ID sympathizer is an officer of the AAAS

Yesterday I mentioned how the AAAS (The American Association for the Advancement of Science, a very important and powerful organization) has taken an appeasement stance with regard to religion in some of its publications.  Today, reading Pharyngula, I noted P. Z. Myer’s post about how he was interviewed by a local newspaper, which then sought comment on P. Z.’s unrepentant acceptance of evolution.  One person who commented was professor Roger Christianson of Southern Oregon University:

Reactions by professors in SOU’s biology department to Myers’ appearance are mixed.

Professor Roger Christianson said there are alternative explanations of how diversity happened, and “people who believe in intelligent design feel the complexity of life is too great to come about by naturalistic forces.”

Christianson, an evangelical Christian, said he has brought up intelligent design and creation science in class to show the swing of the pendulum between the two schools of thought, and “I suggest the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

Somewhere in the middle? Does that mean that God produced half of all adaptations, with the rest evolving by natural selection?

Checking out Christianson’s credentials, I find that he is the Executive Officer of the Pacific Division of the AAAS (see also here).

Here’s another article (from the same newspaper in 2002) in which Christianson apparently bestows some credibility on ID. He’s talking about the bacterial flagellum:

It’s such an efficient motor that some engineers are trying to copy its design for industrial applications, according to Roger Christianson, head of Southern Oregon University’s biology department.

“It’s a pretty elaborate device, especially for bacteria, which have a fairly simple kind of cell construction,” said Christianson, explaining the complexity of bacterial flagella. He is not a design theorist. “You look at something like this and say, ‘Where did it come from?'”

“There is really no fossil record showing the fine structure of ancient bacterial flagella. On one side you’ve got people who say, ‘It evolved over time; we just don’t know the process.’ On the other side you’ve got people who say, ‘It’s so complex, it’s impossible to imagine how it could have evolved, therefore that’s evidence for design.’ ”

And another comment by Dr. Christianson on, of all places, a used book website:

My wife, Angie, and I worked with high schoolers in southern California in the ’70s and were regulars at winter camps at Forest Home, where we heard you perform several times. We loved your music! We moved to southern Oregon in 1980 and still remember well a concert you did here in the early ’80s (I can’t remember whether it was at Applegate Christian Fellowship or on the Southern Oregon State College (now Southern Oregon University) campus in Ashland). . . . I’ve often search for your recordings in a Christian CD club to which I belong, to no avail. What a joy to finally know how and what you are doing! As for the concerts and workshops you are planning, I’m hoping you will include southern Oregon. We have a very proactive Christian radio station in the area (KDOV) that might be able to help with sponsorship. . . Praise God for His faithfulness!

Now Dr. Christianson can hold any religious view he wants, and can of course comment freely to the media.  But I worry about the students in his General Biology course for nonmajors.  Are they learning evolution properly?   And, most important, what in tarnation is he doing as an executive officer of the AAAS?  Given their official position against ID (tainted as it is with accommodationism), what would inspire the AAAS to make a quasi-creationist an officer of the society?

7 Comments

  1. Posted April 24, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Great work on “exposing” this Jerry – science needs people like you to be speaking as you do.

    I’m all for not being an accommodationist.

  2. James F
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Christianson needs to publicly disavow ID, and soon. I suspect the DI will start crowing about this any day now.

  3. Posted April 24, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    My general take on all this – not on Professor Christianson specifically – over here (developed at some more length than I’m going to do on someone else’s blog):

    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2009/04/jerry-coyne-on-science-organisations.html

  4. Yakaru
    Posted April 25, 2009 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    I like this idea of the truth being “somewhere in the middle”. I might do half an experiment to test it, and then deliver half my soul into the hands of the saviour.

  5. Sili
    Posted April 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    “It’s a pretty elaborate device, especially for bacteria, which have a fairly simple kind of cell construction,”

    “simple kind of cell construction”?

    Aren’t we all just glorified bacteria? (“Ugly bags of mostly water”) What’s simple in the bugs but complex in us? (No, I haven’t bought or read Zimmer’s Microcosm yet.)

  6. Roger Christianson
    Posted April 28, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I am writing to clarify the recent debate created over comments I made to a reporter who was inquiring about ID.

    Yes, I did talk with the reporter who wrote the article about P.Z. Myers, and gave him as accurate information as I could when asked about ID. However, when I requested to read the article before it went to print, I was informed that doing so was against the paper’s policies. He did, however, read back to me his notes and I was able to correct a few things. But he didn’t fully understand the subtlety of certain words I used, so mis-shadings crept into his article. For example, my quote, “there are alternative explanations of how diversity happened,” is accurate as far as it goes. But it wasn’t intended to reflect science singularly but society in general. Had I been able to read the article in advance, some of the wording would have been changed to more accurately reflect my position.

    You brought up the 2002 newspaper article, again a reporter inquiring about ID. My intent in that interview was to give as accurate information as I knew to the questions being asked. Just because I can accurately (?) answer questions about something doesn’t mean I preach it. I tell my students who resist evolution on a religious basis the same thing. Understanding something doesn’t mean that you must believe it. But, because there is so much misinformation out there, I think it important for my students to have a true understanding of what evolution is about. And you forgot to emphasize one quote by the author of this article, “He is not a design theorist.”

    And speaking of students, for those of you who might be concerned about what I teach, I suggest you go to this website and pay special attention to lecture reviews 7, 8, 9 and 10: http://home.sou.edu/~rchristi/courses/GenBi/RC/103revue.html. You will notice that I spend approximately six hours (four 1.5 hour lectures) on adaptation/evolution. You’ll also see that of those six hours, I spend about 15 minutes describing creation science/ID as an alternative societal model for the diversity of life on earth, and during that 15 minutes, I criticize the model for not being scientifically testable, as well as criticizing the practitioners for being focused on disproving evolution rather than developing evidence for their position.

    Yes, I am an evangelical Christian. I hope you aren’t of the mind to suggest that disqualifies me from understanding and teaching science as it is understood by scientists. If so, believe me, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    You express concern that I’m an Executive Officer in AAAS (Executive Director of the Pacific Division, to be precise). Perhaps you should evaluate my work as ED before you attempt to discredit me. All of the programs for the annual meetings (2002 and on) I’ve been in charge of are linked off of the Division’s home page, pacific.aaas.org. Take a look at them and please let me know where my personal beliefs have harmed the organization. And while you’re on the website, please check out this year’s up-coming meeting in San Francisco. Of special interest to you might be the several symposia, a workshop and a special contributed paper session on Darwin and a variety of evolutionary topics. Maybe you’d even like to join us in mid-August. You’ll find registration information on the website.

    • Posted September 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Dr. Christianson, do you believe in special creationism for humans?

      The fact that you can claim on the one hand to be an evangelical christian and on the other a scientist who feels qualified to teach biology must mean that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, in which case you shouldn’t be the Executive Officer of the Pacific Division of the AAAS if you’re only going to do half the job.


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