Re: [asa] Sins of pseudoscience

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Wed Jan 23 2008 - 21:53:56 EST

I really appreciated the tone and the discussion of this thread. Loren,
thanks for getting it off to an excellent start and many others like David
and Steve for thoughtful comments. When I took this job, I felt that ASA's
"commitment to integrity in science" was one of the crucial aspects that
needed to be emphasized and pursued. As an organization we can and should
stand up for integrity in science.

The unfortunate tendency is for most argumentative folks to consider that
integrity is a characteristic of all those who agree with me and dishonesty
characterizes those who disagree with me. We can, in fact, differ in our
opinions with integrity. But to do so, we need confidence that each of us is
also speaking within a context of commitment to integrity, namely an
adherence to the time-tested methodologies of science.

How can we best take a stand? I took a tentative small step in this
direction with the essay review in June 2007 PSCF. That addressed an easy
target--the rather blatant RATE results. I cautiously but deliberately ended
the review with the word "deception" since I felt it was important to
identify the lack of integrity. In this case, the breach was egregious and
obvious. The RATE team concluded from their work that the young-earth
advocate ended up with unresolved problems that could not be addressed with
known scientific principles and needed divine intervention to resolve. These
are their own words, not anyone else's. Yet, their conclusion, as announced
to hundreds of enthusiasts at many conferences, is that the RATE project
successfully affirmed the biblical teaching of a young earth. The RATE team
does declare their legal caveat "there are unresolved problems" to avoid the
charge of dishonesty but that caveat is no more understood by the public
than any disclaimer in an advertisement.

But that one was the easy target. I'm deeply concerned about the broader
issues of integrity and how as Christians we can address it. Much of my
career was concerned with handling integrity issues in major scientific and
engineering topics. They ranged from outright fraud (in a project I
championed, unfortunately, the lead scientist slipped one by me but
fortunately we caught it before it was too late) to gray zone slanting of
data which cost our company a billion dollars.

In our area of science and Christianity, there are powerful motives for
obtaining and defending certain views. It is far too easy to be swayed by
that motivation. It is all the more important that we scrupulously pursue
the paths that ensure integrity in science.

I intend to ask the ASA executive council to read this thread and keep it in
mind for our meeting in a couple of months. Your suggestions are most

Thank you,


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Received on Wed Jan 23 21:54:57 2008

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