11.1.05

RIGHT NAME, WRONG TERMINAL DEGREE. Steve Verdon discovers the National Center for Science Education's Project Steve.

Creationists draw up these lists to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a "theory in crisis." Most members of the public lack sufficient contact with the scientific community to know that this claim is totally unfounded. NCSE has been exhorted by its members to compile a list of thousands of scientists affirming the validity of the theory of evolution, but although we easily could have done so, we have resisted such pressure. We did not wish to mislead the public into thinking that scientific issues are decided by who has the longer list of scientists!

Project Steve mocks this practice with a bit of humor, and because "Steves" are only about 1% of scientists, it incidentally makes the point that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution. And it honors the late Stephen Jay Gould, NCSE supporter and friend.

We'd like to think that after Project Steve, we'll have seen the last of bogus "scientists doubting evolution" lists, but it's probably too much to ask. We do hope that at least when such lists are proposed, reporters and other citizens will ask, "but how many Steves are on your list!?"

The criteria for membership are here. Although the Center is not interested in Economics Ph.D.s, the project merits mention here for two substantive reasons. (The nonsubstantive reason comes at the end of the post.) First, the exposure to experimental science most youngsters receive is pretty slim, which contributes to the lack of contact with the "scientific community." Second, the project illustrates the dangers inherent in government-provided schooling, as school boards are subject to capture by scientific illiterates or by mushy-headed multiculturalists. The problem, dear readers, is with the government provision of the schools themselves, rather than with the means to attend the schools.

As far as the lists themselves go, we require strengthening of philosophical reasoning as well. A list perpetuates the ad popularum fallacy (hey, the operator of that site oughta join Project Steve too.)

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