Monday, February 12, 2007

Intellectual honesty?

NYT - Believing Scripture but Playing by Science’s Rules
There is nothing much unusual about the 197-page dissertation Marcus R. Ross submitted in December to complete his doctoral degree in geosciences here at the University of Rhode Island.

His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is “impeccable,” said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross’s dissertation adviser. “He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework.”

But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a “young earth creationist” — he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one “paradigm” for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, “that I am separating the different paradigms.”
The article continues on to discuss the use of scientific degrees by creationists to somehow validate their positions as scientific, and the ability (or lack thereof) of universities to use the religious beliefs of degree candidates as criteria for awarding or withholding degrees.

It just seems to me that student here is being intellectually dishonest. He is unwilling to be honest with himself. Either he believes what his dissertation says or he doesn't. All of this "one paradigm or another" business doesn't cut it for me in this circumstance. Now I can say "if one follows a realist paradigm" even if I'm not a realist, but I'm not going to write a dissertation arguing in favor of that paradigm.

I suppose that the universities shouldn't be able to deny people degrees based on their religious beliefs on the one hand, but if the candidates have truly steeled themselves against believing what they are being taught, it seems that they don't really deserve the degree in the first place. Ultimately, it just seems like a really odd thing to do.

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