Thursday, March 13, 2003

Challenging Evolution From Agape Press, a self-described Christian news service, comes this article about Mississippi University for Women science professor Nancy Bryson. According to the article, Bryson was asked to resign from her position as head of the Division of Mathematics and Science for teaching "...alternate views on evolution including intelligent-design." The article does not give any specifics concerning what, precisely, she taught, but it does give lots of indignant quotes from Bryson about academic freedom.

Without knowing the specifics of what was taught it is difficult to comment on this, but the tone of the article does not make me optimistic. Academic freedom does not allow you to teach any crackpot theory you like, and if Bryson was presenting information that any biologist should know to be false then it was entirely appropriate to ask her to step down. I suspect that few people would want to defend a biologist who was teaching that disease is best explained via demon possession, or a physicist who argued for the luminiferous ether.

The trouble is that "alternate views on evolution" is usually code for some form of creationism, and there are simply no good scientific arguments to be made in defense of this view. If Bryson was teaching ID, then she probably repeated arguments to the effect that modern evoluionary theory can offer no account of the formation of so-called irreducibly complex machines, or that natural processes can not account for information growth in the genome. Both of these arguments are patently false, and a biologist who prsented such arguments favorably would deserve the condemnation of his/her peers.

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