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The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Project Steve

Humorous Testing of the Scientific Attitudes Toward "Intelligent Design"

Via Scientists Named "Steve"

Copyright © 2003
[Posted: May 26, 2003]
[Last update: October 3, 2003]

Since the early Twentieth Century, evolution deniers have been fond of creating lists of "scientists" who do not accept evolution. This tactic is an attempt to give the erroneous impression that, among scientists in general, support for evolution is in decline or that evolution is a "theory in crisis."

Project Steve is a parody of these lists conducted by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). It is a listing of scientists with doctorates who support the following statement:

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools.

The catch is that the NCSE tied an arm and two legs behind its back by making an arbitrary requirement that the scientists be named "Steve," "Stephanie," "Stefan," or some other form of "Stephen." It estimates that about one percent of the population of the United States has such a name. When the Project was first publicly announced on February 16, 2003 it had 220 Steves, which corresponds to about 22,000 scientists with doctorates agreeing with the statement. By May 23, 2003 that number had increased to 367 Steves which corresponds to about 36,700 scientists. The current total can be found by consulting the Steve-o-meter. The NCSE expresses the hope that in the future when lists of "scientists who doubt evolution" are presented that it will be asked "but how many Steves are on your list!?"

The list of Steves is far more prestigious than any list of living scientists the creationists have ever produced. It includes Nobel Prize winners, members of the National Academy of Sciences, and influential authors such as Stephen Hawking. It is telling that creationist lists tend to be lean on practicing research biologists. In contrast, about two-thirds of the scientists on NCSE's list are biologists, who are the most qualified to evaluate whether the evidence favors evolution. Another point is that the NCSE's list includes the information on where the Steves got their degrees and their current position. By not doing so, the creationist lists do not make it obvious how many of the people listed are not practicing scientists.

Neither the Steves, the NCSE, nor this Archive ask people to accept evolution simply because qualified scientists overwhelmingly support it. If one browses the articles found in The Talk.Origins Archive one can find a great deal of material covering the evidence for evolution including 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution, Fossil Hominids, and Plagiarized Errors and Molecular Genetics. These articles offer a sampling of the scientific evidence which scientists find compelling. As one of the greatest geneticists of the twentieth century said, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

The choice of "Steve" for this parody on creationist lists was a homage to the late Stephen Jay Gould. The idea for Project Steve originated with the creators of Critically Examining the "Intelligent Design" Movement who proposed it to the NCSE which in turn conducted the project. Project Steve has received much media attention.

Here are some of the lists of "scientists who doubt evolution." In each case the list's Steve-o-meter refers to the number of Steves listed on May 11, 2003 when Project Steve had 338 Steves.

Scientists and other Intellectuals that Doubt Darwinism

This list from the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club club has done those involved with the controversy a great favor by sifting through the many lists of evolution deniers that have been developed over the years to make this master list of nearly five hundred persons including scientists, authors, lawyers, linguists, a television script writer, a theological ethicist, and a political speech writer. It should not list the late Colin Patterson. Francis Crick, an NCSE member who has signed a strong pro-evolution statement, is an example of a questionable entry. Steve-o-meter = 9

100 Scientists, National Poll Challenge Darwinism

A list conducted by the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute (DI) which got 103 people with doctorates in science to sign the following statement:

I am skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.

It should be noted that some of the signers this list do accept that humans share a common ancestor with a chimpanzee and that, contrary to the list's implication, modern evolutionary biology does recognize factors other than mutation and selection. This particular list sometimes lists the institution that granted the signers' doctorates and sometimes lists their current position apparently depending on which sounds more prestigious. In a magazine advertisement (PDF format), the Discovery Institute added two more people and a misleading quotation: see Doubting Darwinism through Creative License. Steve-o-meter = 1

Answers in Genesis' Biography Index

This is Answers in Genesis' list of creationist scientists from both the present and the past. The past scientists has a number of false entries: see Kelvin Was Not a Creationist and George Romanes Was a Creationist? It also lists in the present day "scientists" at least one person (Harold Slusher) who has a diploma mill degree as well a person (Saami Shaibani) who falsely claimed Temple University credentials. Steve-o-meter = 3

Creation Scientists

This is the list from the Institute for Creation Research. Steve-o-meter = 3

Update (September 15, 2003): Since this document was first posted, the Discovery Institute has been active trying to influence the Texas State Board of Education. The DI has listed additional "scientists" which it says support its position. This group of people is extremely thin on biologists. Curiously, some of the people listed, including a professor of marketing and a cadet training officer, represent specialities not generally called "science." The Texas Citizens for Science has posted Texas Citizens for Science Responds to Latest Discovery Institute Challenge which refutes DI claims and reproduces the relevant DI press releases.

Disclaimer: The Talk.Origins Archive does not maintain either Project Steve or any of the lists mentioned above. Contact information for Project Steve can be found in its FAQ. Follow the appropriate links if you wish send feedback on any other list or article listed above. This document was edited by Michael Hopkins, who is not responsible for the administration of Project Steve (), with input from Douglas Theobald, Glenn Branch, Adam Marczyk, Gary Hurd, Nic Tamzek, Pete Dunkelberg, and others.

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