In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called “Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life” in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, “one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive.”
Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want — from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.
So after 52 years, he has retracted it.
It is not unusual for scientists to publish papers and, if they discover evidence that challenges them, to announce they were wrong. The idea that all scientific knowledge is provisional, able to be challenged and overturned, is one thing that separates matters of science from matters of faith.
So Dr. Jacobson’s retraction is in “the noblest tradition of science” Rosalind Reid, editor of American Scientist, wrote in its November-December issue, which has Dr. Jacobson’s letter. His letter shows, Ms. Reid wrote, “the distinction between a scientist who cannot let error stand, no matter the embarrassment of public correction” and people who “cling to dogma.”
There’s not a clearer example of the stunning moral difference between faith and science than this brave act by a scientist.That it happened in response to the crass manipulations of so-called “scientific creationists” is even better.
If these ID nutbags were actually onto something, they’d be citing current work, and they’d have no trouble attracting top talent. But no. They have to content themselves to trotting out 50-year-old speculations just vague enough not to disprove what they want so desperately to believe. How intellectually weak can you get?? Weak enough that the 84-year-old scientist they cited came out of retirement to tell them they’re full of shit. Now that’s weak.
Thank you, Dr. Jacobson, for exposing these quacks for the cynical frauds that they are.