Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Cavalier Attitude

As long-term readers of RSR will know, we have engaged from time to time in a long-running debate with Dr. Richard Weikart, an intelligent design proponent and Discovery Institute fellow, who writes books and gives lectures that assert Darwin, evolution, and science are key factors in the rise of Hitler, the Nazis, and eugenics.

You would think that this line of thinking -- which, it turns out, is really taken directly from the Karl Rove playbook: Demonize your Opponents -- would make the intelligent design movement sensitive to issues involving the ethics of human experimentation.

But it does not.

The latest evidence comes from the statement issued yesterday by Robert DiSilvestro, a Professor of Human Nutrition, and Glen R. Needham, an Associate Professor of Entomology, at Ohio State University. Both are members of Bryan Leonard's dissertation committee. (Scroll down to read the earlier entry on this statement.)

Here's their cavalier dismissal of the ethics of human experimentation in Leonard's research:

The Ethics of Mr. Leonard's Research. It has been alleged by three OSU professors at that Mr. Leonard's dissertation was "unethical human subject experimentation" because it examines the question: "When students are taught the scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution, do they maintain or change their beliefs over time?" According to the Columbus Dispatch, these professors acknowledge they have not read Mr. Leonard's dissertation, but they believe that Mr. Leonard's dissertation research must have been "unethical" because there are no valid scientific criticisms of evolution.

What DiSilvestro and Needham conveniently forget to mention in this statement is that Leonard gave detailed testimony on his teaching methods at the Kansas science hearing roadshow in May.

Can teaching "the controversy" to a captive audience of impressionable, first-time biology students really amount to an ethical problem? Let's make a comparison.

Let's say we have a well-intentioned homeopathy advocate hired by a hospital to teach cancer patients how to follow their chemotherapy regimen. He decides to teach them about the controversy between medicine and homeopathy. Is there an ethical problem?

How about this, let's say we hire Tom Cruise to counsel women suffering from post-partum depression and he teaches them the controversy between Scientology and medicine. Ethical problem? You be the judge.


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