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Prof Denied Funds Over Evolution Evidence 953

radarsat1 writes "The Montreal Gazette today reported that a professor at Montreal's McGill University was refused a $40,000 grant, allegedly because 'he'd failed to provide the panel with ample evidence that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is correct.' Ironically, the grant was for a study into the detrimental effects of intelligent design on Canadian academics and leaders." From the article: "Jennifer Robinson, McGill's associate vice-principal for communications, said the university has asked the SSHRC to review its decision to reject Alters's request for money to study how the rising popularity in the United States of 'intelligent design' - a controversial creationist theory of life - is eroding acceptance of evolutionary science in Canada."
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Prof Denied Funds Over Evolution Evidence

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  • Re:Correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:29PM (#15079445) Homepage
    Whatsamatta with you, you say we all have to read it and no link? I have rectified this. r.pdf []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:33PM (#15079493)
    There always seems to be a blurring between Intellegent Design and Creationism in everything I read about this controversial topic. Doesn't seem correct to me.

    Intellegent Design is simply looking at the complexity of all the things around us and saying that to some degree or another, some higher intellegence has a hand in it. Even if it was simply putting it in motion at some stage of history. There were and are plenty of scientists who don't buy full-out evolution but also don't buy "world created in 6 24-hour days" Creationism either.

    Seems unfair to start lumping them together. People should be able to talk about ID without being labeled "Christian Crazies". Even Einstien believed in some sort of God.
  • by Lev13than (581686) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:39PM (#15079555) Homepage
    The SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) is not a backwaters school board stacked with religious fundamentalists. It is a mainstream, government-monitored agency that hands out almost $300mm per year of social sciences funding. Only 40% of applications get approved. In this case, it looks like they were justified in rejecting his application. Indeed, it looks like Alters is being a bit of a publicity-hunting suck. From another source []:

    Eva Schacherl, a spokeswoman for the council, said Wednesday the multidisciplinary committee was not convinced the proposal's scholarly approach was sound or that it would provide objective results on the question.
    "I just want to underline that it is not correct to suggest that the funding proposal was not accepted because the council or the committee had doubts about evolution," she said.
    "We understand the way the committee's comments were transcribed or written down or summarized could have misled him and we really regret that the note sent to him gave the impression that the committee had doubts about evolution. That was really not what the committee intended."
    Schacherl noted the council has funded other research projects on evolution and gave $175,000 to Alters last year for a three-year project on concepts of biological evolution in Islamic society.

    In short, just because you have the right idea doesn't mean you automatically get funding for a flawed study.
  • by shmotlock (827592) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:40PM (#15079562) Homepage
    Science is "The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena" - At no point has intelligent Design been observed or tested, only speculated. The Bible is not a scientific journal and cannot considered a legitimate source of observational data.

    A theory is "A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena" At no point has Intelligent Design been tested so despite being widely accepted it has not been accepted by science.

    The only purpose of teaching Intelligent Design in school would be to make teaching it in church optional. This fact means one would be supporting church in schools, but this cannot be allowed in the US because of the separation of church and state. Good luck Canada.

    What else is there to argue about?
  • Re:I don't get it (Score:3, Informative)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:46PM (#15079629) Journal
    I'll never understand the intelligent design versus evolution debate. The two seem to me to have nothing to do with one another. Evolution is a valid scientific theory based on physical evidence and intelligent design is more of a philosophy that really can't be proven one way or another. Further, they aren't mutually exclusive.
    Well, it seems that you don't know what the ID promoters are putting forward. Supporters of ID see it as in conflict with some of the central tenets of evolution. They don't see it as a philosophy -- because that would undercut the central point of ID that it is [claimed] not to be religious.

    The believers of ID claim that certain features of life as we know it could not have been created through evolution and therefore, there must be a "designer". ID promotors point to specific (but different according to different ID theories) features, or organs and say, "this is too complex to develop through natural means -- there must be a supernatural force at work". Of course, what they really mean is "we don't understand the precise mechanism under which this happened, therefore, it did not happen at all", but that presupposes that humans are all-knowing and therefore that we are in fact gods, since ID theory requires that for something to have happened, we must be able to understand it, which would mean that we understand all there is to know about the universe.... oops, was that ID theory disappearing in a circle of its own logic?

  • by vidarh (309115) <> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:48PM (#15079651) Homepage Journal
    ID does not in any way claim that evolution did not happen, only that it may be the method through which an intelligent entity created us.

    Repeat that as many times as you'd like, but fact is a significant part of intelligent design proponents use intelligent design specifically as a tool to try to spread doubt about the validity of the theory of evolution.

    Trying to pretend otherwise is either ignorant or dishonest. Which are you?

  • Re:Correction (Score:4, Informative)

    by hehman (448117) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:56PM (#15079733) Homepage Journal
    Don't want to read a 139 page PDF document? Skip to the delicious summary on page 136, including these choice quotes:

    The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
    To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.
    The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.
  • by Oligonicella (659917) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @03:59PM (#15079782)
    Point by point, oh foolishly self-ignorant one:

    Intelligent design, when ... as evolution is.

    Not even close. Evolution is a fact. The various hypothesis as to how it functions are layed out in a format that can be examined against the evidence available as to their validity. Furthermore they can make projections, like say, if humans create new carbon-based chemicals, the biota will adjust in time to consume them. Guess what? Nylon ingesting bacteria.

    ... there are gaping holes in the theory of evolution you could drive a truck through

    Mighta helped if you offered one, but I'll make do. Evolution basically states that organisms will change over time. We have literally tons of fossil evidence which explicitly supports this idea. If you have further thoughts, you might at least make them less vague.

    He freely admitted that evolution could not explain complex organs like the eye.

    Why, oh why do creationists keep trotting out lies like this? Not only did he not say that (provide complete context, not quote snippets), we currently have on this planet various life forms which exhibit the states of the eye's evolution. In fact, we have various life forms which show that the eye is not only capable of being evolved, it is capable of being evolved in a number of ways.

    My point here is NOT to advocate ID, or the dismissal of Darwinist theory.

    Uh, bullshit. If that were so, you wouldn't have made the false claim about the lack of evidence, for instance.

    When you continue to insist you are right about something you can't prove, what you have is not a theory anymore - it's a religion.

    Excellent, you've just described ID. Since there is emperical evidence for evolution, arguments against its very existence reek of a religious point of view that holds a book written thousands of years ago as being more correct than one's own eyes.

    I personally believe that the answer to this is somewhere in the middle.

    Just for your edification, there is no middle ground between goddunnit and the world works with its own mechanisms. Not in any manner that can be examined at least. And that is the fundamental deciet of the ID'rs, that the "theory" of ID can be examined. A noteworthy point is that they are incapable of coming up with a manner with which it can.

    But it's just a theory - I could be wrong.

    Much like ID, not it in a scientific sense. You are wrong because of your refusal to examine the evidence and frame a logically sound, yet falsifiable hypothesis. No more.
  • Re:What theory? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Whibla (210729) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:08PM (#15079894)
    Sorry, but I couldn't resist :)

    All, of what we experience as, matter arises as a direct result of quantum fluctuations in the vacuum energy inside the black hole which we (our universe) exist(s).


    Do I qualify to comment on ID now?
  • by darthlurker (663459) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:30PM (#15080086)

    Have to agree after readong another another article [] on the same story. The guy was turned down for his study. Not because there isn't ample evidence that evolution is "correct" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean). But because it wasn't felt objective results could be obtained.

    Here's the SSHRC committee's response (from the mentioned article) for his study titled: "Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution's intelligent design theory on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators and policymakers."

    The committee found that the candidates were qualified. However, it judged the proposal did not adequately substantiate the premise that the popularizing of Intelligent Design Theory had detrimental effects on Canadian students, teachers, parents and policymakers. Nor did the committee consider that there was adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of Evolution, and not Intelligent Design theory, was correct. It was not convinced, therefore, that research based on these assumptions would yield objective results. In addition, the committee found that the research plans were insufficiently elaborated to allow for an informed evaluation of their merit. In view of its reservations the committee recommended that no award be made.

  • by CDS (143158) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:33PM (#15080100)
    To study the effects of a belief in a socialogical sense one must first understand the real belief, not the view of the uneducated on the topic.

    To study the effects of a belief in a socialogical sense, one must first understand the view of the uneducated (also known as "the masses") on the topic. The "real belief" -- also known as "from the point of view of the scholars who study the belief" only peripherally comes into play here. The sociological effects of a movement rests FIRMLY in the viewpoint of the masses who believe in it. Their view may not be completely accurate, but they have momentum on their side. Truth is a casualty of this effect. This is true for ALL beliefs - religious or secular. ID has nothing to do with this. It's pure sociology (as defined by me - someone FIRMLY entrenched in the role of The Uneducated Masses)

  • Why SSHRC funding? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromo AT mac DOT com> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:39PM (#15080161) Homepage Journal

    A bit of background for those who are not familiar with some of the common academic research funding bodies here in Canada.

    SSHRC [] is for the funding of Social Science and Humanities research, which includes things like literature research. A good friend of mine who is working on her Ph.D. in English has an application in for an SSHRC grant.

    NSERC [] is for the funding of scientific and engineering research.

    There are a few critical points to understand about these two funding organizations:. NSERC has way more money than the SSHRC. Scientific and engineering researchers typically have no problems getting the funding they need, whereas social science and humanities researchers can have a really hard time getting anything from the SSHRC. The SSHRC just doesn't get much money, and has to be stingy in doleing it out to ensure they get the best bang for their buck.

    As such, it is entirely possible that the reason for the SSHRC denying this grant would be because the grant application was simply incomplete.

    From my perspective as someone who has lived in three Provinces (and who has been to all the rest, with the notable exception of Newfoundland), Intelligent Design is a complete and total non-starter here in Canada. If it weren't for /. and exposure to US-based news services, I doubt I'd even have heard about it. There is no political movement here to stop the teaching of evolution in schools, no court cases, nothing. To most Canadians, it's just another of those idiotic ultra-conservative American things that occurs from time to time, and not something the vast majority of Canadians want any part of.

    While I personally think this research would be interesting, it is quite possible that the SSHRC has more pressing areas of research to handle, such as the serious social problems in native communities. With only so much money to go around, there are inevitably going to be very worthy projects which get rejected for funding. The trick for a researcher is to look elsewhere for the funding they need to get their research completed and published.


  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:52PM (#15080260) Homepage
    Your viewpoint is common among those Christians who appreciate science and aren't aware of the fundamentalist political motivations for ID. My father, for example, put it in more or less the same terms: "Intelligent Design" just means that evolution occured, and that it occured was God's will. From this view, where science is the "how" and God is the "why", "Intelligent Design" is just putting a name to the concept and shouldn't affect one iota the scientists doing evolution research (whether those scientists are religious or not), because it makes zero new scientific claims.

    Of course creating a word for the harmony that can exist between science and religion is not the reason ID was created.

    The whole point of Intelligent Design is to be an alternative to evolution, to replace it with a theory that (very) superficially* does not seem to be religious in nature. ID is supposed to discredit evolution, and leave open the possibility of Creationism, and to even allow Creationism (its nature covered by the thin veneer ID offers) to be taught in public schools without violating the 1st Ammendment.

    ID was created to destroy the "heretical" teaching of evolution, and as such people with views like yours (and mine, and my father's) are diametrically opposed to the true supporters of ID. It is the thin end of the wedge intended to drive fundamentalism into our schools and "secular" scientific teaching out.

    ID is a political movement with political goals, and a rational attempt to reconcile ID's statements with the scientific facts of evolution is contrary to those goals. So while I agree 100% with your view, you must take great care in using "Intelligent Design" to describe it, because you will be misrepresenting yourself.

    * ID proponents may tell you that ID does not necessarily mean the Christian God or any other god did it, and maybe it was space aliens. They're lying to conceal ID's religious basis. The whole argument of ID is that something like the human brain could not have developed from natural processes, so some other intelligence must have made the brain. By ID's central hypothesis, that other intelligence could not have arisen from natural processes. Simple induction tells us that however long the sequence of Designers, the original Designer must therefore be supernatural. Everyone intuitively understands this, especially the fundamentalist backers of ID, but they have to pretend not to in order to avoid that annoying Separation of Church and State.
  • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:54PM (#15080276)
    Just so I clear this up I believe in evolution, however, I also firmly believe in God, I see no reason why both theories cannot co-exist, even the vatican support this view.

    I know that it is popular to hold the Vatican up as an anti Scientific organization which is unfair because it's attitude to science has radically changed since the 16th century (Just for example: Gregor Mendel the genetics pioneer was an Augustinians monk). The modern Vatican is in no way shape or form a staunch supporter of intelligent design. Pope John Paul II was quoted as saying that "fresh knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis". As far as I know evolution is taught in the Catholic school system and the Vaticans traditional position has always been either 'no comment' which in later years has given way to the cautious position that evolution and Catholic dogma are not in conflict. You can probably cite a number of examples of people in the Catholic Church making pro Intelligent Design comments but recent and official outspoken statements by people in the Vatican that REALLY matter against Evolution and in support of Intelligent Design as preached by the most vocal US based Christian fundamentalists is something I'd like to see.
  • by ClamIAm (926466) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @05:14PM (#15080437)
    The Darwinists are not saying that Creationists are wrong

    I guess it depends on which Darwinist you talk to.

  • by Thangodin (177516) <elentar@symp a t i> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:59PM (#15081681) Homepage
    ID is part of a strategy called The Wedge, which was leaked in a memo from the Discovery Institute. The Wedge strategy is to undermine the naturalistic approach to understanding the world in favour of a supernaturalistic interpretation. There is a major problem with this: a supernaturalistic world view precludes the practice of science. The chain of cause and effect is broken because at any point one can claim that God intervened and rendered your data meaningless. This is precisely the strategy of pseudo-scientists, frauds, and psychic con-men when they fail any scientific challenge to their claims--they assert that hidden causes of a psychic or supernatural nature intervened to render the tests meaningless.

    The battle between ID and Evolution is a defence of science. If creationists intentionally put God in harm's way to advance their cause, then God will bear the brunt of the scientific argument. This happens only because creationists deliberately define God in such a way as to conflict with well established scientific facts--as an Interventionist Creator. They do this with a specific political agenda in mind. The outcome of this for moderate religionists will be one of two defeats. Either their religion will come to be held in ridicule and contempt, or the creationists will win the argument and America will fall into decline and ruin as it loses its scientific and technological competence. The second defeat would be much worse than the first, because then, an external power, probably an atheistic one, will get to sing the tune their descendants dance to.

    In the late 60's conservative think tanks came up with the Silent Majority, the moderate bulge which did not take part in the radicalism of the 60's. This in turn became the Moral Majority. A large proportion of the population still sits silently and allows ignorant demagogues to speak for them, even though they do not actually share the view of that extreme fringe. They simply have not taken the time or effort to understand what they really believe, or the consequences of those beliefs. Unfortunately, the vast majority of so-called believers no more understand their faith than they do science.

    So, to all those self-proclaimed moderates out there, quit wasting your time arguing with atheists and wake up to what's being said in your name. It's your ass that's going to end up in a sling. Christianity is being hijacked for political purposes, corrupting both politics and religion. There's a great line in Hannah and her Sisters: "If Jesus could hear what was being said in his name, he would never stop throwing up!"

    We really don't care what you believe, as long as you don't try to peddle bullshit to children too young and naive to know better. There is such a thing as the truth, and truth happens to be on the side of the evolutionists, with as much certainty as human beings are capable of (and yes, the Bible too is the work of human beings--it has our greasy finger prints all over it.) At one time Christianity meant an allegiance to the truth, which is why so many Christians became scientists--they preferred to get their knowledge first-hand from nature, rather than passed from hand to hand to hand ad nauseum through scripture. If Christianity has not sunk to the depths of invertebrate relativism, prove it!

    We're waiting...
  • Re:What theory? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot3@p h r o g> on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:10PM (#15081732) Homepage
    Since when is Intelligent Design/Creationism a "theory"? It doesn't even deserve the reputation as theory. Theories are rational, testable and predictive. ID/Creationism is fantasy. Evolution can offer predictions about the natural world. What can ID/Creationism "predict"?

    First off, I was surprised to discover that Creationism and Intelligent Design are so different.

    Creationism starts with the idea that God created the universe and everything in it about 6,000 years ago, and there was a worldwide Flood around 4,000 years ago, as described in the Bible. Starting with that premise, it seeks to explain the mechanics of how the events since the time of Creation have occurred (i.e. how the Flood occurred, what other catastrophic geological events happened at the same time, what happened to the climate since then, etc.), since the Bible is very sparse on details. Creationism predicts that you'll find evidence of a pre-Flood tropical climate in all parts of the world, that you'll find evidence of a massive flood all over the world (including lots of fossils), that you will not find trees more than 4,000 years old, and you should find evidence that humans lived at the same time as extinct animals such as dinosaurs. Some of these predictions have proved true, some have not. The validity of radiometric dating is a pretty major sticking point, since anything accurately dated at over 6,000 years old breaks the Creation model, so either the model is wrong or the dating method is flawed; obviously Creationists believe the latter.

    Intelligent Design, on the other hand, is the philosophy that life is too complicated to have evolved by chance, and therefore must have been created by a supernatural Designer (whose identity and origin is beyond the scope of ID). Essentially, ID says there cannot be a natural explanation for the existence of certain things (though exactly which things these are doesn't seem to be clearly defined), and so looking for a natural explanation is a pointless waste of time. It should be pretty obvious that this is not a scientific idea, and it's not coherent enough to be called a religion either; philosophy is the only category I've heard it put in that really seems to fit. Although I agree with the basic premise of ID (that life cannot have evolved by chance), I disagree with its conclusion (that trying to find natural explanations for things is a waste of time), largely because throughout history, natural explanations have been found for all kinds of things that had previously thought to have no natural explanation.

    Please correct me if I've misstated something. :-)
  • Re:One qualification (Score:3, Informative)

    by bunratty (545641) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @09:20PM (#15081769)
    Sure there are darwinists []. I am a darwinist who is not a biologist. There are also biologists who are not darwinists.
  • Eyes (Score:3, Informative)

    by alexo (9335) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @10:41PM (#15082103) Journal
  • Re:Please tell me (Score:4, Informative)

    by windowpain (211052) on Friday April 07, 2006 @12:22AM (#15082285) Journal
    The Big Bang theory predicts that the early universe was a very hot place and that as it expands, the gas within it cools. Thus the universe should be filled with radiation that is literally the remnant heat left over from the Big Bang, called the "cosmic microwave background radiation", or CMB.

    The existence of the CMB radiation was first predicted by George Gamow in 1948, and by Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman in 1950. It was first observed inadvertently in 1965 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. The radiation was acting as a source of excess noise in a radio receiver they were building. Coincidentally, researchers at nearby Princeton University, led by Robert Dicke and including Dave Wilkinson of the WMAP science team, were devising an experiment to find the CMB. When they heard about the Bell Labs result they immediately realized that the CMB had been found. The result was a pair of papers in the Physical Review: one by Penzias and Wilson detailing the observations, and one by Dicke, Peebles, Roll, and Wilkinson giving the cosmological interpretation. Penzias and Wilson shared the 1978 Nobel prize in physics for their discovery.

    The rest of the story is at NASA's Cosmolology 100 [] site.

    For a fascinating and very readable book-length account read Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh.

"Consider a spherical bear, in simple harmonic motion..." -- Professor in the UCB physics department