From the Montral Gazette:
A clash between McGill University and the key federal agency that funds social science research in the country is sparking a scholarly debate in Canada about the theory of evolution.
McGill University says the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council made a "factual error" when it denied Professor Brian Alters a $40,000 grant on the grounds that he'd failed to provide the panel with ample evidence that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is correct.
Prof denied grant over evolution
The name of the rejected project was "Detrimental Effects of Popularizing Anti-evolution's Intelligent Design Theory on Canadian Students, Teachers, Parents, Administrators and Policymakers."
Okay, reading the article and glancing at the conversation on Slashdot, it is not entirely clear what is going on here. Grant proposals get turned down for alot of reasons, and Professors are not above venting sour grapes. The SSHRC claims that Dr. Alters is taking "one line in the letter out of context".
But it is McGill, not Dr. Alters, that has raised the complaint, and the one line he is supposedly misinterpreting says that Dr. Alter did not provide "adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct."
Further, Janet Halliwell, the SSHRC's executive vice-president and a chemist by training, remarked on the situation by noting that there are phenomena that "may not be easily explained by current theories of evolution" and that the scientific world's understanding of life "is not static. There's an evolution in the theory of evolution."
I do not find these remarks particularly comforting.
I think several questions need to be asked here. The most important one is: what are the political affiliations of Ms. Halliwell and the other members of the SSHRC committee, who include Susan Bennett of the department of English literature at the University of Calgary; Lawrence Felt of the department of sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland; University of Ottawa history professor Ruby Heap; Gilbert Larochelle from the department of human sciences at the Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi; and Ruth Rose from the department of economics at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal. Are they Harper appointees? Are the Conservatives trying to sneak hard right yobos into the education system while maintaining a moderate front?
Now, again, Dr. Alter may well be maliciously misinterpreting a line from a letter informing him that, essentially, his research is unworthy. Given what I know of academia, that would not surprise me and, if so, shame on him. But on the other hand any encroachment of Intelligent Design into the Canadian education has to be fought tooth and nail. I could rant on and on about that, but won't right now.
We shall see where this goes.
Update Friday, 11:42 AM: SaskBoy is also writing about this back at Abandoned Stuff:
Update Friday, 6:22 PM: Another story in the Globe about this issue. A link gets you to the firewall. Instead, Google "Brian Alters Evolution Globe" and slip on through.
One thing that has become clear to me is that Dr. Alters is well-known and well-established in his field, and not the kind of researcher you would turn down lightly He was one of six expert witnesses called to the stand in the recent Dover, PA trial, wherein a local school board was taken to court for attempting to teach Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution, and a short account of his testimony can be found here:
(Note: one day I will figure out how to work the link function on this fucking system so all my links aren't a mile long, but not today, apparently)