Monday, April 10, 2006

My Letter to SSHRC

You may have read about the decision of SSHRC (the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) to deny McGill professor Brian Alters a grant to study the detrimental effects that intelligent design pseudoscience has on Canadians' understanding of evolution.

Here is my letter to SSHRC's President, Stan Shapson. (You can write Stan Shapson yourself, too. Be brief and polite, but firm.)

Dear Stan Shapson:

I am writing to express my incredulity at the reasons proffered by the Research Development Initiatives Program at SSHRC for the denial of a grant to Prof. Brian Alters to study the detrimental effects of intelligent design on the Canadian understanding of evolution.

Your committee wrote, in part,

"Nor did the committee consider that there was adequate
justification for the assumption in the proposal that the
theory of Evolution, and not Intelligent Design theory, was correct."

This is truly preposterous. The theory of evolution is one of the most-tested and best-substantiated theories in science. And, as Alters stated in his proposal, evolution is "the foundation on which all biological sciences are built". Intelligent design, on the other hand, is religiously-motivated pseudoscience pushed by charlatans.

It does not help the reputation of SSHRC that SSHRC's executive vice-president Janet Halliwell was then quoted in the Canadian press as saying Alters took 'one line in the letter "out of context" and the rejection of his application shouldn't indicate [SSHRC was] expressing "doubts about the theory of evolution".' [Ottawa Citizen, April 5]. To put it bluntly, this appears to be spin that is completely contrary to the facts. Prof. Halliwell has not responded to my e-mail inquiry.

An egregious decision has now been made worse by a failure to honestly admit the mistake and attempt to rectify it. I want to know how you plan to address this failure and I look forward to a prompt response from you.

Yours sincerely,

(Prof.) Jeffrey Shallit


M@ said...

Great letter. You've articulated a lot of things that I couldn't. Thanks for representing science and humanity in this so well.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that this stupidity is spreading northward like some sort of virus.