Thursday, February 27, 2014

Physicians and engineers are not scientists

Creationists are fond of mentioning people who are committed to creationism but still function as successful scientists. We saw an example in the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. These creationist "scientists" are often physicians or engineers.

It seems obvious to most of us that engineers and physicians are not scientists. PZ Myers mentions this on his blog when he discusses the debate as reviewed by William Saletan: Saletan is at it again. Here's what PZ says ...
Engineers can practice real science, but an engineer is not the same thing as a scientist. I agree that creationists can be perfectly good engineers, but how can you trust the scientific acumen of someone who insists that the earth is only 6,000 years old? That says right there that they have no respect for the evidence. How can Saletan ignore Ham’s bogus distinction between historical and observational science, in which he flatly rejects any possibility of inference about the past from the present? This creationism is utterly incompatible with biology, anthropology, geology, astronomy, climate science, geochemistry, cosmology, and any other science that deals with cause and effect and history. These sciences apparently do not matter to Saletan, as long as engineers make satellites and doctors do surgery.

Saletan cites Ham’s videos as falsifying the claim that creationism is incompatible with science. Ken Ham makes a big deal of this, too.
This would be unremarkable except that Jason Rosenhouse disagrees [Saletan vs. Myers on Nye vs. Ham]. Here's what Jason says ...
Oh for heaven’s sake! Engineers are scientists. Full stop. Are you really that desperate to deny that a creationist could ever make a contribution to science that you will sink to this level of insult and idiocy? (Yes, it is insulting to suggest that engineers are not scientists.)
Engineers have a Bachelor's degree in engineering and they typically work for a construction company or in the IT department of a large corporation. They are not scientists. Full stop.

It's true that some engineers do science but usually they have a higher degree in engineering and usually they are academics. There's no possible way you could assume that all engineers are scientists just because they are licensed engineers and wear the ring. I'm sorry, Jason, but you are wrong.

Similarly, the typical physician has a private practice at a strip mall in the suburbs. They have an M.D. degree that can be earned right out of high school (in Europe). They are not scientists.

There are some physicians who are scientists and some of them have earned Nobel Prizes. They are the exceptions, not the rule. It's ridiculous to assume that everyone with an M.D. is a scientist.