Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Emperor Sure Does Look Grand

In his new suit of very fine clothes. David Berlinski opines on the current state of the Darwinism vs Intelligent Design debate. Also, if you have the time, and you've never read it, here is Berlinski's famous and well-written 1996 Commentary article against Darwinism. This is the beginning of the first piece mentioned above:
The defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution has now fallen into the hands of biologists who believe in suppressing criticism when possible and ignoring it when not. It is not a strategy calculated in induce confidence in the scientific method. A paper published recently in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington concluded that the events taking place during the Cambrian era could best be understood in terms of an intelligent design – hardly a position unknown in the history of western science. The paper was, of course, peer-reviewed by three prominent evolutionary biologists. Wise men attend to the publication of every one of the Proceeding’s papers, but in the case of Steven Meyer’s "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," the Board of Editors was at once given to understand that they had done a bad thing. Their indecent capitulation followed at once.

Publication of the paper, they confessed, was a mistake. It would never happen again. It had barely happened at all. And peer review?

The hell with it.

“If scientists do not oppose antievolutionism,” Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, remarked, “it will reach more people with the mistaken idea that evolution is scientifically weak.” Scott’s understanding of ‘opposition’ had nothing to do with reasoned discussion. It had nothing to do with reason at all. Discussing the issue was out of the question. Her advice to her colleagues was considerably more to the point: "Avoid debates."

Everyone else had better shut up.

In this country, at least, no one is ever going to shut up, the more so since the case against Darwin’s theory retains an almost lunatic vitality.

He goes on to highlight a few conundrums. The 1996 article goes into much greater detail and is well worth reading. It also generated a heck of an interesting debate in the letters section of Commentary a few months after it was published. Unfortunately, I cannot any longer find a free version of this letters section on the web.

No comments: