When science writers can’t cope with honesty among scientists …
|January 13, 2012||Posted by O'Leary under Science, Media|
In “Faye Flam: Atheist Writer Who is Long on Graciousness, Long on Civility….Short on Reason, Short on Scientific Realities” (Algemeiner Daily, January 12, 2012), Moshe Averick, author of The Confused, Illusory World of the Atheist, comments on the need for science writers to defend atheist materialism well beyond what its pioneer exponents even try to do:
In my communication with Ms. Flam, I made it clear that (a) I was not trying to portray Szostak as a supporter of Intelligent Design theory, that (b) if it appeared that way it was unintentional and (c) I apologized for any confusion. The disputed citation from Dr. Szostak’s Scientific American article – “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines…could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter”- was brought as an illustration of the enormous challenges Origin of Life researchers face in trying to find a naturalistic process which would explain how life emerged from non-life, not to demonstrate Jack Szostak’s belief in God. I urge the reader to look at my email that appeared in Planet of the Apes and the full disclaimer I printed in my Algemeiner.com column of 12/22/11. I don’t see how I could have been any clearer.
But it doesn’t really matter how clear Moshe Averick is. The awful clarity that spooks Flam is this: When the By Chance Alone lobby are being honest among themselves, they no more implicitly believe their spiel than anyone else does. To stay real, they must admit that to anyone listening.
That leaves Flam grasping at claims that they were misquoted.
That should have been the end of it, but for some strange reason Faye seemed unable to let it go: “I appreciate your apology but the Szostak quote you included in your story can’t be reasonably interpreted in any way except as an attempt to connect him to the belief that life can’t possibly have come from non-life through a natural process…the sentiment expressed by this quote is the absolute antithesis of what Dr. Szostak has said many times…” In other words, Ms. Flam felt there was something inherently disingenuous about the fact that I used Szostak’s description of the awesome level of functional complexity of the simplest bacterium to support my position that it is the product of Intelligent Design, while being fully aware that Szostak himself completely denies the possibility of Intelligent Design. Faye, I appreciate your giving me the space in your column to explain my side of the controversy but it seems you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the real problem is here. Please allow me to elaborate.
The real problem is that what – for Szostak – is a dream, an ambition, and imperishable hope, must be for Flam an easily demonstrable wooden reality. He’s the investigator; she’s the script writer.
So the story conflict is this: Szostak can’t cope with Flam’s demands for certainty because they interfere with rational thinking. Flam can’t cope with the reality Szostak sees.
So, of course, Reb Moshe is to blame for drawing attention to the problem.
The late Dr. Harold P. Klein, of NASA, once wrote something that was remarkably similar to Szostak’s statement: “The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.” I quoted Dr. Klein in my book (by the way Faye, are you going to review it?), and in at least one other article. Do you think I was trying to imply that Dr. Klein supported Intelligent Design theory or was a believer in God the Creator? I certainly was not, and he most certainly did not and was not. One of the greatest chemists alive today, Dr. George Whitesides of Harvard University, also said something remarkably similar to Szostak’s statement.
Yes, that’s an additional complicating factor: The amazement and doubt are all par for the course in origin of life studies. If Flam has a lot of trouble with that, she might consider, say, evolutionary psychology, where conundrums or wrong answers are very rare indeed because contact with meaningful evidence is almost non-existent.
See also: Urgently needed: A random Darwin generator
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