’55 ‘Origin of Life’ Paper Is Retracted
Dr. Jacobson conceded that was the case. He wrote in his retraction letter, “I am deeply embarrassed to have been the originator of such misstatements.”
It is not unusual for scientists to publish papers and, if they discover evidence that challenges them, to announce they were wrong. The idea that all scientific knowledge is provisional, able to be challenged and overturned, is one thing that separates matters of science from matters of faith.
So Dr. Jacobson’s retraction is in “the noblest tradition of science,” Rosalind Reid, editor of American Scientist, wrote in its November-December issue, which has Dr. Jacobson’s letter.
His letter shows, Ms. Reid wrote, “the distinction between a scientist who cannot let error stand, no matter the embarrassment of public correction,” and people who “cling to dogma.”
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Posted October 27, 2007 at 2:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]
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1. libraryjim wrote:
This sounds a bit like the article of nonsense that Alexander Sokal managed to get published to show that with the right bluster and bluff, or as he put it: “an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.” it would get published.
October 27, 4:03 pm | [comment link]
2. Virgil in Tacoma wrote:
Science is falsifiable, therefore amendable; Religion (doctrine) is criticizable, therefore, amendable. Thus both are rational.
Scientism is not falsifiable (dogmatic); Religious fideism (dogmatic) is not criticizable. Thus both are irrational.
Simple Popperian (Karl Popper) observation for the demarcation between science and non-science.
October 27, 4:22 pm | [comment link]
3. scott+ wrote:
The facts of the matter are that there are many who are dogmatic about science. In the whole debate about creation, I have seen both bad theology and very bad science.
I have seen the scientific observation distorted to fit a person prejudice. Both sides of the argument have done this so much that true science on the matter is getting to impossible. The whole discussion has become political. One side there is some biblical literalists who take observation out of context in order to fit a literal understanding of the first book of Holy Scripture. On the other side are secular humanists who deny any thing supernatural.
Science is the study of the natural and the methods of science are based upon certain assumptions about what naturally occurs. One of those assumptions is that all is natural. I have been an engineer for 32 years, and in that field I predict what will happen. In making those predictions, I do not need to take into account the supernatural. But the supernatural does exist.
What is most distressing is that those who deny the supernatural are often in the colleges. There seems to be a form of secular humanist orthodoxy in those institutions. Reasonable challenges to this secular humanist orthodoxy, are difficult because of discussion has become so polarized. When ever I engage in conversations on science blogs, I get painted as being anti-science. If I make the same observation on creation blogs, I get painted as anti-Christian.
This man retracted an old paper. A paper which except for it being quoted by people with a political agenda, would as we say in my secular field, OBE (over come by events). It is a sad story in many ways. I know, I would not want to defend some engineering papers I wrote twenty years ago. Not that I was wrong then, but because we now have so many more tools available that a revisit could very well come up with a different conclusion. That does not make what I or this man did twenty years ago, evil. In one way they old papers may be wrong, but in another way, if honestly done they were the state of the art at the time.
October 27, 7:32 pm | [comment link]
4. Mike Watson wrote:
It is incorrect to say the paper was retracted by the author. The request was limited to two sentences of the paper. See http://www.americanscientist.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/56234.
In any case it is not as though the paper by Dr. Jacobsen were somehow critical, or even important, to the case against accounting for the origin of life by purely materialistic causes.
October 27, 10:38 pm | [comment link]
5. Katherine wrote:
About two years ago I wandered by chance into a neighborhood women’s Bible study that was using a young-earth creationist study guide for Genesis. It was extreme. Papers like this old one were cited here and there to “prove” that science is all wrong, and that scientists who believe the earth is older than about 12,000 years are either illogical or liars. This scientist was right to retract whatever portion of his old work which was being used in this way.
To agree with the materials being used by these nice ladies I would have had to disagree with boatloads of trained physicists, astronomers, chemists, and geologists on a huge variety of the basic discoveries of science since about 1500. And this is aside from Darwin’s theories!
October 28, 8:06 am | [comment link]
6. Mike Watson wrote:
Re #5: But the two statements retracted had nothing to do with young-earth creationism. They were statements that called into question that life could have originated by purely naturalistic means. That the statements may have been cited by some young earth creationists is not surprising, but is beside the point. Unless, that is, the point is to taint a legitimate perspective by association with one that does not enjoy much scientific repute.
Although you would be correct to say that a young-earth creationist would have to contend against a lot of scientific evidence, a claim that there is a plausible scientific model for the origin of life would not be supportable. That’s why the retraction by the retired professor of two sentences from a paper he wrote fifty-two years ago is no big deal, notwithstanding the efforts of the New York Times science reporter to make it so.
October 28, 12:34 pm | [comment link]
7. Sherri wrote:
The facts of the matter are that there are many who are dogmatic about science.
As a biology major at university, I was required to take, naturally, a course on evolutionary biology. I was a bit perturbed, however, when at the beginning of the course, we were required to take what amounted to an oath of allegiance to evolutionary theory (as if there were one simple theory). The atmosphere was one of unquestioning allegiance, and I wondered how new scientists were to make any discoveries if they must accept everything they were taught as inviolable givens. I loved the teacher, I enjoyed the class, but in this aspect, I didn’t think it was very “scientific.”
October 28, 12:59 pm | [comment link]
8. Katherine wrote:
Mike Watson, of course the NYT is making a mountain of a molehill. This one fits its paradigm of science as good and religion as stupid. The professor retracted portions he now finds to be wrong, scientifically, in part because the statements are being misused but also because they are false.
Sherri, both the young-earth creationists and the scientific materialists require unquestioning allegiance to their dogma. The essence of science is inquiry, hypothesis, and experimentation, as I understand it. The rejection of all questions and alternative hypotheses is not science. We see the same in the current global-warming debate.
I am, of course, dogmatic about Christian dogma (the Creeds), but science cannot prove or disprove these.
October 29, 6:56 am | [comment link]
9. Alice Linsley wrote:
Katherine, You might be interesting in the essays posted at Just Genesis. You will find there is no real conflict between the physical evidence on the book of Genesis.
October 31, 10:46 pm | [comment link]
10. Alice Linsley wrote:
That should say “and” the book of Genesis. There is now a great deal of physical evidence to support the Biblical worldview, especially if we understand what that view is through a careful reading of the text.
October 31, 10:50 pm | [comment link]
11. Katherine wrote:
Alice, I am about to lose my interent connection for a few days at least, so I will put this on my “to do” list.
I am emphatically a believer in creation ex nihilo. I say the Creed about creation without the slightest hesitation. This is not only because of the scriptures and the creeds, but because the alternative, that everything that exists evolved in an entirely random and meaningless way, is a lot more unbelievable.
The nice fundamentalist Bible study ladies actually make belief harder, because they insist that a particular reading of Genesis which rejects most basic principles of science is required of all Christians. They say if you don’t believe their reading of Genesis you can’t believe in Jesus.
November 1, 1:32 am | [comment link]