This issue of Origins Research marks the 10th year anniversary of Students for Origins Research. Such an occasion provides this founding father with an irresistable opportunity to take a nostalgic look at the progress we have made over the past ten years and offer a few thoughts about where we hope to go in the future.
Some things have not changed much over the past ten years. In an editorial appearing in the Sept-Dec 1978 issue, I pointed out that SOR existed because there was a need for another voice, an alternative viewpoint. I documented how the powers-that-be in the scientific publishing circles were more interested in promoting a "philosophy of life" than in "doing science" when it came to discussing origins. Ten years ago Biological Sciences Curriculum Study Newsletter accepted an advertisement from the American Humanist Association which affirmed evolution as a principle of science. And yet a rebuttal advertisement by a creationist group was repeatedly denied without explanation. Similar infractions were documented concerning Science News and Scientific American.
Ten years later the censorship still exists, as evidenced by Chris Foreman's lead article is this issue concerning Omni magazine. Instead of quietly ignoring the creationists, however, the censorship has escalated to a public smear campaign to the point that the editors of Omni attempt to paint the creationists as the censors.
Elsewhere in this issue Peter Gordon points out in his review of American Biology Teacher that an increasing hostility toward creationist views has developed over the years in ABT. However, the most revealing events in recent months have been the reactions to the Teaching Science booklet published by the American Scientific Affiliation (reviewed elsewhere in this issue). Despite the overwhelming positive response from the science teachers who have returned the evaluation cards (76% A's & B's, 19% D's & F's), the booklet has been severely criticized by people in high places because it does not teach evolution as dogma and leaves the door open to theistic views. A series of "coincidental" events have unfolded that paint the picture of a coordinated censorship and smear campaign against the ASA in response to their booklet.
Earlier this year there was an attempt to revoke ASA exhibit privileges and a program advertisement at the March convention of the National Science Teachers Association in Washington D.C. Fortunately in this case reason prevailed and the ASA was able to set up its exhibit booth (next to the National Academy of Sciences booth) and distribute over 2,000 copies of Teaching Science to teachers.
The ASA and ICR were not so fortunate in the upcoming June meeting of the Pacific Division of the AAAS in San Diego. The January 23, 1987 issue of the Pacific Division newsletter listed a technical session in the Educational Division on Modeling the Origins of the World, Life and Diversity. One of the field trips also listed was a tour of ICR headquarters lead by William Thwaites and hosted by Duane Gish. ASA was in the process of lining up two of their members to speak in the Origins session when it was suddenly cancelled without explanation. In the April 25th issue of the Pacific Division newsletter both the Origins technical session and the ICR field trip were not listed. Somebody at the top pulled the plug.
The AAAS campaign against the ASA began in the January 2, 1987 issue of Science (pg. 19-21) where editor Constance Holden dropped a brief mention of Teaching Science. Because the booklet encourages a cautious teaching of evolution (including the unsolved problems and the limitations of science), Holden labelled the ASA as a group of sophisticated extremists who are attempting to censor science. The ASA responded with four different letters defending their book, and the Science editors refused to publish any portion of them. Who are the real censors?
One of the most vicious attacks on the ASA booklet has come from the pen of evolutionist defender William J. Bennetta. A long review by Bennetta full of name calling, accusations, and innaccurate statements appeared in a recent issue of California Science Teacher. To date the editors appear unresponsive to a meeting with the ASA writers to discuss the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Teaching Science that appeared in Bennetta's review. The conspiracy plot thickens.
This type of hostility makes two clear statements. First, creationists are finally being taken seriously. I would prefer a calm scientific dialogue about the data, and that is taking place in isolated cases (we are attempting to be one of those isolated cases). But given the choice of a public flogging and being ignored, I'll take the beating any day. Which brings me to the second point. These unscholarly reactions prove that the basic issue is a struggle of world views between the theist and the materialist. People do not get hostile about data. They get hostile when their philosophy of life (i.e. religion) is challenged.
The creation/evolution controversy is but one battle that is going on in a large scale "world view" war in our society. This point is well made by Paul C. Vitz in a 1983 study funded by the National Institute of Education. Professor Vitz systematically examined ninety widely used social studies and history textbooks and found that religion, family values, and certain political and economic positions have been purposely omitted. For example in a total of 670 stories from grades three and six readers, not one reference to representative Protestant religious life was found (Censorship: Evidence of Bias in our Children's Textbooks, Paul C. Vitz, 1986).
So ten years later we still feel Origins Research fills the need for "another voice."
There are several ways that we have changed over the years. Our pages have become increasingly filled with dialogue between creationists and evolutionists. As we examined the other organizations and publications on this issue, we found that creationists and evolutionists were basically talking to themselves. We thought there would be real value (and progress) in letting proponents of each side put forth their best arguments leaving the readers to draw their own conclusions. Our readers have indicated they appreciate this format.
Ten years ago it was hard to find a book that was critical of scientism and evolutionism, and yet suitable for use in our public schools and universities. A quick glance at our expanded book catalog in this issue, shows that the situation has changed dramatically. In recent years there have appeared a number of books by "non-creationists" which raise the same issues that creationists have been raising for the past two decades. Evolution a Theory in Crisis, Origins: A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Darwin Retried, The New Story of Science, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, and Neck of the Giraffe are all a new breed of books that are steadily chipping away at the materialistic framework based on evolutionary dogma that has so gripped the 20th century mind.
There is also a new breed of creationist books such as The Natural Limits to Biological Change, The Mystery of Life's Origins, and Origins Science which focus primarily on the scientific issues and attempt to make a positive scientific contribution rather than merely attack the standard evolutionary positions.
Another change beginning with this issue that may appear small on the surface, but which we hope will be large in its effect, is the replacement of our Board of Advisors with Technical Committees. The broad range of disciplines involved in origins discussions requires a integrated interdisciplinary effort if we are to produce any significant results. If we want to be taken seriously in scientific/academic circles, it is also important that our papers be refereed by people with the appropriate credentials and experience. For these reasons, we will be leaning heavily on our technical committees to help us produce a journal that is respected for its good science.
Where are we headed in the next ten years? In our annual report to SOR members last September we formulated some principles that will hopefully steer our organizational and editorial direction in the coming years. We had such a positive reaction from our members that we thought it would be profitable to reprint it for our general readership. I will close here with "The SOR Approach":
Battles over creation/evolution are being fought on three fronts: religious, political, and scientific. There are many groups that are fighting the religous battles and many that are fighting the political battles. And there are many groups that are fighting two or three battles simultaneously. We believe there is only one truth about our origins, and that science and religion each provide unique ways of coming to that truth. However, given the scientific, political, and religious climate of our culture today, we feel there is a need for a group that focuses solely on the scientific issues. This is the reason SOR was founded and is still the reason we exist today, ten years later.
Within our primary goal of focusing on the scientific issues are several secondary goals. We have mixed a little ancient proverbial wisdom with a little modern common sense to come up with the following approach:
To seek the truth. Our first job is to examine the truth, not to persuade others of our current version of the truth. We all have a world-view through which we filter the facts, and we all get caught up in persuasion. But when we do persuade we must be careful no to use faulty, out-dated, or ignorant arguments, for when they are found out, they will only damage the cause. We would rather err on the side of being too cautious, than on the side of being too persuasive.
To be critical. We cannot work in the scientific arena without learning to be critical -- critical of friends, critical of our foes, and critical of ourselves. For fifty years our society has uncritically accepted the macroevolution theory of origins. For the last twenty years many creationists have uncritically been trying to present a flat creation alternative. By presenting the evidence for creation to the academic and scientific communities and engaging in written dialogues with evolutionists we have tried to address this problem in the pages of Origins Research.
To be open-minded. Science is a continuously changing body of knowledge. We cannot hope to practice science by clinging to yesterday's evidence when today's evidence brings us fresh insight and knowledge. To be sure we must learn to recognize the world-view filter of others through which data are presented to us, but we should also be slow to throw away all data which do not fit our own preconceptions.
To be humble. The fact that we are dealing with circumstantial evidence, the fact that more evidence may turn up tomorrow, and the fact that we all make mistakes, should work together to keep us humble. We don't have all the answers and we should avoid talking as if we do. We need to be ready to admit our mistakes and face the fact that we will make them.
To be kind. We want to assume the best about the people who disagree with us and allow them every opportunity to defend themselves. This is the way we desire to be treated.
Copyright © 1997 Dennis Wagner. All rights
reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 3.13.97