Features

Endangered species

"Endangered species" Continued...

Issue: "God and mammon," Jan. 14, 2006

WORLD You're knocking aside just about everything on which the rule by scientists is based. What about the review of manuscripts submitted for publication. Is that "value-free"?

DEWBERRY No. When I am asked to review a manuscript, one question always included with the review instructions is, "Is this paper interesting or significant?" This question screens all manuscripts based on the values of the reviewer. If the paper is not interesting or significant, then it will never be published. Furthermore, reviewers are doing much more than checking the experimental methods, data collection, and the appropriateness of the conclusions, and thus their beliefs and values enter into the process at many points.

WORLD Who, then, wears the robes of authority concerning the truth of science?

DEWBERRY Virtually everyone involved in salmon recovery-and people in general, I believe-assumes that the authority of science rests with the scientific community through the peer-review process. I find this curious and ironic.

At the dawn of modern science, it was the Catholic Church that argued that the authority of science rested with the community of practitioners (theirs, of course). It was the Copernicans, especially Galileo, who argued that the authority of science and truth rested with the individual scientist. Moving the authority of science to the individual scientist was one of the key steps in the Copernican Revolution and the foundation of modern science. We have essentially come full circle. We just replaced one priesthood for another. We have returned to the model of authority of the medieval Catholic Church.

WORLD What are the implications of this for the debate about Intelligent Design?

DEWBERRY The most obvious implication relates to authority: In the debate over Intelligent Design, who are the authorities? Pick up a newspaper article and look to see who is asked to respond. The opponents of Intelligent Design will almost always be scientists or panels of scientists. What I find curious is why scientists are picked to respond to questions such as "What is science?" or "What is good science?" These are not scientific questions, and the methods of science are not useful nor appropriate for answering these questions. They are philosophical questions and fall within philosophy of science.

The fact that scientists are virtually the only people asked to respond, and that they are more than willing to respond, is a symptom of a serious problem. As long as scientists believe that they are the final authorities and they continue to make pronouncements about subjects in which they have little background or experience, it does not bode well for science over the long run.

As long as scientists really believe everyone else, including philosophers of science, possesses mere anecdotal knowledge and has no platform from which to speak, we will not have any reasoned discourse about Intelligent Design.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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