Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Pascal Lecture, James Tour, and Shallit's Law

Well, once again it's time for that annual embarrassment at the University of Waterloo, the Pascal lecture series.

Our university actually sponsors these lectures, which are designed to "[challenge] the university to a search for truth through personal faith and intellectual inquiry which focus on Jesus Christ." I think it's completely inappropriate for a secular university to evangelize for a particular religion in this manner.

Previous lectures that I've attended and written about include Mary Poplin (also see here and here); the late Charles Rice (also see here and here); and John Lennox (also see here and here and here).

This year the speaker is James Tour, a chemist and signer of the infamous Discovery Institute dissent from Darwinism letter. You can see Tour's own rambling account of his dissatisfaction with evolution here. I hope he's a better speaker than he's a writer.

For more about Tour, see Larry Moran's take here.

I'm going to try to go, but I may be too jet-lagged to do so. In any event, I want to recall a law I have modestly named after myself: Shallit's law. Here it is:

"Whenever a distinguished scientist, physician, or engineer claims that he or she `doesn't understand' evolution, or `encourages skepticism' about evolution or that evolution `skeptics' are poorly treated, some fatuous utterance about Jeebus will soon follow."

You can evaluate the accuracy of Shallit's law by attending Tour's lectures, I suppose.

P. S. The Pascal lecture committee, as well as other dubious sites, like to cite Tour as "one of the 50 most influential scientists in the world" as stated by But is a project of none other than James Barham, the ID-friendly but extremely confused philosopher who testified for the creationists in Kansas. In other words, it is not an unbiased source. In fact, I don't see much evidence that it's anything more than just James Barham sitting in a basement somewhere.


MNb said...

Tour's position summarized: "I can imagine taking two or three steps on a ladder, but I cannot imagine climbing the entire thing."
Thanks to The Sensuous Curmudgeon for the analogy.

Don Helland said...

Google scholar

Tour H-index 116

Shallit H-index 31

Jeffrey Shallit said...

And your point is, Don? He must be right because he has a higher H-index?