GSA should atone for publishing creationist letters
February 5, 2002
The GSA is to be commended for publishing its position statement on evolution in the October 2001 GSA Today. The position statement, however, was essentially negated when the society then published two rebuttal letters from creationists in its January 2002 issue of GSA Today. Publishing such letters cannot be argued to be a matter of freedom of expression or a presentation of opposing views. The whole point of making a position statement on evolution is to make it clear that there is not another "side" to this issue. It comes down to a simple distinction between science and science education versus religion and religious education. The society should be in the business of promoting science, including the most basic tenet in biology and paleontology-namely that biological evolution occurs. It should not be in the business of promulgating the religious views such as those espoused by the two letter writers.
The first letter writer (Gordon D. Bennett) tries to persuade us that "intelligent design theory" has some scientific evidence that supports it and hence should not be dismissed as creationism. The plain, simple fact is that there is no scientific evidence supporting it. It is a ruse that argues that if we don't understand something complex in science, there must be some intelligence (read creator) behind the complexity. It is not a testable supposition and thus falls outside the purview of science. Of course it's not even a new idea. Its philosophical precursor, vitalism, died in the 19th century with the beginnings of modern biology.
The second letter writer (Mark Hostetter) falls more squarely in the tried and true creationist mold. This is nowhere better seen then in his statement that "Charles Darwin's 142 year old idea of one species giving rise to another is not a provable hypothesis and has apparently risen out of one man's anger toward God." If that is not good old fashioned creationism, I'm a monkey's uncle. Of course evolution is not only a provable (read testable) hypothesis, but every science demonstrates ad nauseum that it is occurring and has occurred. This writer also disseminates the common creationist fallacy that Darwin is the originator of evolution, rather than his actual contribution of the still extremely important mechanism of natural selection.
I do not know what possessed the GSA to publish these creationist letters, but to atone, I suggest that they provide copies of the position statements to all U.S. high schools.
J. David Archibald