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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Thinkquote of the day: Consensus vs. evidence

In the wake of frantic efforts to discredit biochemist Mike Behe's new book, The Edge of Evolution, a lawyer friend writes to say,
Asking the mainstream science community to declare that new discoveries in molecular biology and DNA render materialism inadequate to explain life is like asking someone to declare that his skills have become outmoded and obsolete, unable to solve the new problems facing us. To ask someone to declare his own obsolescence triggers some pretty strong emotions, and some powerful emotional resistance, and counter-accusations. In the words of the
poet Dylan Thomas, they "Do not go gentle into that good night" and they "rage, rage against the dying of the light." Thus, the emotional vehemence exhibited by the mainstream side is what we should expect, ...

Yes, exactly. And I have seen it in so many venues - social workers discussing welfare dependency, teachers discussing the relationship between strict standards and performance, police officers discussing the usefulness of current drug laws, dieticians discussing the usefulness of weight loss diets, media people denying a liberal bias* that is confirmed by virtually every political science study - NO ONE wants to hear findings, however impeccably produced and presented, that challenge the routine thinking with which their prospects and prestige are entangled.

Usually, they and their mistakes simply retire together.

*If it were a pervasive conservative bias, the reaction would be identical, of course.

I am currently reading Behe's book, and will comment when I have finished it.


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