Mike has some astute observations about the Disco. Inst.‘s Dissent from Darwinism List. Noting that Rob Crowther claims:
Signers of the Dissent List have signed the list because it is their professional opinion that the evidence is lacking for the claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Period. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Mike proceeds to point out that most of the signers have no professional basis for such an assessment. This is a fair and important point, but it misses an even fairer and more important point: the barrier to signing the list is far, far less than feeling that “the evidence is lacking for the claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.”
In fact, all one has to do to sign the damned list is be “skeptical” of the claim that natural selection and mutation alone can explain this range of biological phenomena. Since I think Mike would agree that neutral drift, gene flow, endosymbiosis, and recombination are also important factors, he would probably have no problem agreeing with such skepticism. Even strong selectionists, people who think that selection and mutation really do dominate evolutionary history would agree that skepticism of that claim, like any scientific idea, is healthy.
Given how trivial the Disco. statement is, it’s truly astonishing that only 700 scientists have backed it. Yeah, examine evidence for every scientific idea, and be skeptical about them, too. It’s important to be open-minded. But, as they say, not so open that your brain falls out. Perhaps scientists don’t want their thoughts misrepresented, and either don’t sign, or ask to be withdrawn from the list after signing.
NCSE has got 861 scientists backing a much stronger statement:
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.
These scientists have examined the evidence, considered it with appropriate scientific skepticism, and drawn that conclusion.
Now, having 161 more scientists may not seem impressive, but we’re a little choosier than the Disco. Inst. We won’t take any old person with a doctorate. No, no, it has to be in a field relevant to evolution.
Plus, the person has to be named Steve, Stephen, Stephanie, Esteban, etc. How many Steves has Disco. got?