having been said, the kid should have not gotten a lawyer. A professor did not give you a recommendation for med-school. If that was the only recommendation he had a shot from, it is time to write it off.
  20. uncle janko

    uncle janko member

    I am no friend of Darwinism, to put it mildly. The kid, however, lacks smarts.
    1) Why sue? This idiotic litigiousness is a plague in our society--and physicians are among the chief victims.
    2) The prof advertised his ideological position (instead of concealing it and then betraying those who were on his sh*t list unawares).
    3) Nobody has a "right" to a letter of recommendation.
    4) In the past, when students demanded letters of recommendation and made threats that they would get after me for bias against their demographic group if I did not comply, I dutifully wrote them a "Michigan landlord" letter: I am most pleased to recommend so-and-so; yes, they took such and such courses; yes, they attended class; yes, they completed assignments in a satisfactory manner. (In other words, here's your letter. You find the recommendation.)
    5) The kid needs to grow up and face cultural facts. Anti-Darwinism/creationism is decidedly outside the scientific consensus. If that's what you want to believe, fine. Come to my church. But don't be a spoiled brat and expect the ideologically committed to overthrow their whole commitment, which they honestly believe to be more than an ideological commitment and to possess solid scientific grounding, just because you float past.
    Realism is a fine attribute for a physician. Our young friend should cultivate it.

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