‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Reiss under attack from some Royal Society members

Some members of the Royal Society are attacking Michael Reiss for his recent comments that discussions about creationism should be allowed in schools. Clearly they are angered by this. Sir Harry Kroto and Sir Richard Roberts, both Nobel prize winners, and others, have demanded the sacking of Reiss as the Royal Society’s education director. This follows Reiss's claim last week that creationism should be discussed in schools' science classes if raised by pupils.

Roberts thinks it is; ‘…outrageous that this man is suggesting that creationism should be discussed in a science classroom. It is an incredible idea and I am drafting a letter to other Nobel laureates - which would be sent to the Royal Society - to ask that Reiss be made to stand down.'

Dawkins commented that the idea that a; ‘clergyman [can be] in charge of education for the country's leading scientific organisation – [is a] a Monty Python sketch.'

Kroto commented that; 'The thing the Royal Society does not appreciate is the true nature of the forces arrayed against it and the Enlightenment for which the Royal Society should be the last champion.'

So much for respect for people of faith and free speech in an organisation that is allegedly committed to non authoritarian science. Robin McKie, writing in the Guardian, commented in the headline that scientists must ‘nail’ the creationists.[1] This does make one wonder about the state of mind of some of these secular humanists who seem to have deep seated insecurities as observed by outward displays of intolerant language, and through seeking to eliminate their opponents.

At the end of the day the Royal Society’s motto is 'Nullius in verba' which translates, 'on no one's word of authority.' It seems though that it is perceived religious authority that some members of the Royal Society hate more than their own authority, which they seek to bring to bear on science. Or perhaps they are blind to this determined authority that they use to ban open discussion about origins in school science classes. Michael Polanyi instead argued that there can only be general authority in science based on freedom, truth, and conscience.[2] And that is something the Royal Society scientists cannot ‘nail’ down how ever hard they try.

As an aside, it is interesting to read the history of the Royal Society where Joseph Lister was arguing against the Flood geology of Nicolai Steno on the basis that there was a plastic theory at work in the earth that could generate fossils. Steno's Flood geology correctly predicted the organic origin of fossils. The plastic theory of fossil formation was later rejected, but a Platonic 'plastic theory' of evolution as a 'source of generation' under David Hume and Erasmus Darwin was developed instead.

[1] Robin McKie, Our scientists must nail the creationists Guardian, 14 Sept 08

[2] Polanyi, M., Science, Faith, and Society. Oxford Univ. Press, 1946.
Andrew S

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