Brian Alters, of McGill University, had a grant proposal turned down for an unusual reason.
In denying his request, the research council’s peer-review committee recently sent Mr. Alters a letter explaining he’d failed to “substantiate the premise” of his study.
It said he hadn’t provided “adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent-design theory, was correct.”
Oh, well…another researcher with a grant that hasn’t been funded, trying to rationalize his failure. We need to see the whole letter—surely he must have just lifted that sentence out of context, right? Let’s hear what the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has to say.
Janet Halliwell, the research council’s executive vice-president and a chemist by training, acknowledged yesterday that the “framing” of the committee’s comments to Mr. Alters left the letter “open to misinterpretation.”
OK, Ms Halliwell, I’m trying to be charitable. Explain how it was misinterpreted.
Ms. Halliwell said confidentiality obligations made it difficult for her to discuss Mr. Alters’ case in detail, but argued the professor had taken one line in the letter “out of context” and the rejection of his application shouldn’t indicate they were expressing “doubts about the theory of evolution.”
May I call you Janet? I bet Alters would be willing to waive confidentiality. Tell me, please, Janet, what the context was. You’re being awfully vague, and that one sentence from Alters is awfully damning.
However, Ms. Halliwell added there are phenomena that “may not be easily explained by current theories of evolution,” and the scientific world’s understanding of life “is not static. There’s an evolution in the theory of evolution.”
You tease! What exactly does that mean? Do you think evolution is “evolving” towards the nonsense of ID? Do you think there is good reason to believe evolutionary theory is incorrect? What justification do you think investigators need to make for evolution nowadays, and do you similarly expect chemists to throw a couple of pages of justification for atomic theory in their proposals? What justification can an investigator give that ID is correct?
I’m sorry, Janet. That exchange wasn’t particularly good for me, and I suspect you’re feeling frustrated, too. You’ve got to be more open and share more. I haven’t heard anything to justify your council’s strange demand that a grant proposal demonstrate that evolution is correct and ID isn’t.
I’m also sorry to see that the infection of ignorance rampant in the United States is spreading northward.
The story also made this week’s issue of Nature, with a nicely ironic conclusion:
Philip Sadler, a board member of the centre and director of science education at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is more philosophical. “If he was trying to answer the question as to whether all this popularization had had an impact, he just saved the government $40,000,” says Sadler. “He found the evidence without doing the study.”