I realize that I have been posting quite a bit about education and the evils of teaching creationism. These topics are a bit off topic for this blog but they are important in light of the fact that (a) this is an election year and (b) a new creationism propaganda film staring Ben Stein is about to be released.
This film and creationists in general claim that "big science" is stifling other viewpoints and that doing so is anti-scientific. However, this position has as much legs as the theory creationism itself(that would be none).
Allow me to illustrate how science actually works by considering another area that is not as emotionally charged as the origins of life. Let's consider physics and in particular Quantum Mechanics (QM). I am inspired to write this by a recent article in New Scientist titled Quantum Randomness may not be Random.
As most readers are probably aware, the meaning and interpretation Quantum Mechanics was hotly debated during the birth of modern physics (~1880 - 1930) . The two most famous individuals at the heart of this debate were Albert Einstein with his position best immortalized in the "God does not play dice" quote and Niels Bohr who argued for the abandonment of all notions of causality at the quantum level. Bohr's view point became known as the Copenhagen interpretation and it ultimately became the dominant viewpoint of physics and the one that the vast majority of physicists accept today. In fact, this interpretation of QM has the same status in physics as The Theory of Evolution has in biology.
The first point to be made is that during the evolution of modern physics there was certainly room for multiple viewpoints and these viewpoints were hotly debated. But these debates always followed a process of science which begins with the presentation of facts and uses logic and mathematics to reach conclusions. Of course, scientists are humans and a certain degree of emotion and bullying come into play as well but nothing is settled using these devices. They are only a back drop of the human saga that is science. However, this is not what is truly instructive.
Fast forward to 2008. Quantum Mechanics is the most successful theory in the history of physics and its equations are responsible for so much innovation in the modern world. Truly, QM has earned the right in physics to be untouchable dogma. Certainly any respectable physicist who would dare question the Copenhagen interpretation would be the laughing stock of his profession and his career would be ruined. Certainly the proponents of Creationism would have you believe that this is how science works. But they are wrong.
In the New Scientist article we learn that a respected physicist from Rutgers, Sheldon Goldstein, is trying to revive an older interpretation of QM called the Bohmian Model, after David Bohm. The details are not as important as the moral. Goldstein is not being mocked by physics (even though his views are squarely in the minority) because he and his peers question the dogma of QM on scientific grounds. He presents mathematical and logical arguments. When his peers raise objections he does not scream foul or prejudice but rather talks about possible experiments. He does not dismiss his peers arguments by arguing in circles nor does he draw on sources of mysticism that lie squarely outside of science. Goldstein and others can question Big Science while remaining well ground in the process that define the way science has always operated.
Creationist don't play by the rules of science but want the respect of scientists. They propose arguments which draw on misrepresentations of thermodynamics but when they are called out on this they jump to other arguments equally fallacious. It is not so much the argument of design that disturbs most scientists; its the lack of logical and consistent reasoning that pervades all of ID.
I doubt many proponents of ID read my blog but if there are any out there allow me to suggest the following analogy. Imagine a scientist walking into your church this Sunday and saying, "Listen all you Christians your whole process of worshiping Christ and interpreting the bible is wrong. You should interpret Mathew like such and such and Paul like this and that." Wouldn't you be furious? By what right does a heathen have in telling your preacher what the bible means. How dare he! Well I say to you, "How dare you! How dare you come into the house of science and tell it how it should be. By what right?!?. Please leave immediately! ... But if you'd like to drop a small monetary donation on the way out we'd gladly accept!