This week’s Science reports that the main science funding agency in Italy — their equivalent of the NIH or NSF — has not only funded but promoted a creationist book. (There’s more on this debacle at the Dec. 9 Science Insider.)
Evolutionism: the decline of an hypothesis was assembled by Roberto de Mattei, a historian of Christianity at the European University of Rome, from proceedings of a February meeting he organized at CNR, at which several scientists and philosophers explained why evolution is unscientific. The book, published last month, includes claims that conventional dating methods are wrong, that fossil strata resulted from the Deluge, and that dinosaurs died 40,000 years ago.
The book states that CNR contributed money for its publication (9000, according to the newspaper La Repubblica). CNR President Luciano Maiani has acknowledged that CNR contributed to expenses but said the agency has not endorsed the book. In an e-mail to Science, however, he said, “I’d like to stress the fact that intellectual research is an open enterprise as well as my [opposition to] any form of censorship.”
Maiani’s explanation is lame. Sure, intellectual research is open to zealots and crackpots, but did the CNR have to fund it? And would their refusal to do so be exercising “censorship”? I wouldn’t have thought this possible in Italy, or anywhere in western Europe.
Here’s what I sent; if you’re too busy to compose an email, you can cut and paste this one, but unless you’re an obstreperous evolutionary biologist, edit the penultimate sentence:
Dear Dr. Maiani,
I read with dismay in this week’s Science that your organization has not only funded but promoted a creationist book edited by Roberto de Mattei. Your remarks on this book indicate that you think the CNR’s financial and intellectual support was justified because you consider intellectual research an “open enterprise” and are “opposed to any form of censorship.”
Certainly intellectual research is “open” to anyone, but do you really think it’s at all useful for a respected body of scientists to promote and support blatant lies like those promulgated in this book? (I need hardly tell you that dinosaurs did not die out 40,000 years ago, nor that the geological strata are not the product of a sudden, worldwide flood!) Really, it’s like the CNR supporting flat-earth theory, or the view that diseases are produced by evil spirits.
And do you really think that the CNR’s refusal to publish these lies would be considered censorship? I call such a refusal “good science”. Would it be “censorship” for your organization to refuse to publish a book proving that the earth is flat? For that is what creationism is equivalent to.
We have our own problems with creationism in the United States, but I never thought that that problem would crop up in Italy, particularly in an organization as respected as the CNR. As an evolutionary biologist who has long fought against creationism, I urge you to condemn this ludicrous volume rather than supporting it. It’s an embarrassment to Italian science — indeed, to all of science.