Monday, February 20, 2006

Most signers of DI statement aren't biologists

Those that are biologists, may have ulterior motives:
In the recent skirmishes over evolution, advocates who have pushed to dilute its teaching have regularly pointed to a petition signed by 514 scientists and engineers.

The petition, they say, is proof that scientific doubt over evolution persists. But random interviews with 20 people who signed the petition and a review of the public statements of more than a dozen others suggest that many are evangelical Christians, whose doubts about evolution grew out of their religious beliefs. And even the petition's sponsor, the Discovery Institute in Seattle, says that only a quarter of the signers are biologists, whose field is most directly concerned with evolution. The other signers include 76 chemists, 75 engineers, 63 physicists and 24 professors of medicine.
The thing about this petition is, it's totally vacuous. Here is what they signed:
We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.
Of course it should be encouraged. Everyone should be skeptical of everything. Whatever. The fact that the DI can only get evangelical Christians and non-biologists to sign their petition is truly remarkable.

If I didn't know better, and someone came to me with that statement and asked me to give it a yea or a nay, I'd give it an OK. It doesn't mean anything.

In contrast, the Project Steve petition is fairly specific:

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.
This statement has gotten 703 signers, even though you may only sign if your name is Stephen, Stephanie, or some similar version of those names (Steve, Stefan, etc.).

DaveScot, writing at Dembski's blog, whines about the Steve statement:
It is aimed to show by way of the logical fallacy argumentum ad populum that the 400+ scientists on the Dissent From Darwinism statement are wrong. It’s supposed be a parody of Dissent From Darwinism.

Well, they can’t even get that right because, as they do with everything else about ID, they’re using the logical fallacy of the strawman argument before even asking for signatures.

Check it out. The Dissent From Darwinism statement is skepticism of random mutation and natural selection’s ability to account for the complexity of life. The Project Steve statement doesn’t refute that.
The Steve statement specifically rejects ID, while the DI statement doesn't reject evolution. If the IDolators would spend less time trying to get lists and more time doing research, maybe they'd be able to get a few Steves to switch sides. I count a total of 5 on their list. We can spare a few.