Support Evolution Research; But Don't Support Anti-Scientific Attitudes
Last week reports stated that a Canadian evolutionist education expert, Brian Alters, was denied funding of a project entitled "Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution's intelligent design theory on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators and policymakers."
While I am skeptical that design proponents have a desire or capability to stifle evolution-based scholarship, I make my primary point: no one should have his or her funding denied simply because it would support an unpopular position among those holding the funding purse-strings. For this reason, pro-evolution and pro-ID research should both be absolutely supported. Individuals at the SSHRC had no right to deny funding to Dr. Alters' research if their reason was that they disagreed with his strong pro-evolution viewpoints. But perhaps they had other legitimate reasons for denying his research:
When research would threaten open inquiry in science, should it be funded?
The famous physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer once stated:
"There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist ... must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors."
(J. Robert Oppenheimer, physicist, Manhattan Project, Life Magazine 10/10/1949)
As it turns out, Brian Alters' research was based upon the following dogmatic, anti-scientific attitude:
"Evolution is not an assumption, and intelligent design is pseudo-science," said Mr. Alters. "I think SSHRC should come out and state that evolution is a scientific fact and that intelligent design is not."
Perhaps if Dr. Alters respected Oppenheimer's quote, he would realize why funding his research would have been dangerous to the spirit of open-inquiry in science. Regardless, it looks like this $40,000 is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $650,000 grant Alters has already received to study the teaching of biological origins in schools.