Doc Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I want to be Steve

This essay, "How Quantum Physics Can Teach Biologists About Evolution,"appeared in this morning's New York Times, and reminded me of this nifty endeavor, Project Steve, described as:

...the National Center for Science Education's (NCSE) "Project Steve" is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" or "scientists who dissent from Darwinism."

Only about 1% of scientists are named Steve, or variants thereof like Stephen (Project Steve was named such in honor of the late Stephen Jay Gould) yet thousands of "Steves" have signed on in support of eaching evolution in public schools. [Note added in proof; OK, not "thousands" but around 500 or so "Steves" have signed on; but "thousands" has a nice ring to it.] Unfortunately, I am neither a Stephanie nor a Stefania, so I am not qualified to become a NCSE Steve but I can still get the T-shirt!

One of the FAQ's of the Project Steve site discusses the noticeable lack of biologists on the creationists' lists. Of the creationist oriented scientists I have encountered over the years, or perhaps I should further qualify, those scientists who discounted evolution and adhered to the "creation in 6 days" myth, none were biologists or biochemists. Typically they were chemists of the more physical type or "computer scientists" although I think that "scientist" is a loose term for these techocratically hued IT nerds. One guy, a chemist, had written in his various organic chem. texts, "This book belongs to God," and various bellicose verses taken from the Old Testament. This fellow was a real lord-love-a-duck fundie curiosity.

Check out the National Center for Science Education. I'll link it to the Refuge. It's an in-depth resource for defense of teaching evolution in public schools.

The essay in the NYT makes a good point. Most of us practicing scientists have our heads buried in our real work at the bench, and thus the alarm calls warning us of creationist encroachment in our schools are muffled. The concept of theory is often misconstrued by the layman, thus adding niggling doubt to those observing the debate. But the facts remain, evolution is consistent with science, and there are no data supporting "intelligent design" or a whip it up in 6 days Earth. We need to raise our heads from the bench, or onerous midyear reviews if we are scientific management, a.k.a. feline guidance assistants, and speak in one voice. "Evolution! It's not just a theory. It's good science!"

On a related note, my younger kid, a performing-arts-drama-queen type, kicked butt on the science section of her standardized state middle school exam. Well, yes, it was just a standardized test, but as I have told her many times, regardless of what one chooses as a vocation, a solid understanding of science and math serves one well in this world,and that includes coursework on evolution.


At 10:12 AM, Blogger Seth Cohen said...

While in college two of my good friends moved into a place together.

One was an undergradute studying biology. The other was one of the smartest dudes I knew. He earned a Phd by about 23 in the UK and was doing post doc work in the US.

The undergraduate didn't believe in what he would call macro evolution even though he was a biology major. It drove my smart friend crazy.

It made for some great conversation when they got drunk and let down some of their ambitions.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger DocBushwell said...

And you were the cerebral fly on the wall during these inebriated devolution debates? That must have been entertaining.

The undergrad of your acquaintance was a rare bird. I don't think I ever encountered a biologist, at least in my scientific sphere, who eschewed macroevolution. Some who eschewed good behavior and avoidance of recreational pharmaceuticals, maybe, but NEVER macroevolution!

At 12:04 AM, Blogger SDC said...

OMG, I am so getting one of those T-shirts.

As an IT person though, and with no Ph.D., I guess I don't get to be one of the Steves on the list (actually as somebody who kicked studying C.S. to the curb in my first week as an undergrad, I tend to agree w/ your sentiments re: 'Computer Science'.)


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