Sunday, November 7, 2010

Marcus Ross and young earth creationism at the GSA 2010 meeting

Just within the last couple hours an email went out on the VertPaleo listserv, which was copied directly from Joe Meerts' blog, "Science, AntiScience, and Geology", and can be seen here.

Joe Meert reports on an incident at GSA, where Marcus Ross (well known to be a young earth creationist) was presenting non-creationist paleontological research. At the end of Ross' talk, Meert challenged him to explain how it fit into the context of young-earth creationist flood geological nonsense (my paraphrasing).

I'm rather surprised that there were so many people criticizing Meert for giving Ross a hard time or having any sympathy toward Ross at all. I feel a bit sympathetic towards Ross, simply because he does appear to have a genuine case of "scientific schizophrenia", and it must be quite difficult to remember every morning which pair of shoes to put on (functioning academic versus crazy-time fairy tale).

Meert understandably gave Ross a hard time, and for primarily one reason: Ross et al. go back to their creationist audience and say "look, we're real scientists! Our research is valid." And then say the same thing to the Texas board of education (which already has enough medieval loonies on it).

I completely agree with Meert on this: Marcus Ross et al. represent everything we as scientists and educators stand against. I know there's this whole thing called freedom of religion. But, if outside of the sphere of academia you tell people "I'm a real scientist, so you can believe everything I say, including that the flood killed all the dinosaurs" - that's a really, really malicious ethics violation, let alone a conflict of interest. I'm not advocating blacklisting and witch-hunting - but it is safe to say that the way things work currently just isn't good enough.

Granted, I understand GSA must not have any sort of abstract reviewing process - all you need to know is if "Geology of Star Wars" made it into a GSA poster session, young-earth lunacy can as well.

Unfortunately for my field, there seems to be a lot of interest by young-earth creationists in whale taphonomy; that will be covered in upcoming posts. And what happens with regarding citations of this work? Can their work be considered reliable? It certainly cannot be considered objective by any stretch of the imagination. Do we ignore it and not cite it? Do we call B.S.? This is a real problem.


Lee said...

I think our best bet is an educated public because there will always be crazies out there. If people were trained to be better critical thinkers, they wouldn't be swayed by the dishonest rhetoric of these characters, and they'd understand the importance of distinguishing what they want to be true from what is actually true. That in itself is another issue...

Mel said...

I really think changing our education system to represent more critical thinking skills is essential. Most people I know left religion because they started to question it and were not satisfied with the answers.
But, that does not help us with those already "educated."

Robert Boessenecker said...

I totally think that fixing our broken education system in this country is the way to go. We need more critical thinkers. However, there's also another problem - scientists who don't feel that creationism and intelligent design don't represent a major threat to science as a whole - the "vichy french" or "appeasers" of the situation, if you will. I'm terribly dissappointed that anyone complained to Meert about giving Marcus Ross a bad time. What do we do about the "real" research published by these people? What about at conferences?