Science, offensiveness, and denialism

I want to experiment with a triad of quotes. Let’s start with Kevin Henke, an atheistic scientist whose works are quoted by old-earth creation websites:

Clearly, YECs [Young-Earth Creationists] cannot allow any of their ‘research results’ to challenge their biblical interpretations or offend the religious views of their fundamentalist sponsors and other allies.  In contrast, no authentic scientist would ever promise not to produce results that might offend their sponsors or other members of the public.

But that assertion fits poorly with these sentiments from Hank Green:

But taboos are no joke, they’re powerful things and when it comes to science, taboos can keep all kinds of things from being studied, or even talked about…

The story of Doctor [Ignaz] Semmelweis [in the 19th century] helps illustrate the power of a taboo, when social norms forbid a certain practice or way of thinking, and the risks that come along with challenging a taboo…

But what about today? Here we run into a bit of catch-22. By definition, scientists aren’t willing to talk about taboos. Sometimes just because they don’t want to talk about it, sometimes out of a fear of losing their jobs, or their tenure, or their credibility. But once you start looking, it’s clear that almost every scientific discipline from biology to medicine to astronomy to physics has their own subjects that they like to keep hush-hush.

Dean Radin sharpens this point:

So let’s consider taboos in science…another taboo is that it’s virtually impossible to question the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS without being ridiculed or dismissed as a crackpot. The fact is that there are some scientists with good credentials who do doubt the standard story about the HIV/AIDS relationship, but you’re not likely to hear much about it in the scientific literature. It’s considered at this point a kind of a dogma and a taboo.

My two cents

Against the backdrop of quotes 2 and 3, the first quote is not a true statement about the scientific fraternity—rather, it is shown up as a selective polemic against young-earth creationists by an old-earth creationist website. What stood out to me was the term ‘authentic scientist’; that’s a loaded term, and it reminds me of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

The last sentence of the first quote is a stretch How many authentic scientists were asked in reaching that conclusion? Did any happen to have a file drawer problem in their offices? ;)

Maybe a true Scotsman could tell me.

Quote sources

  1. Henke, K.R. (n.d). Creation Science Rebuttals – More Rats in RATE: Putting Biblical Dogmatism and the Expectations of Sponsors Above Legitimate Science. Available: http://www.oldearth.org/rats.htm. Last accessed 23rd Apr 2013.
  2. Green, H. (2012). Taboos of Science. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_dEsw1Ff1U. Last accessed 23rd Apr 2013.
  3. Radin, D. (2007). Taboos in Science. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bqrc9sgOe4A. Last accessed 23rd Apr 2013.
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