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Letter To Astronomy

Posted Thursday, June 23, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland

Dear friend,

Greetings from CommencementBay on Puget Sound!  I am a grump, I know; but I really feel that Amy Coombs' review of "The Privileged Planet" did a certain disservice to a small, but statistically significant portion of your readership as well as the authors.  In the first place she insulted the authors by not noting their credentials.  Secondly, I had to go on line and read other reviews to find out what it was that irritated her so much.  Aha!  They are writing in the genre of "Intelligent Design” and we do not like that – NPR folks certainly wouldn’t!  She indicts them for not “analyzing research,” dwelling on “philosophical statements by Carl Sagan” and not focusing on “peer-reviewed studies.”  Wow!  What a dis on Gonzalez!  He has over 60 “peer-reviewed” publications.  Like it or not, Sagan is our philosophical grandfather and he should be debated.  Who better than someone trained in Modal Logic and Philosophy of Science? 

I have a much longer counter review that I have written wherein I do rhetorical analysis of Ms. Coombs article.  It made me feel better; but it was Ms. Coombs that made me want to buy the book.  Apparently, their credentials far outweigh hers – and if she has a doctorate, she has forgotten that for which the Ph. in the D. stands.  Multi-disciplinary studies intrigue me and it does not appear to me that “these criticisms” are liabilities, but rather assets. 


The larger question, though, is, “does such a review reflect the direction ‘Astronomy’ is moving”?  For those of us who are interested in “Intelligent Design” discussions, will we once again be marginalized by the politics of “science”?  For those of us who think that SETI-like projects are mismotivated and expensive and that astro-biology is rather “out there” (as well as expensive) and who believe in the “mission-to-Mars” vision of NASA and the President, will we cease to see articles that move us to the wonder of the universe and the ingenuity of mankind?  For those of us who believe that the universities and journals have a stranglehold on the dissemination of information and knowledge, will we see things – speculative perhaps – from outside the lines?  Whether we like it or not, all science is based on philosophy.  Cosmology should have been the Queen of the Sciences and Cosmology is philosophy.  Because of the length of this, I do not need to see myself in print. . . .


Respectfully and with Blessings!


G. D. Vreeland, Ph.D.

Associate Professor:

Semitic Languages and Literature

Northwest Baptist Seminary

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