Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Jeff Bartlett » Dec 31, 2008 11:37 am

BrianC wrote:I truly believe that science should have learned by now that since theories always change, having an open mind keeps a happy fellowship!


This is such a gross misunderstanding of the scientific method, I don't know where to begin. Science is ALWAYS open to new hypotheses. This is the fundamental concept of scientific thought; Einstein said, "No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong." But the scientific method requires that one can test a hypothesis. It requires that a scientific finding be repeatable by other scientists. Scientific experimentation should be objective. It should be fully disclosed so other scientists can retest and confirm the findings. It should interpret experimental data without bias.

The issue at hand is that the conclusions in The Cave Book were not reached by using the scientific method. This isn't a discussion about whether creationist theory or evolutionary theory are correct. It's a discussion about whether a scientific organization should promote a publication that claims to be a scientific document written by an expert but does not make use of the scientific method (and in fact discards overwhelming evidence contrary to its conclusion). The answer is that some portion of our organization -- be it a majority or a minority, we don't know for sure -- is extremely uncomfortable with this, and as such we are no longer to offer it. The fact that several involved in this thread would prefer to ignore our input and write us off as "PC" is disconcerting.

This isn't censorship; censorship would be trying to ban the book, or keep it from being sold at book retailers. What it is, rather, is a decision not to sell a publication that appears somewhat contrary to our mission statement and might serve to undermine the vailidity of the truly scientific documents the NSS is responsible for, such as JCKS.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Teresa » Dec 31, 2008 1:03 pm

I worked yesterday and missed all the fun, but I agree with Martha on the book. That's how NPS solved the Grand Canyon creationist book problem-- they just moved it to the 'spirituality and environmental awareness' section. This angered the scientific purists, but pleased folks looking for a diplomatic solution.
There are no people more dogmatic, doctrinaire and convicted of their righteousness than true believers in the scientific method. Except, many of them (scientists who have compartmentalized their religious belief away from their day jobs, or who claim no religious affiliation) don't understand the scientific method of observe, study, experiment, hypothesize, and test by experiment again before theorizing, either. It doesn't surprise me that Dr. Silvestru made the leap from science to creationism-- it can be a small jump, actually -- both pursuits have first causes, chains of evidence, and often faulty conclusions. Those of you who are not geologists might not know this, but about 50 years ago, most of what was received wisdom in geology got stood on its ear with the evolution of plate tectonics theory. I can, without any pause whatsoever, predict that what we know of the universe will get overturned a time or two more before the whole thing "ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."
The NSS Bookstore can do as it wishes, but I find it amazing that probably the best selling introduction to speleology in English,Speleology , by George W. Moore and Nicholas Sullivan, is co-written by an enrolled brother of a Roman Catholic clerical order, and we don't have people with pitchforks and flaming brands demanding its removal.
Books are published to engender curiosity, present ideas, and to get people thinking-- not to present the definitive or approved answer to everything. Sounds like, in that context, Dr. Silvestru's is a success. A real scientist, not one permanently wedded to existing paradigms, understands that. Whether or not a book remains accessible shouldn't be based on its content, but on its sales and profit margin.
Maybe someday the controversy will die down,and people won't be so afraid of creationists. They don't scare me.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby hewhocaves » Dec 31, 2008 1:23 pm

Brother Nick (Society of Jesus - yes a Jesuit) is an excellent biologist and well known (well, back in the day) as a first rate scientist. He is a prime example of how someone can be both religious and scientific at the same time without using one to usurp the other. I had four years of Jesuit education and I can honestly say that you will not get better treatment from an RC denomination than from the Jesuits.

Creationism, on the other hand, is a political-religious agenda seeking to overturn fundamental freedoms and return to a society dominated by fear, religious dogma and intolerance. It misuses scientific findings to further that agenda by wrapping itself in the respectability of science while at the same time diluting and undercutting the foundations which make the scientific method the most powerful idea of the last five hundred years.

It is NOT ok, as a scientific organization to promote such a publication any more than it is OK for me to walk into you house and take your money or car simply because I think I should have them. I would have trouble belonging to any organization which voluntarily reduces itself in such a way.

Anyway, I'm digressing. Brother Nick's work is what it is because of the effort and diligence he put into it, irrespective of his day job. Silvestru utterly fails for exactly the same reason. The sooner people realize that that's the way science works, the sooner we can all move on.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Ralph E. Powers » Dec 31, 2008 1:23 pm

Teresa wrote:I worked yesterday and missed all the fun, but I agree with Martha on the book. That's how NPS solved the Grand Canyon creationist book problem-- they just moved it to the 'spirituality and environmental awareness' section. This angered the scientific purists, but pleased folks looking for a diplomatic solution.
There are no people more dogmatic, doctrinaire and convicted of their righteousness than true believers in the scientific method. Except, many of them (scientists who have compartmentalized their religious belief away from their day jobs, or who claim no religious affiliation) don't understand the scientific method of observe, study, experiment, hypothesize, and test by experiment again before theorizing, either. It doesn't surprise me that Dr. Silvestru made the leap from science to creationism-- it can be a small jump, actually -- both pursuits have first causes, chains of evidence, and often faulty conclusions. Those of you who are not geologists might not know this, but about 50 years ago, most of what was received wisdom in geology got stood on its ear with the evolution of plate tectonics theory. I can, without any pause whatsoever, predict that what we know of the universe will get overturned a time or two more before the whole thing "ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."
The NSS Bookstore can do as it wishes, but I find it amazing that probably the best selling introduction to speleology in English,Speleology , by George W. Moore and Nicholas Sullivan, is co-written by an enrolled brother of a Roman Catholic clerical order, and we don't have people with pitchforks and flaming brands demanding its removal.
Books are published to engender curiosity, present ideas, and to get people thinking-- not to present the definitive or approved answer to everything. Sounds like, in that context, Dr. Silvestru's is a success. A real scientist, not one permanently wedded to existing paradigms, understands that. Whether or not a book remains accessible shouldn't be based on its content, but on its sales and profit margin.
Maybe someday the controversy will die down,and people won't be so afraid of creationists. They don't scare me.

Thank you Teresa! :grin:
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Jeff Bartlett » Dec 31, 2008 2:29 pm

Teresa wrote:I can, without any pause whatsoever, predict that what we know of the universe will get overturned a time or two more before the whole thing "ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."


I wholeheartedly agree. However, when this happens, it will be based upon a new hypothesis borne out by experimentation and subsequent confirmation by independent (and often competing) scientists. It will NOT be based upon a distortion of existing observational and experimental data in order to reach conclusions that fit a particular political or theologic agenda.

Do you really think anyone cares if a cleric wrote a respected scientific work? Johannes Kepler was a respected astrologer and reader of horoscopes, and believed his ground-breaking work in astronomy was the revealing of God's geometric plan for the universe. The work, not the producer of it, is what weathers the crucible of time. Fundamentally, the issue here is that The Cave Book is a work not of science but of pseudoscience. It doesn't matter whether the author is a creationist or a scientologist or a marxist or a nudist, although if he were a nudist it might at least have an interesting dust jacket. If Art Palmer ate some bad mushrooms and wrote a book describing, in a quasi-scientific fashion, how the life force inside each of us was responsible for forming caves in limestone, I wouldn't want to sell that in our bookstore either.

One of my favorite quotations, from Carl Sagan, corresponds quite well to your quoted sentence posted above:
"In science it often happens that scientists say, "You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken," and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion."
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Wm Shrewsbury » Dec 31, 2008 2:53 pm

Ok, my last reply before I go on with the 1,001 other things I have to do for my NSS wages ($0.00, but our President has offered to double it for me which I declined due to the economy and didn't want to feel like I was taking advantage of the NSS).

I wrote: The decision to drop the book was actually not made by myself, but by one of our members who is a steady church goer. They indicated that while the book was an interesting read, it was not what our "library" of books were about.

Martha Wrote: why should one person decide for everyone? So much for CaverScott's theory that you were responding to the discussion here.

This would have been more correctly written as "The decision to drop the book was made by myself." While I had the assistance of opinion from other members, I purposefully chose members I have caved with who might enjoy reading this book. Diversity - we are all part of it. While many of us kayak, hike, or sail (it's amazing how many cavers I meet who also love sailing!) we don't carry books about those subjects. We are also a little choosy, attempting to bring our members the best literature about caves and caving that can be found.

To Martha's (and CaverScott's) point about responding promptly, I responded by calling Kelli and asking her to take the book off the bookstore list "now, instead of later". We can do things fast, but also realize that responding quickly is often countered with someone saying "that's a knee-jerk reaction". So, the question becomes, we have discovered that the horseshoe is hot. Do we drop it now and have a "knee-jerk" reaction, or do we patiently sit it down and carry on with the next item at hand (like cold water! Now!) It was a quite subject, but became a hot thread so I acted sooner than later. I had seen enough of the horseshoe.

Martha Wrote: Science is one part of the mission of the NSS. Also, I doubt that all the books carried by the NSS Bookstore support the science part of our mission.

Yes, Martha, you are right, not all of our books support the science part of our mission, but they do not state they are science books. The vast majority do state they are science books, but some do not and are not. However if they state that are "scientific", then they do support each other by using the scientific principles that are established. Just as the tectonic plates theory changed how we view the earth's changes, time may change how we view other things. We'll wait and see. The other books we carry are in agreement with each other, though sometimes we laugh when reading them about how the author was not "technically correct" about something, but otherwise correct. This is not about competing theories, it is about having a theory that falls into the realm of science as scientists accept it to be. There is a market for all publications (witness the now defunct National Inquirer's Bat Boy! Sorry to see him gone, that was so funny! And no, I'm NOT saying this book was on the level of that trashy paper, though someone will now have to point out how Bat Boy was the one who found the hidden connection from Lechuguilla Cave to Mammoth Cave...)

Thanks, Martha, a dear friend, for alerting me that my wording was not up to par with my thoughts. I will try to do better for our membership.

Now, off to find the smoke of the fire that Martha has started by now... :campfire: Martha - Say hello to Glenn, Maureen, John, Myrna, Mudpuppy, Mariana and the myriad of other TAG Cavers I've missed up there when you see them tonight. Enjoy the New Year!

PS - For my friend Wyandottecaver, Kelli just told me that we sold 8 copies of Cave Geology in December alone. Not bad for a book that that came out around Convention '07.

Happy New Year, One and All :waving:
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby wyandottecaver » Jan 1, 2009 2:45 pm

8 copies...this book sold 6 (before I bought mine) but was dropped.

IMHO the issue here isn't just this book being (despite semantics) effectively banned from the bookstore. That's ultimately of little consequence. Its the decision making process that surrounded it. (I.E. another in a long line of seemingly out of nowhere decisions in the context of the broader membership) The issue is despite lots of pretty words, who really do the Officers of the Society represent by their actions, do those actions actually represent the Membership, and to what purpose?

If the NSS desires to be purely a society of professional scientists holding a hard line against all improper methodology....I think a large reduction in membership and budget will be in order! *I* think we do support science. We also support conservation, exploration, recreation, and general interest in caves, karst, and related disciplines including people who pay their dues just because they think caves are cool and like to look at the pretty pictures in the News. In that context I think this book fit very well in the bookstore as representing one of many diverse interests and approaches to the resource that we love.

But politics is what I see here. Why not just move it? Even if you don't move it, If this "scientific work" doesn't stand up to scrutiny or generate interest (like many peer reviewed articles published in prestigious journals) it will eventually be ignored. Anyone familiar with the history of science or religion can find plenty of examples in each where new ideas were ridiculed, derided, and later forgotten or accepted. Of course if you don't carry the book then that process is moot huh?

Why was this book removed? Some people don't like it. Some other unnamed entities might look down on us because we carry it. It doesn't promote our image? Hmmm well let me light my book burning pile and start yanking out all our other titles that would qualify. "Them!" doesn't seem to promote our "image". "under plowmans floor" is a fantastic book (I own it) that unfortunately glorifies solo project caving, trespass, and all manner of questionable cave practices. The compilation of cave ballads (I have audio of many of them) will also no doubt contain words and passages unsuitable to such a prestigious organization.....

I'm not mad that some don't think the book is science, we can debate that forever. I'm mad that the "Society" seems to be a few people deciding what everyone else should think is a good idea for them, using their money, without asking, and offering excuses when challenged on it. Despite a monthly publication where they could ask us questions,...The message seems to be "Be an officer or be ignored."

The book should not have been dropped on this timetable. If it was controversial to keep it, then broader input should have been solicited. Period.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby ron_miller » Jan 1, 2009 7:27 pm

Thank you, Wm.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby CaverScott » Jan 2, 2009 11:27 am

wyandottecaver wrote:8 copies...this book sold 6 (before I bought mine) but was dropped.



I might be straying :off topic: again.....

I believe you are comparing the incorrect data . From a business perspective, you should compare the first 30 or 45 days of sales of each book (You should not compare Dec 08 sales of both books since the book in question was just now stocked by the NSS and promoted on our website). New books always generate more sales in the first 30 days from the book collectors.

You will note that Wm stated the geobook sold 8 but was released in convention 07. So the real question should be, how many copies did the book sell in the first 30 days? My guess, the geo book had a much larger sales number and would dwarf the sales of the book in discussion.

Selling 8 copies of a book that was released into our market 1.5 years ago is, as Wm pointed out, "Not bad for a book that that came out around Convention '07."

IMHO - Any new book selling only 6 copies in the first 30 days that was reviewed in the NSS News, should be considered for removal from the bookstore inventory.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby wyandottecaver » Jan 2, 2009 5:16 pm

Scott, I understood the difference. I also understand the difference in "client base" for the two books. I was however admittedly surprised that we sold 8 Cave Geology books in December because of the long time it's been out.

As for dropping a book with 6 sales in 30 days...if that is standard practice for all books then fine. We could have saved alot of bandwidth by saying the Bookstore and OVP were following a normal established policy for retention. I suspect it's not. The distinct impression given is that the book was stocked based on requests, then designated to be dropped after a few people raised concerns regarding its scientific validity and then was fast tracked for removal after this thread started, without any effort to gain wider input on why or if that was appropriate.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Phil Winkler » Jan 2, 2009 7:11 pm

I suspect the book was actively tracked from the get go. Since Kelli became Bookstore Manager she has been very diligent. Our software manages inventory very, very well; tracks sales, on hand quantities, reorder points, etc. However, if someone isn't looking at the data is hasn't much value. Kelli uses the data on a daily basis to make business decisions.

We've had several bookstore managers over the years. Many of them operated in their own special way. Is that a delicate expression or what? :)

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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Teresa » Jan 2, 2009 9:54 pm

xcathodex wrote:
Teresa wrote:I can, without any pause whatsoever, predict that what we know of the universe will get overturned a time or two more before the whole thing "ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."


I wholeheartedly agree. However, when this happens, it will be based upon a new hypothesis borne out by experimentation and subsequent confirmation by independent (and often competing) scientists. It will NOT be based upon a distortion of existing observational and experimental data in order to reach conclusions that fit a particular political or theologic agenda.


I wish this were true, Jeff. Unfortunately, science and its presentation is filled with many more agendas and collusions, (personal, political, and yes, sometimes theological) than most folks outside of academia, or government have a clue exist, due to the internal suppression by a bunch of entirely petty and old fashioned premises and people. The best way, in my opinion is not to advance or suppress any idea, but let the ideas themselves fight it out in the free marketplace of ideas.

People make fun of Kansas, but Missouri, too, has a large contingent of those advocating creationist ideas and attempting to institutionalize them before the public,and I bet the same thing is true for your state. I trust that people I'm willing to cave with and associate with are smart enough to make their own book buying decisions, and they don't need the NSS to approve or disapprove of their selections. For example, I didn't know of this book's existence before it was brought up in this thread. I often read things I violently disagree with, as a way to stretch my mind, and perceptions of the world. Why shouldn't I buy such a book from the NSS, with the profits going to the NSS, instead of some purely commercial outlet? That's actually a fairly subversive thing to do.

The Bookstore has spoken, and that's that.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Steven Johnson » Jan 2, 2009 10:33 pm

Teresa wrote:The best way, in my opinion is not to advance or suppress any idea, but let the ideas themselves fight it out in the free marketplace of ideas.


I agree wholeheartedly!

But in this case, it would appear that the NSS marketplace-of-ideas has given this idea a thumbs-down.

Granted, they sold a handful of copies, and I see a few posters here unhappy that the book has been pulled... but I haven't seen a single person defending the ideas in the book. (Disclaimer: I haven't read the book so I am making assumptions about the books contents...) Most of the complaints seem to be around the idea of censorship being distasteful, rather than agreement with the substance of the claims.
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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby Bill Putnam » Jan 3, 2009 1:43 pm

I was in a bar the other day, and this guy told me that caves were created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who, after creating the Universe, used His Noodly Appendage to form all the twisty little passages. I think he said that the formations were later constructed by Pirates, or something like that. He said that the NSS should sell books about the Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory of Cave Formation. They could be listed right next to Donald Davis' classic text, "The Dilation Theory of Cavern Development" so that we can "teach the controversy. "

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Re: Since When does the NSS sell Creationist Literature?

Postby graveleye » Jan 3, 2009 5:19 pm

Image

I don't know Bill, hodags look pretty big.
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