Academic journal article Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

The ASA Does Not Take an Offcial Position on Controversial Questions

Academic journal article Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

The ASA Does Not Take an Offcial Position on Controversial Questions

Article excerpt

In 1971, Richard H. Bube, editor of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (JASA), wrote in an article entitled "We Believe in Creation" that "ASA does not take an official position on controversial questions." In a 1969 editorial comment, he wrote, "It is not the function of the journal to propagate a crusade for any particular interpretation..." This neutrality position not only covered origins questions but all manner of topics, including the definition of biblical inerrancy. F. Alton Everest's 1951 survey of the first ten years of the ASA and JASA editor Delbert N. Eggenberger's 1956 editorial show that this attitude was part of the ASA's DNA from the beginning. ASA has resisted efforts to become a group advocating a particular position, leaving such advocacy to others. More recently, the "no official position" viewpoint received some nuance with Randy Isaac's tenure as executive director and his interaction with young-earth creationism (YEC), intelligent design (ID), and climate science.

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Richard H. Bube wrote in 1971 in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (JASA) that "ASA does not take an official position on controversial questions." (1) This claim was in an article entitled "We Believe in Creation," arguably one of the most significant papers ever published in JASA. He argued that "creation" as a theological topic was not controversial and that he had no "hesitancy in affirming, 'We believe in creation,' for every ASA member." Bube explained that as scientific topics, however, fiat creationism--now more commonly called young-earth creationism (YEC)--and biological evolution and old-earth geology/cosmology were controversial questions for which ASA had no official position. There were ASA members with each of these viewpoints, and ASA as an organization was not an advocate for any one of them.

In many ways this "neutrality doctrine" is unique to the ASA as a Christian organization and as a scientific organization. In the Statement of Faith, ASA members commit to the Bible, to the Christian faith (as stated in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), to the practice (with integrity) of science, and to the use of science and technology for the good of others. (2) Further detail on each plank is neither spelled out nor required of members, and thus there is a wide diversity of views represented by the membership--in ASA publications and in meeting presentations. This distinguishes the ASA from other faith/science organizations in which particular positions are advocated: YEC (Creation Research Society, Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis), old-earth creationism (Reasons to Believe), intelligent design (Discovery Institute), or evolutionary creation (BioLogos Foundation). Such diversity also distinguishes ASA from many Christian denominations and para-church groups, given that many of these groups often have much more detailed statements of faith.

One of the more interesting consequences of this neutrality doctrine is that failure to advocate for a particular position is often seen as advocacy for the opposite position. In the early days of the organization, some members felt that because ASA did not take a YEC stance that it was becoming an advocate of theistic evolution (TE). Others thought that in not narrowly defining the inerrancy of scripture it had become theologically liberal. This perception is perhaps a natural outgrowth of the neutrality doctrine. Those who are uncompromising on a particular issue cannot tolerate those who are more open minded. Thus, they leave the ASA (or become less active), and the alternative position seems to become more prevalent. For the ASA, this is mere perception. Those committed to certain (usually more conservative (3)) views can still belong and participate. ASA promotes a respectful engagement and dialogue among those who hold to the Christian faith in some way and who are interested in the questions of science. …

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