Apparently Gordy Slack, author of a book on the Dover trial, has written a piece in The Scientist discussing (in his opinion) What neo-creationists get right. I can't access the article for some reason so I won't comment in detail, but fellow bloggers/academics Jeffrey Shallit and PZ Myers have discussed it unfavourably:
- Oh, the Inanity! Slack in The Scientist (Recursivity)
- What is wrong with journalists? (Pharyngula)
- Gordy Slack replies (Pharyngula)
Our own Hank Campbell has thrown in his 2.0 cents:
- Did neo-creationists get some things right? (Science 2.0)
If, as has been suggested, Slack is merely giving credit for pointing out that there are things we do not yet know, then PZ's criticism seems appropriate. This isn't so much what I want to discuss, however -- I want to focus instead on something in Hank's more congenial post, in which he stated:
So I looked at Slack's piece on its merits and he makes one point I have often made - it isn't just uneducated religious fundamentalists who maintain a belief without knowing what they are talking about. Plenty of atheists do the exact same thing without knowing a thing at all about adaptive radiation. They believe in evolution because scientists do. Their faith in science is blind and unquestioning and at the end of the day it's no different than the religious kind.
I agree that thee are many people who accept evolution -- probably most, in fact -- who have a very limited understanding of the topic. The important point, with which I also agree, is that "they [accept the historical fact of] evolution because scientists do". Where I disagree is in the claim that this is no different from religious faith.
When I am ill, I go to the doctor. I do not have advanced medical training, I do not regularly read medical literature, and I do not have a substantial knowledge of human ailments. I do, however, trust that my doctor does. I trust that the drugs he prescribes will have been tested and shown to be effecacious with tolerable side-effects. I trust that the connection between treatment and disease has been worked out and is understood well enough for the diagnosis and response to be accurate. I trust that he is basing his decision on a firm knowledge of the human body and the problems that beguile it. If any of these turned out not to be the case, I would be looking for a different physician. In short, I myself am "blind" in medical situations, but I do not have "blind faith" in modern medicine.
Similarly, I do not expect non-specialists to have a detailed knowledge of any particular scientific topic, but I hope that they will understand the process by which knowledge is developed, tested, and updated in science. If someone accepts something because scientists do -- and indeed, that is why I accept the existence of atoms and relativity, though I am not a physicist -- then all they need to have confidence in is the scientific method. And they should do so, as I do when visiting the doctor, by expecting results. If science were constantly, terribly, irreparably incorrect, then no one should believe it. But if airplanes fly, computers compute, and antibiotics kill bacteria, then we can be confident that the method works for the most part. And since evolution has been studied with the same method, and has survived 150 years worth of testing, I think it is anything but "blind faith" to accept, along with scientists, that it is a historical reality regarding life on this planet.