Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Marcus R. Ross, Creationist "Scientist"

There has been some controversy over newly-minted Ph.D., Martin R. Ross, notably at The Opinion Mill and A Heathen's Day.

We must tread carefully here. Intellectual honesty is an important component of the sciences (and I don't get the sense that Dr. Ross will be a paragon of such honesty), but an even more important component is absolute ideological neutrality. We must not succumb to the temptation of placing any sort of ideological test on entry into scientific academia.

A Ph.D. in the sciences does not and should not confer any sort of epistemic authority on the holder. Even the most eminent and ideologically "sound" scientist must always show her data and always explain her work thoroughly enough to make it subject to the rigorous scrutiny of her peers.

Ross's doctorate--indeed no one's doctorate--should be taken as an endorsement of his scientific views. It is, rather, just his ticket to allow him to subject his views to thorough, skeptical inquiry. In Ross's case, I strongly suspect he will never actually use this ticket, preferring instead to use his credential in an unjustified manner to his credulous audience. But that's Ross's choice, and Ross's loss, not science's.

The fault does not lie at all with the University of Rhode Island, nor with the general method of credentialing scientists. The audience Ross seeks to persuade was fatally credulous long before he came around.

The most powerful weapon that science has is its pursuit of the truth unfettered by ideology. Abandoning that weapon merely because it is not 100% perfect, letting a few guys like Ross or Dembski slip through, would be a fatal loss.

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