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Monday, February 12, 2007

PhD in dishonesty
The NYT has an article on a Liberty University (aka fake commuter college) professor who got his PhD in paleontology from the University of Rhode Island only to use it to promote creationism.

His subject was the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. The work is "impeccable," said David E. Fastovsky, a paleontologist and professor of geosciences at the university who was Dr. Ross's dissertation adviser. "He was working within a strictly scientific framework, a conventional scientific framework."

But Dr. Ross is hardly a conventional paleontologist. He is a "young earth creationist" - he believes that the Bible is a literally true account of the creation of the universe, and that the earth is at most 10,000 years old.

For him, Dr. Ross said, the methods and theories of paleontology are one "paradigm" for studying the past, and Scripture is another. In the paleontological paradigm, he said, the dates in his dissertation are entirely appropriate. The fact that as a young earth creationist he has a different view just means, he said, "that I am separating the different paradigms."

Now, I read this and think, can't they rescind a PhD? If the PhD was gained by fraud, essentially the student parroted what he was expected to, and then subsequently used the degree to attack science for religious reasons, isn't this dishonest and immoral? I would treat this the same as someone who acquires an MD just to promote quack remedies. This is fundamentally dishonest. He acquired a degree in a scientific field to give his creationist BS a patina of legitimacy that it does not deserve. This guy thinks that science that is based on data and fact is just a "paradigm". I think this quote summed it up ok.

...Dr. Dini said in an interview, adding, "Scientists do not base their acceptance or rejection of theories on religion, and someone who does should not be able to become a scientist."

I think that's about right. It would be one thing if he was a evangelical Christian and got this degree and continued to pursue paleontology from the so-called paradigm of using actual data to justify conclusions. But that's not what he and the other creationists described in the article are doing. Instead, they're undermining science by training false experts for the denialist goals of sowing confusion in an established scientific field. It is fundamentally dishonest, and unethical, and PhD programs who suspect their students will engage in such behavior simply shouldn't let them graduate.

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