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Eugenie Scott

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Eugenie Scott
Born 24 October 1945 United States
Spouse Thomas C. Sager
Religious affiliation Secular humanism


Executive Director of the NCSE
From 1986
To 2013
Succeeded
Preceded

Eugenie Carol Scott (1945—) is a secular humanist and the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, a leading anti-creationist organisation. She was appointed to this role in 1986, and in 2013 announced her retirement by the end of the year.[1]

Contents

Creation-evolution controversy

Unlike many other anti-creationists,[2] Scott has generally tried to keep the debate over creation vs. evolution a civil one.[3]

Scott, although an atheist, has tried to paint evolution as compatible with Christian views, including enlisting evolution-believing Christians to help her fight. This has put her at odds with other atheists who are more forthright regarding pointing out the anti-biblical consequences of belief in evolution. Casey Luskin cites the case of the American National Association of Biology Teachers which issued a statement about evolution which included descriptions of it being "impersonal" and "unsupervised", which portray evolution in a way incompatible with theistic evolutionary views. Scott convinced the association to remove those descriptions, and in doing so earned the wrath of over 70 evolutionary biologists who pointed out that "evolution indeed is, to the best of our knowledge, an impersonal and unsupervised process."[3]

In 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin, Scott argued that the term "Darwinism" should be retired, partly because "evolutionary has expanded well beyond its foundations", and partly because of, she claims, "the hijacking of the term by creationists to portray evolution as a dangerous ideology -- an “ism”". Yet the term remains in common use by evolutionists.[4]

Much of Scott's rationale for opposing creationism is her belief that "science must explain using natural causes" (her emphasis).[5]

Scott apparently realises that people allowed to hear all the evidence might end up questioning evolution, so does her best to avoid this happening.

In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.[6]

Even when the evidence is from evolutionists, Scott can have concerns.

I asked [Eugenie Scott, from the National Center for Science Education—the NCSE] what she thought about self-organization and why self-organization was not represented in the books NCSE was promoting? She responded that people confuse self-organization with intelligent design and that is why NCSE has not been supportive.[7]

Misrepresentations

Scott has repeatedly misrepresented the Intelligent Design movement as a form of creationism, referring to it as "Intelligent Design Creationism".[8][5]

One of Scott's "contributions" to the controversy is to portray the creation/evolution issue as a "continuum" with "Flat Earthers" at one extreme and atheistic evolution at the other.[9] Young Earth Creationism (Biblical creationism) is only two steps from the Flat Earthers (Geocentrists are in between), on the rationalisation that Charles K. Johnson, the former head of the International Flat Earth Research Society, was supposedly a strict biblical literalist, and used biblical references to support that view. The fallacy of this "guilt by association" is shown by the fact that Daniel Shenton, the leader of The Flat Earth Society, is an evolutionist.[note 1]

Scott says that "… scientists must be willing to change their explanations when they are refuted. Viewed in the light of [this] basic tenet[] of science, “creation science” fails miserably.". However, creationists have changed their explanations when they are refuted.[note 2] In support of her claim, Scott adds that

For decades now, creationists have claimed that the amount of meteoritic dust on the moon disproves evolution. … More accurate measurements of the amount of meteoritic dust influx to the earth are degrees of magnitude smaller than the original estimates cited by creationists. … the dust on the moon argument still is touted as “evidence against evolution”. If this were a normal scientific theory, it would have been abandoned and forgotten long ago, an empirical stake in its heart, but this creationist zombie keeps rising again and again.[5]

In fact creationists had rejected the argument a decade before Scott wrote this in 2003.[11]

Scott also falsely attributes the God did it argument to creationists:

Because scientists have not yet reached a consensus on how the first replicating molecule came about, creationists argue, this is an intractable problem that should just be attributed to “God did it”.[5]

The "God did it" argument is the argument that God must be the explanation for anything that we can't explain by other means. Creationists do not make that argument. The do claim that God created life, but not on the grounds that it can't otherwise be explained, as Scott alleges.

Scott falsely claims that creationists present themselves as strictly scientific, when they are not:

“Creation science”, for all its surface attempts (especially in its presentation to the general public) to claim to abide by a strictly scientific approach, relying solely on empirical data and theory …[5]

In fact biblical creationists emphasise that revelation (the biblical account) has prime authority, and that scientific evidence is merely consistent with this.

Scott also misrepresents ID arguments.

ID harks back to the 1802 position of clergyman William Paley that structural complexity (such as the vertebrate eye for Paley or the structure of DNA for his latter-day bedfellows) is too complicated to have come about through a natural process. Therefore it must have been designed by an “intelligence”. The “intelligence” of course is God …[5]

The ID argument is not that structural complexity is "too complicated" to have occurred naturally, but that biology shows evidence of being designed. Also, ID specifically avoids identifying who the designer might be.[12]

Religious Views

As a child, Scott attended a Christian Science Sunday school, as her mother and grandmother were adherents. With her older sister she switched to a Congregational church until the end of high school. Later, she became a secular humanist and described herself as a "nontheist".[13] She subsequently became one of the "notable signers" of Humanist Manifesto III.

Education and awards

She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In 1971 Scott was granted a PhD in physical anthropology at the University of Missouri. After doing some teaching, Scott became a visiting professor at the University of Kansas in Lexington, in 1976. Scott has been with the NCSE since 1986.

Scott has been granted numerous awards and honorary qualifications for her efforts in fighting for evolution. Honorary degrees have been granted by the following universities:[14]

  • McGill
  • Rutgers
  • Mt. Holyoke
  • University of New Mexico
  • Ohio State
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Colorado College
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Chapman University[15]

Other awards from mainstream (evolutionary) scientific organisations and atheist organisations include:

Books

Scott has authored the book Evolution vs Creationism and co-authored Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools.

Quotes

  • I have found that the most effective allies for evolution are people of the faith community. One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists at a school board meeting any day![13]
  • … there are other ways of looking at the world, and the unexamined idea is not worth holding.[13]
  • Science is nothing if not practical. The explanations that are retained are those that work best, and the explanations that work best are ones based on material causes. Nonmaterial causes are disallowed.[5]

Note

  1. Shenton also believes in Global Warming, a position that Scott and the NCSE now also actively support.[10]
  2. Apart from the case discussed, other examples are retracting claims of a Japanese trawler finding a plesiosaur carcase and the claim that the speed of light has changed dramatically.

References

  1. NCSE's Scott to retire, NCSE, Mon. 6th May, 2013Mon. May 6th, 2013.
  2. see Suppression of academic dissent#Vilification
  3. 3.0 3.1 Casey Luskin, Farewell to Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of National Center for Science Education, Evolution News and Views, Tue. 28th May, 2013Tue. May 28th, 2013.
  4. Mike Keas, Term Limits: Eugenie C. Scott and the Retirement of "Darwinism", Evolution News and Views, Fri. 17th May, 2013Fri. May 17th, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Eugenie C. Scott, My Favorite Pseudoscience, Reports of the National Center for Science Education 23(1), Jan/Feb 2003.
  6. Eugenie Scott admits: if students heard criticism of evolution, then they might not believe it!.
  7. Suzan Mazur, quoted by Walter J. ReMine, Desperate attempts to discover ‘the elusive process of evolution’, Journal of Creation 26(1):24–30 April 2012.
  8. Eugenie C. Scott, The Creation/Evolution Continuum, NCSE, Thu. 7th December, 2000Thu. December 7th, 2000.
  9. Eugenie C. Scott, The Creation/Evolution Continuum, NCSE, Thu. 7th December, 2000Thu. December 7th, 2000.
  10. Natalie Wolchover, Ingenious 'Flat Earth' Theory Revealed In Old Map, LiveScience, Thu. 23rd June, 2011Thu. June 23rd, 2011.
  11. Snelling, Andrew A. and David E. Rush, Moon dust and the age of the solar system, Journal of Creation 7(1):2–42, April 1993.
  12. Luskin, Casey, Straw Men Aside, What Is the Theory of Intelligent Design, Really?, Evolution News and Views, Sat. 10th August, 2013Sat. August 10th, 2013.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Thomas J. Oord and Eric Stark, A Conversation with Eugenie Scott, Science and Theology News, February 2004.
  14. Available Speakers, unless shown otherwise.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Science educator Eugenie Scott to be awarded honorary doctorate at CES Commencement, Thu. 16th May, 2013Thu. May 16th, 2013.
  16. GrrlScientist, 2012 Richard Dawkins Award goes to Eugenie Scott, The Guardian, Sat. 9th September, 2017Sat. September 9th, 2017.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Eugenie Scott, (2012 Global Atheist Convention publicity).
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Mary Mathias, Dr. Eugenie Scott to Speak at ASTC 2013 Annual Conference, Mon. 3rd June, 2013Mon. June 3rd, 2013.
  19. Science and Religion, Methodology, and Humanism, Reports of the National Center for Science Education 18(2), March-April 1998, p.15-17.
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