Some of you may remember that many years ago I was active in creationist-debunking circles, nattering away at talk.origins and moderating the alt.bible.errancy newsgroup for several years.
Creationists are particularly fond of the appeal to authority, traditionally waving lists of “scientists who dissent from Darwinism” as a counter to the scientific consensus in evolutionary biology. What one discovers when one looks at these alleged “scientists” is that a very large proportion of them are actually people who merely have a basic degree in an applied science, and even those who do have a degree in a theoretical science discipline do not have degrees in biology, palaeontology, geology or related sciences that actually study the physical record of life on earth – it’s all engineers, MD’s (not generally considered to be scientists) and a very few theoretical physicists. Also, it is rare to find a doctorate-holder on a creationist “scientist” list – lots of Bachelors and a few Masters degree-holders, very few Ph.D.s.
Enter one of my favourite creationist-countering initiatives: the USA-based National Centre for Science Education (NCSE) created Project Steve many years ago now, as a response to the people who asked them for a list of actual scientists who do support evolution. Quite rightly, the NCSE concluded that not only would maintaining such a list would be a nightmare, but that it would send a regrettable signal that scientific issues should be decided by who has the longer list of scientists.
However, a list only of scientists with PhDs working only in relevant fields and named Steve (or Stephen, Steven, Esteban, Etienne, or Stephanie) would make a nice point, because it indicates that there is a much larger number of scientists not named a variant of Steve who also accept the evidence supporting the fundamental theories of evolutionary biology. The NCSE has been hoping that the standard question asked of anyone holding out a “list of dissenting scientists” would become “How many of them are Steves?” for quite a few years now, but they haven’t quite got there yet.
However, they have reached the stately and plump round number of 1,000 Steves, thanks to this addition to the roll:
Dr. Steve Darwin – no relation to Charles – has been a botanist and evolutionary biologist for over thirty years. Darwin is not only a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Tulane University in New Orleans, but also Director of Tulane’s herbarium, which boasts 115,000 specimens, with a focus on flora from the southeastern United States. He is the author of thirty-five publications in the field of plant biology.
Kinda kewl for Darwin’s bicentenary year, even if he’s not a relation. Congratulations Project Steve!