65 million years, give or take

This article in the NYT about a newly-minted Ph.D in geosciences at the University of Rhode Island who is a creationist really struck me. His dissertation is on marine reptiles from 65 million years ago, which of course is a tad off of his preferred starting date of 10 million years ago.

The politics and validity of evolution aside, and without knowing exactly what’s in his dissertation or what went on during his exams – I have to say this smells funny. If he doesn’t believe in his own research, how can he, in good conscience, publish it? Did he justify what he wrote, I wonder, by claiming it was all just ‘theory’? Just from a rhetorical standpoint, how can another scholar trust the work of an individual who literally does not believe what he or she writes? How can you hold a conversation in the Burkean parlor if everything you say is a lie? Bandying ideas about to generate discussion is one thing, but scholars are expected to rate their ideas, also, for those less familiar with the concepts.

It would seem that this fellow has artificially rated his ideas much, much higher than he really thinks of them, and his committee or chair did not call him on it. I’m really interested as to how he dodged the bullet if he was truly challenged on this matter in his defense. If they were unaware via him keeping his faith and beliefs concealed for professional reasons, that’s not a great model for scholarly behavior either.

I’m agnostic, a religion that does not require or push for missionary work, thankfully, and my take on evolution is similar to Sherlock Holmes’ opinion of the Copernican solar system; but I do view cognitive dissonance, when I detect it in myself, as something that should be interrogated and confronted. From what I can tell of Dr. Ross, he’s setting it aside.

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