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And Now, the Rest of the Story

By Sheila Suess Kennedy on April 24, 2014 in Civic Blog
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Yesterday, I posted the text of a speech I delivered at Monday to Greenwood Rotary. Today, I’ll share the rest of the story.

Let me set the stage, however, by being fair and pointing out that (1) the subject of the speech–the importance of science and what it tells us–was the choice of the Chapter President; (2) the program chair, with whom I chatted during the (dreadful) lunch, was not only receptive, but warned me that “a lot” of the members were “really conservative–you should have heard them during the debate over HJR3!” and (3) the average age in the room made me feel young by comparison.

The very first “question” (okay, rebuttal) was from a gentleman who rather patronizingly asked me if I understood the difference between “observational” and historical science. Actually, I do–or at least, I know people who promote that misleading distinction. (One of the most prominent is a website called “Answers in Genesis.”) As one science blog has explained,

“AIG is arguing that only scientific results that can be replicated in the lab are
‘observational science.’ Or to put it another way, only those results that we can
experience – that impinge on our senses – are scientific results.”

By implication, only these verifiable results are “true” science that produces true, certain knowledge. Any other form of scientific reasoning is “historical science,” which is not certain and thus, by implication, crap. At least, it’s crap whenever AIG finds that it doesn’t square with their creationism.

This is weird…. After all, the claims of Christian tradition, including creationism, are not verifiable in the lab.

This “question” put me in something of a bind; I didn’t want to say what I thought, which was essentially “Oh, I see you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid,” so I mumbled my way through a marginally nicer response and moved on to the next questioner, who suggested that science was just as “faith-based” as religion. I begged to differ, refrained from beating my head against the podium, and again moved on.

The entire question and answer period was like that.

The final question was “Even if climate change is real, maybe it’s good. What do you think?” I’d been on my best behavior up to that point, but I sort of snapped. I told him–sweetly–that whether it was good or bad depended on what you thought about Florida being underwater; it is, after all, a state that has caused the country considerable problems. Perhaps losing it would be a good thing.

When the question and answer period was over, a couple of elderly gentlemen did come up to whisper that they agreed with me. But another cornered me, insisting that I needed to review a “fantastic” website that demonstrated clearly just how scientists had sold the “scam” of evolution.

As I was making my break for the door, I smiled weakly at the program director and said “At least I wasn’t tarred and feathered!”

He smiled back and said, “You aren’t out the door yet.”

A4_1_10_SheilaKennedySheila Suess Kennedy, J.D. is Director of the Center for Civic Literacy and Professor of Law and Public Policy in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis. Her scholarly publications include six books and numerous law review and journal articles. Professor Kennedy is a columnist for the Indianapolis Business Journal and a frequent lecturer, public speaker and contributor to other popular periodicals. This post was originally published at sheilakennedy.net on April 24, 2014 and is republished here with the author’s permission.

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