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That’s the Way, ASA!

Reposted with permission from AITSE

Report on the 2012 American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) Annual Meeting 

About a year ago AITSE and Uncommon Descent featured an article that, between it and the follow-on posts, attracted 3773 hits and 182 comments. Why this high level of interest? Simply because the article pointed out that some of what happened at the ASA 2011 annual meeting near Chicago was not consistent with the values that the ASA posts on their websiteThere the ASA state that “We are committed to providing an open forum where [scientific] controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation…” But, at times the atmosphere communicated from the podium was one of thinly-veiled hostility against those who question aspects of consensus science. Details can be found in the original article. However, just as “he whose ear heeds wholesome admonition will abide among the wise,” so perhaps the mark of a good organization is in how they respond to constructive criticism.

And the ASA has. The steps they have taken towards rectifying the situation last year have been remarkable. First, early in the 2012 conference a moderator stated that the purpose of ASA is for Christians to be able to discuss diverging opinions on science without fear of censure. The conference participants were encouraged to be gentle, kind, humble and generally helpful to one another. The tone was set. And the conference continued as it began.

The topic of this conference was “Science, Faith, and the Media,” thus many of the plenary session topics did not directly pertain to science. Nonetheless, on the whole, the talks were helpful to those engaged in educating the public on matters of scientific importance. But the one presentation that specifically addressed a scientific topic was truly inspirational. Dr. John E. Johnson from the Scripps Research Institute gavea lecture on bacteriophage, viruses that infect bacteria. He called them elegantly programed nanomachines. May not sound like a riveting topic, but it was. Personally, I could have listened to him all day. Watch the videos and be amazed.

With regard to demonstrating a friendly, open atmosphere, the parallel sessions were equally impressive. They reflected the range of scientific opinions, and at least in my hearing, there were no comments about scientists with viewpoints differing from the speakers being “scientifically or theologically illiterate.” In fact, I was told that scientists from a range of viewpoints regarding evolution were specifically invited to attend and give presentations. They did and those interactions I witnessed were warm and friendly.

So, does the ASA have a way to go? Of course. First, the book table could have reflected a broader scientific point of view than it did. But, assurances were given that this was noted and will be corrected in future years. Next, one might suggest that an ID-friendly person be recruited to be an administrator on their Facebook page. After all, the Facebook posts pertaining to evolution are decidedly one-sided in nature with few if any links to organizations other than BioLogos and Faraday Institute. The same could be said for the movie night–the movie was distinctly one-sided. Perhaps in the future we could be exposed to movies from other points of view. Finally, in the future one may wish to see scientists with a greater variety of viewpoints on the ASA council. But then, that requires the cooperation of the scientists in question. Regardless, one would hope that this effort on the part of ASA to increase mutual respect despite diverging opinions will not go unnoticed.

Overall AITSE salutes ASA. They responded to criticism and made great strides towards doing what they say they do. The atmosphere made it possible for everyone to safely explore, ask questions, and learn from others–after all, which of us claims to know everything? The resultant open discussion between scientists can only advance science and science education. For this reason, AITSE now has confidence to send those specifically interested in faith and science to ASA in the future–and to work with them in the present.

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23 Responses to That’s the Way, ASA!

  1. Do I have this right?

    The American Scientific Affiliation and the American Institute for Technology and Science Education are both organisations of people committed to Christian beliefs?

    Thanks in advance for any guidance.

  2. AITSE is a secular organization, ASA is an affilliation of Christians.

    At issue is whether there is integrity in science by allowing evolution to go unquestioned. After all, even if Jerry Coyne himself says evolutionism is closer to the pseudo science of phrenology than to the real sciences of physics, it stands to reason evolutionism should allowed to be questioned.

    AITSE encourages skepticism of ID and Creationism as well. I expect there will be articles at AITSE critical of creationist ideas. Though it might step on toes, I wouldn’t mind some articles written for the AITSE website to debunk the bunk of Kent Hovind.

  3. Scordova posted this:

    After all, even if Jerry Coyne himself says evolutionism is closer to the pseudo science of phrenology than to the real sciences of physics, it stands to reason evolutionism should allowed to be questioned.

    The nearest I can find is a quote from “Of Vice and Men”, in which he says this:

    In science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics.

    It is so hard to quote published material accurately. And so hard to be taken seriously when one fails to do it.

  4. So timothya doesn’t understand paraphrasing….

  5. I understand “integrity in science”. I also understand its converse, inverse and reverse. Misquotation is bad, and quotemining is worse.

  6. Sal did NOT quote him, he paraphrased. However on other occasions Sal has quoted him, word for word.

  7. “Evolutionism” is a paraphrase of “evolutionary biology”? Perhaps on your version of reality.

  8. Timothya you state:

    I understand “integrity in science”. I also understand its converse, inverse and reverse. Misquotation is bad, and quotemining is worse.

    Are you trying to say that you don’t believe that Darwinism is pseudo-science as Coyne’s quote indicated?

    Well let’s, by all means, dig dipper to clear up such a ‘quotemined’ slander against your cherished atheistic religion of neo-Darwinism tim!!!:

    Materialists like to claim evolution is indispensable to experimental biology and even led the way to many breakthroughs in medicine, Yet in a article entitled “Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology”, this expert author begs to differ.

    “Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming’s discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin’s theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.
    Philip S. Skell – (the late) Professor at Pennsylvania State University.

    Podcasts and Article of Dr. Skell
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....40981.html

    Evolution Rarely the Basis of Research: Nature’s “Evolutionary Gems” Just Narrative Gloss – podcast
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_56-07_00

    Science Owes Nothing To Darwinian Evolution – Jonathan Wells – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4028096

    Anti-Science Irony
    Excerpt: In response to a letter from Asa Gray, professor of biology at Harvard University, Darwin declared: “I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science.” Darwin was “anti-Science”.
    When questioned further by Gray, Darwin confirmed Gray’s suspicions: “What you hint at generally is very, very true: that my work is grievously hypothetical, and large parts are by no means worthy of being called induction.” Darwin had turned against the use of scientific principles in developing his theory of evolution.
    http://www.darwinthenandnow.co.....nce-irony/

    Intelligent Design and Medical Research – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/7906908

    In fact, as to the somewhat minor extent evolutionary reasoning has influenced medical diagnostics, it has led to much ‘medical malpractice’ in the past:

    Evolution’s “vestigial organ” argument debunked
    Excerpt: “The appendix, like the once ‘vestigial’ tonsils and adenoids, is a lymphoid organ (part of the body’s immune system) which makes antibodies against infections in the digestive system. Believing it to be a useless evolutionary ‘left over,’ many surgeons once removed even the healthy appendix whenever they were in the abdominal cavity. Today, removal of a healthy appendix under most circumstances would be considered medical malpractice” (David Menton, Ph.D., “The Human Tail, and Other Tales of Evolution,” St. Louis MetroVoice , January 1994, Vol. 4, No. 1).
    “Doctors once thought tonsils were simply useless evolutionary leftovers and took them out thinking that it could do no harm. Today there is considerable evidence that there are more troubles in the upper respiratory tract after tonsil removal than before, and doctors generally agree that simple enlargement of tonsils is hardly an indication for surgery” (J.D. Ratcliff, Your Body and How it Works, 1975, p. 137).
    The tailbone, properly known as the coccyx, is another supposed example of a vestigial structure that has been found to have a valuable function—especially regarding the ability to sit comfortably. Many people who have had this bone removed have great difficulty sitting.
    http://www.ucg.org/science/god.....-debunked/

    Neo-Darwinism’s negative effect on science and society
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lwdaq8r5K0JbzNtTU4-UqB3t-giK2-hUlsFrNDiJ7Ok/edit

    I found this following paper particularly interesting for broadly outlining how evolution misses the mark for a true science and is, in reality, a pseudo-science:

    Is evolution pseudoscience?
    Excerpt:,,, Thus, of the ten characteristics of pseudoscience listed in the Skeptic’s Dictionary, evolution meets nine. Few other pseudosciences – astrology, astral projection, alien abduction, crystal power, or whatever — would meet so many.
    http://creation.com/is-evolution-pseudoscience

    “nobody to date has yet found a demarcation criterion according to which Darwin(ism) can be described as scientific” – Imre Lakatos (November 9, 1922 – February 2, 1974) a philosopher of mathematics and science, quote was as stated in 1973 LSE Scientific Method Lecture

    Science and Pseudoscience – Imre Lakatos – exposing Darwinism as a ‘degenerating science program’, as a pseudoscience, using Lakatos’s rigid criteria
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LpGd3smTV1RwmEXC25IAEKMjiypBl5VJq9ssfv4JgeM/edit

    C.S. Lewis: creationist and anti-evolutionist
    Excerpt: “In 1951 C S Lewis wrote that evolution was “the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives” and modern civilization. Evolution, Lewis explained, is a picture of reality that has resulted from imagination and is “not the logical result of what is vaguely called ‘modern science’.”

  9. No, Bjornagain.

    I am pointing out that Sal appears to have misquoted Jerry Coyne. I suspect he did so deliberately, but I am prepared to be corrected.

  10. timothya- Sal did NOT quote Jerry Coyne therefor he could NOT have misquoted him.

  11. tim you state

    No,

    To my question. So please do tell us exactly why your materialistic (religious) theory, which has ZERO empirical support that it can actually generate highly sophisticated molecular machinery and computational systems is not, in reality, a pseudo-science. Or are we just suppose to take your word because you want us to?

  12. Evolutionary biology is a scientific discipline. Evolutionism is a creationist term of abuse. Sal’s call.

  13. Evolutionary biology IS evolutionism. Or have evolutionary biologists become IDists?

  14. I am pointing out that Sal appears to have misquoted Jerry Coyne. I suspect he did so deliberately, but I am prepared to be corrected.

    That was not a quotation, that was a commentary on what he said. I didn’t use quote marks.

    Apparently you’re really sensitive to the word “evolutionism” because it emphasizes the dogmatic aspect and lack of science in the discipline. The fact Coyne likens “evolutionary biology” to phrenology isn’t exactly a compliment in terms of the “science” in evolutionary biology. Hence, evolutionism is more accurate a term for the discipline, since, according to Coyne himself “evolutionary biology” is closer to the pseudo science of phrenology than it is to the real sciences found in physics.

    Even supposing for the sake of argument there is no ID in biology and that we evolved via blind purposeless forces, there is the matter of due process in the scientific method. Speculations and story telling (which is the heart of evolutionism) are not the same as experiment and direct observation to establish hypotheses (the heart of operational science). Hence, evolutionism is a lousy example of the scientific method. Contrast evolutionism to the development of the theories of electromagnetism, optics, celestial mechanics, etc. There is no contest. Evolutionism is “lurks somewhere near the bottom” in sciences pecking order. Hence evolutionism’s excessive promotion is not consistent with its scientific content, hence it lacks scientific integrity, hence organizations committed to scientific integrity have reason to encourage skepticism of evolutionism.

    Evolutionism is a more accurate label for the dogmatically held belief in evolution than “evolutionary biology” (which make it sound like evolutionism is actually science). Evolutionism is far closer to the pseudo science of phrenology than the real sciences found in physics.

  15. tim of related note to the fact that you can produce ZERO empirical evidence of Darwinian processes EVER producing a molecular machine, or encoding functional information sequences into DNA, and thus separating (your religion of) Darwinism from the accusation of pseudo-science, I can produce evidence for intelligence producing both:

    (Man-Made) DNA nanorobot – video
    https://vimeo.com/36880067

    Information Storage in DNA by Wyss Institute – video
    https://vimeo.com/47615970

    Harvard cracks DNA storage, crams 700 terabytes of data into a single gram – Sebastian Anthony on August 17, 2012
    Excerpt: A bioengineer and geneticist at Harv
    ard’s Wyss Institute have successfully stored 5.5 petabits of data — around 700 terabytes — in a single gram of DNA, smashing the previous DNA data density record by a thousand times.,,, Just think about it for a moment: One gram of DNA can store 700 terabytes of data. That’s 14,000 50-gigabyte Blu-ray discs… in a droplet of DNA that would fit on the tip of your pinky. To store the same kind of data on hard drives — the densest storage medium in use today — you’d need 233 3TB drives, weighing a total of 151 kilos. In Church and Kosuri’s case, they have successfully stored around 700 kilobytes of data in DNA — Church’s latest book, in fact — and proceeded to make 70 billion copies (which they claim, jokingly, makes it the best-selling book of all time!) totaling 44 petabytes of data stored.
    http://www.extremetech.com/ext.....ingle-gram

    DNA Stores Data More Efficiently than Anything We’ve Created Casey Luskin August 29, 2012
    Excerpt: Nothing made by humans can approach these kind of specs. Who would have thought that DNA can store data more efficiently than anything we’ve created. But DNA wasn’t designed — right?
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....63701.html

  16. In Science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics.

    Jerry Coyne

    There, timothya, does that make you feel better?

    But if a quote mine you want, a quote mine I’ll give

    Oh by the way, Darwin letter to Herschel

    One cannot look at this Universe with all living productions & man without believing that all has been intelligently designed;

    Charles Darwin

  17. 18

    timothya says:

    Evolutionism is a creationist term of abuse.

    LOL, let us just step over the use of the term “creationist”.

    Ideologues like Tim care nothing for facts, everything is manna to use in the political battle against those things they fear. Below is an instructive conversation from a website as to what to do with the word “evolutionism”. Should they list it? Should they throw it out?

    Evolutionism: Nomination to be deleted:

    I have nominated the page because it esentially boils down to the sentence

    “Creationists use the term Evolutionism to refer to advocates of Evolution, seeking to treat it as a belief rather than a scientific principle”. I consider the existance of the page to be non-NPOV. CheeseDreams 20:26, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    That very well may be true, I have no idea. I do know that the term is used by anthropologist Robert Leonard Carneiro to refer to the history of cultural evolution. I have no doubt that creationists may have subverted the term, but does that mean we should delete an important article that has nothing to do with creationst usage? — Viriditas 00:52, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    keep. Dunc|? 20:14, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Keep - I can see no conceivable reason for this to be deleted. –jpgordon{gab} 20:21, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Delete (reason is above) CheeseDreams 20:26, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Keep. Materialism (philosophical meaning of the term) is something I believe in just as strongly as Evolutionism, and the existance of the term, and associated history, isn’t something I consider POV. I’m at least one rabid atheist/evolutionist that has no problems with the term, even if I don’t consider it a term I’d use very often. –Improv 20:46, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Merge some content to a history section of Creation vs. evolution debate and Redirect article to evolution, or some such arrangement. The bulk of this article is about Huxley’s thoughts on evolution. The passage on algorithms is out of place and covered elsewhere. — WOT 21:23, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    KEEP! No no, not to evolution, if you must redirect, then please redirect to creationism! Kim Bruning 21:39, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Why? Robert Carneiro is a skeptic, and a proponent of evolution. His book about evolutionism demonstrates that fact. –Viriditas 00:41, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Abstain, But I’ll note that the page definately needs a lot of attention. Kim Bruning 21:28, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Keep. I vote for everything that Improv said. —Rednblu | Talk 21:56, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    “Ummm…this isn’t even a reason for deletion, let alone speedy. We cover lots of derogatory terms, and this one has a long and subtle history,” said another evolutionist. Keep. Cool Hand Luke 22:19, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Delete. NeoJustin 22:46 Oct 30, 2004 (UTC)

    Unavoidably redundant. Merge into various articles and redirect to Evolution. Gazpacho 22:48, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Evolutionism is a creationist term, a redirect to evolution would be exceptionally POV. Suggest a redirect to creationism instead. Kim Bruning 23:02, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Redirects exist for the benefit of people who search for the term. A redirect to creationism would confuse them. My vote stands. Gazpacho

    You’re not seriously suggesting that a term which is *opposed* to evolution, and is utterly misleading by design should redirect there, are you? Evolutionism is a term searched for by creationists. It does NOT have anything to do with Evolution in any rational sense of “to do with”. Allright, if everyone is going to vote redirect to evolution, I’ll have to change my vote. Kim Bruning 23:42, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    It’s also plausibly searched by people who are new to the controversy and have no opinion one way or the other. Gazpacho

    That’s fine, but redirecting to evolution would be a very blatant pushing of the creationist POV, I’m guessing that’s probably not what you’d intended. Kim Bruning 00:47, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    It’s not what I intended, and I don’t see it as pushing anything but accurate information. But I give up. Gazpacho

    There is no controversy. Carneiro’s theories are part of cultural anthropology. I think people are confusing Carneiro’s term with an altogether different concept, quite possibly used by creationists. –Viriditas 00:24, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    Could you provide a reference for that? If you can we could probably blank the page and use it exclusively for that. Kim Bruning 00:47, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

    The reference is on the current page. Huxley coined the term in 1869 to refer to Darwin’s theory. Early cultural anthropologists were influenced by Darwin (who wasn’t?) and Lewis Henry Morgan and others promoted the theory of linear development, which was popular at the end of the 19th century.[1] The theory has obviously changed over the years, with Historical Particularism, Diffusionism, Functionalism, Structuralism, and Cultural Ecology making up the core of cultural anthropology. Julian Steward, Leslie White, and George Murdock popularized neo-evolutionism in the late 20th century. Stephen K. Sanderson has an interesting essay about the role evolutionism plays in the social sciences. It should be noted that the word is not confined to cultural anthropology alone. I have found many references to evolution using the word Evolutionism in the medical literature. Since I don’t know any creationists, nor am I familiar with their use of their term, I am unable to comment on that subject or whether they use the term. –Viriditas 01:47, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)

  18. Here you go timothya,

    Speciation and Evolutionism – Educating “Max” – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0SV-ymGKK8

  19. timothya, as to the ‘ism’ part of evolution that you object to, perhaps the information in this video is more to the point of explaining exactly why it is very fitting to tack on ‘ism’ to the word evolution:

    Why is a Dogmatic Belief System that Fails to Explain the Evidence, Taught in Science Classes? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=albVgb8Qn_k

  20. Caroline -

    I, too, have noticed an opening up of ASA. I don’t expect them to turn en masse to ID, but it is very good to see that they are no longer, at least as an organization, dogmatic Darwinists and materialists. The helped promote the Engineering and Metaphysics conference, and, overall, I have seen lots of positive things coming from them.

  21. It doesn’t take a lot of of work to quote someone correctly.

  22. So we are back to timothya not understanding paraphrasing.

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