Friday, January 31, 2003

Insert Monkey Pun Here: More on Evolution and Recommendations

Mark refers to the Texas Tech biology professor Michael Dini as a “fool” for his no-recommendations-for-creationists policy. That’s harsh. Mark himself admits that this policy might be appropriate if applied only to biology majors: “After all, you probably wouldn't recommend someone for graduate work in physics who insisted that Newtonian mechanics was ‘just a theory’ and held out for the Aristotelian theory of motion.” His complaint, then, must be based on the judgment – a factual judgment, I submit – about whether evolution is relevant in the practice of medicine. I tend to agree with Mark that it probably is not. But then again, Paul Orwin (quoted here by Eugene) points out some plausible connections between evolution and medicine – or at least between evolution and medical research. Even if one doesn’t agree with Orwin’s or Dini’s arguments, they hardly strike me as “foolish.” Honest, intelligent people can disagree here.

Mark puts the issue in terms of compelling recommendation-seekers to say something they don’t believe: “Handicapping someone in applying to medical school because he won't say something he thinks is false is mean and stupid, just as kicking a kid out of Scouting because he won't pretend to a belief in a Higher Power is mean and stupid.” Perhaps this is a reason for Prof. Dini not to make his policy public, lest students just give him the answer they know he wants to hear. But the honesty concern cuts both ways: if the professor truly believes – for whatever reason – that a student is not qualified, it is disingenuous for him to write a letter indicating otherwise.

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