Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance or Intellectual Dishonesty?

The Virginia Pilot has an intriguing story of a man named Marcus Ross who wrote a PhD dissertation at the University of Rhode Island in the subject of geosciences and doesn't believe a word of what he wrote.

Science tells Ross that the Earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago in a spectacular supernova explosion. Ross believes God created the Earth in seven days in 4004 B.C., a date many creationists reached by tracing biblical events backward .

The flood, according to Ross, occurred around 2300 B.C. and likely destroyed dinosaurs. He says the impregnation of broken fossils into rocks suggests the bones were slammed by a cataclysmic force of water.

Widely accepted methods of dating fossils may be flawed, according to Ross and other creationists. They say scientists derive dates from carbon-14 and potassium-argon testing based on an unproven assumption that the rate of decay remains constant over time.

The question being asked is whether someone who believes this and writes something entirely different in their dissertation is guilty of intellectual dishonesty or has internalized an almost insurmountable level of cognitive dissonance. How many geologists out there could stand up in front of a classroom and tell the class that the earth was created in 4004 B.C. with a straight face?

"We believe Dr. Ross is doing a tremendous disservice to his students and the public," Nick Matzke, a spokesman for the National Center for Science Education, a non profit group located in Oakland, Calif., that promotes the teaching of evolution, said in a telephone interview.

Michael Dini, a professor of biology education at Texas Tech University, said Ross should not have been awarded a doctorate. "Anyone who uses religious scripture or theological doctrine as a litmus test to gauge the validity of a scientific theory is no scientist," he wrote in an e-mail. "Is this discrimination? Yes! It's discrimination against bad science."

Dini, in 2003, made news by refusing to write letters of recommendation to graduate schools for students who would not offer a "scientific answer" for how the human race began. Writing recommendations "is a favor I grant only to those I respect," he said.

Read the whole thing.

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