Project Steve


Lists of Scientists who believe in Creationism

With a lack of any real evidence, one rather common creationist approach is an attempt to appeal to authority. The definitive example of this is the often quoted list of scientists who doubt evolution. The creationist Discovery Institute have compiled and published a list of over 800 scientists from around the world that have now signed a statement expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution.

http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/index.php

They explain …

The list of signatories includes member scientists from National Academies of Science in Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, India (Hindustan), Nigeria, Poland, and the United States. Many of the signers are professors or researchers at major universities and international research institutions such as Cambridge University, Moscow State University, Chitose Institute of Science & Technology in Japan, Ben-Gurion University in Israel, MIT, The Smithsonian and Princeton.

Wow, this sounds very impressive. Oh but wait … (you knew that this was coming, right?) … there are a few problems here:

  • It is not evidence, just an appeal to authority.
  • Reality is not something we get to vote on. Something is either true or not true on the basis of verifiable evidence, not opinion.
  • The listed scientists are indeed reputable individuals who are very knowledgeable, but for about three-quarters of them, evolution is not their subject. What exactly qualifies radiation chemists, eye disease researchers, astrophysicists, materials scientists, mathematicians, aerospace engineers, or electrical engineers to be deemed authorities on evolution?
  • The list is global, yet 800 is not even one-tenth of one percent of the real biologists on the planet who do accept evolution.

Are all these attributes unique to just this Discovery Institute list? No, not at all. The UK-based Creation Science Movement has a list of four impressive sounding scientific specialists willing to come and talk about creationism. Once again it is a similar pattern, these four are an Organometallic Chemist, a Civil and Structural Engineer, a medical GP, and a Meteorologist. Not one biologist, so all four are operating way outside their specialist areas. If the topic was say … Climate Change, then the Meteorologist would be well-qualified, but none of them, not one, is in any way qualified to discuss evolution.

So who else runs such lists?

Many other creationist organizations will have similar lists, and all of them consistently maintain the same attributes, and so fail to be a credible argument.

Project Steve

Perhaps the very best response to such silliness is the delightful parody run by the US-based National Center for Science Education (even their name gives you confidence that this is going to be good) – Project Steve.

http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

Project Steve is the NCSE list of scientists called “Steve” who do support evolution. This pokes fun at the creationist lists because “Steves” are only about 1% of scientists, so it very successfully makes the point that the vast majority of scientists do support evolution, only a very tiny wacky fringe don’t. It is also a nice hat-tip to the late Stephen Jay Gould, the famous evolutionary biologist who was also an NCSE supporter.

So how big is the wacky fringe?

Now lets put all this listing into a global context by asking ourselves how many biologists there are. In the US alone it is estimated that there are 1,108,100 biological and geological scientists (that is an old number from 1999, so the actual number will be larger today) and is of course just a percentage of the total number of scientists of all types on the planet today. Given that reality it quickly becomes clear that all the lists of those that do not support evolution is such a tiny fraction that it effectively renders them as insignificant.

One final thought

There is one final observation to be drawn from all these lists. What it does successfully establish is that even some smart people are capable of believing crazy stuff. Being very intelligent does not in any way immunize you against such beliefs, instead it simply means that you will dream up very smart rationalizations for utterly batty ideas that don’t have a jot of evidence.

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