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Since the inception of this newsletter we have several times
touched upon the importance of rigorous methodology and hard evidence when
scientific claims are made. Many new scientific or quasi-scientific
hypotheses appear in scientific publications or the lay press without
having been fully supported through the essential steps of the scientific
method. Often these hypotheses are uncritically picked up and repeated
without the qualifications the original authors used; in this process, the
hypotheses or claims deteriorate into pseudo-science or nonsense. In other
cases, scientists who have established credibility or prominence in one
field get carried away and, abandoning the working principles that have
served them well, they venture into areas where they have no expertise and,
using their name recognition, support unsustainable hypotheses. Sometimes
the public is misled by such efforts, at least for a while. But the
scientific community rarely is. Any idea or hypothesis concerning the
material world is just that, until verified by observations or controlled
experiments.

Two articles in this issue deal with different aspects of this
problem. One (p. 1) emphasizes the importance of data when claims are made,
using the contrasting views of two prominent scientists. It offers some
interesting insights into how some hypotheses become accepted while others
are rejected. One of the authors, Barry A. Palevitz, was active in founding
The Sagan Society of the University of Georgia, an organization with goals
similar to those of SDARI. Their very interesting, informative website is
www.uga.edu/dogsbody. One of Palevitz's interests is "to inform and excite
the public about contemporary science, illustrate the scientific process,
and hopefully, help increase the public's support for science and their
awareness of the natural world around them".

The other article (p. 4) gives an example of how someone with a
degree of scientific credibility uses his belief in "Intelligent Design"
[not evidence] to attack the accepted, proven, valid scientific theory of
evolution. This appears to reflect a disturbing trend that is developing. The
proponents of religion based creationism, having been consistently rebuffed
by the courts in their attempts to bring "scientific" creationism into the
schools, may be changing their approach. They may hope that by replacing
Bible-based "creation science" with the euphemistic "intelligent design
theory", the courts may look more kindly on their efforts to get their
anti-evolutionary views into the schools. So far, most of these new efforts
have been directed at college students, often through the activities of the
Campus Crusade for Christ. Obviously, the anti-evolutionists are trying to
influence the next generation of teachers, journalists, politicians,
business people, and others who will play crucial roles in setting the
trends of the future. Beware!

Sadly, one of the strong voices against creationism in San Diego,
Professor Frank T. Awbrey at SDSU, died on May 31, 1998. Last year he
presented a persuasive lecture, "The Case Against Scientific Creationism",
at one of SDARI's public meetings.

It was of no comfort to Dr. Awbrey's friends and colleagues when
Staff Writer Jack Williams in the obituary in The San Diego Union-Tribune
attributed his award from the American Humanist Association to "his work in
explaining the history and nature of man from viewpoints other than
creationism."  It is troublesome that a major newspaper, in describing
Awbrey's work, did not want to mention the word evolution. It is a shame
that the editors let that one slip by. ---

The editor can be reached by E-mail at ehemming@san.rr.com or by
FAX at 619-454-1158