Home » Intelligent Design » First Things editor scolds New York Times over Dawkins’s review of Behe

First Things editor scolds New York Times over Dawkins’s review of Behe

Apparently, in the most recent edition of First Things, Fr. Richard Neuhaus defends Mike Behe, author of Edge of Evolution. It’s not on line yet, but Fr. Neuhaus says, among other things,

You usually know that somebody is losing the argument when he loses his cool and resorts to bluster, abuse, caricature, and the invocation of authorities who agree with him.

He is referring, of course, to Richard Dawkins’s attempt to trash Behe’s book in The New York Times. He notes the curious fact that the Times should never have given the book to Dawkins to review anyway, without giving Behe the right of reply (which it would never dare to do):

It is hard to know what purpose is served by the Book Review in having Dawkins review Behe, except, possibly, to ostracize anyone who presumes to raise questions about prevailing Darwinist orthodoxies and, perhaps, to pander to the smug prejudices of the presumed readership of the Times. That does not instill confidence in the Darwinist materialism that they are so desperately defending.

This is all particularly interesting because Neuhaus is not especially one of the ID think tank Discovery Institute fans.

Rather, it sounds (especially when you read the whole thing) as though he is beginning to get the same picture as so many of the rest of us: Darwinism is the Enron of biology.

The fact that he scolds the New York Times over Dawkins’s review is interesting in view of the question raised by some about whether Dawkins had actually read Behe’s book.

Also: Cameron Wybrow, who got an honest review of Mike Behe’s Edge of Evolution published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, found himself taking to task a completely silly review in the Winnipeg Free Press. Put it this way: It is impossible for U of Winnipeg molecular biologist Janice Dodd to consider the possibility that Darwinism might not be true. So she doesn’t. Read her review, then Wybrow’s comment.

I was travelling on a Toronto streetcar today with a fellow journalist who was musing about the sheer gullibility of Darwinists. Learned in history, he pointed out that Darwinists had originally attacked Mendel because Mendel cited statistics for genetics – instead of the vagueness the Darwinists so loved. He and I believe in a traditional religion, but the Darwinists believe in magic.

Also: ID materials outselling anti-ID materials? Gotta getta law against that!

Catholic Church continues to reject Darwinism

Is intelligent design biblical?

Jason Rennie’s SciPhiShow interview with Denyse O’Leary on The Spiritual Brain.

People who have inspired/intrigued the readers of The Spiritual Brain.

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13 Responses to First Things editor scolds New York Times over Dawkins’s review of Behe

  1. Philadelphia Enquirer

    That should be Philadelphia Inquirer (although I too have at times referred to it in the above fashion).

  2. “Ewww…intelligent design people! They’re just buck-toothed, Bible-pushing nincompoops with community-college degrees who’re trying to sell a gussied-up creationism to a cretinous public! No need to address their concerns or respond to their arguments. They are Not Science. They are poopy-heads. There. I just saved you the trouble of reading 90 percent of the responses to the ID position…. This is how losers act just before they lose: arrogant, self-satisfied, too important to be bothered with substative refutation, and disdainful of their own faults. … The only remaining question is whether Darwinism will exit gracefully, or whether it will go down biting, screaming, censoring, and denouncing to the bitter end”

    - Douglas Kern, Tech Central Station, 2005 as quoted in “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design”

    Ummmm, I’ll take “Biting, Screaming, Censoring, and Denouncing” for $200, Alex.

  3. Yes, tribune7, my bad, but now fixed. – d.

  4. I was travelling on a Toronto streetcar today with a fellow journalist who was musing about the sheer gullibility of Darwinists. Learned in history, he pointed out that Darwinists had originally attacked Mendel because Mendel cited statistics for genetics – instead of the vagueness the Darwinists so loved.

    Do you have a reference for that? The most well known opposition to Mendel’s results came from biometricians such as Karl Pearson who were leading statisticians and made extensive use of statistics in their opposition.

  5. (4) As I recall, there was a heated debate between “mutationists” and “selectionists” in the first half of the twentieth century with respect to the causes of novel biological features. That might have been what O’Leary’s fellow journalist had in mind.

    The Dulles article, linked to above, is quite interesting and worthwhile. In particular, I appreciated the distinctions drawn between different positions within a “Christian philosophy of nature.” Whether ID is really a comfortable fit is, of course, quite another question.

  6. My hack friend replies,
    “Thomas Huxley himself took potshots at Mendel. But I am recalling my studies of thirty years ago, & while I’m quite certain “Mendelism” was under attack from Darwinists wherever it reared its head, I would have to really go to Robarts to dig out my old sources. For I was reading then mostly contemporary writings from the last three decades of the 19th-C, not later histories that tend to overlook such details, or “clean them up.” Will get back to you if a few specific leads occur to me. ”

    I expect Darwinists treated Mendel the same way they treat people who know that moths don’t usually rest on tree trunks and have to be glued in place – enemies of the Cause, until they can be dealt with in some way.

  7. Carl Sachs said:

    (4) As I recall, there was a heated debate between “mutationists” and “selectionists” in the first half of the twentieth century with respect to the causes of novel biological features. That might have been what O’Leary’s fellow journalist had in mind.

    This is exactly the debate I was thinking about. Pearson was on the side of the selectionists. But I don’t think it can have been the debate Denyse’s colleague was referring to:

    1) The selectionists (anti-mendelian, pro-darwin) although wrong, were extremely quantitative in their approach.
    2) The dates are wrong. According to the post above Denyse’s colleague apparently got his/her evidence from contemporary writings in the last decades of the 19th-C. The mutationist/selectionist dispute did not happen until the 20th-C.

    In fact Denyse’s friend’s claims are confusing. Although Mendal published his paper in 1866 all the literature says it was virtually unknown until De Vries published in 1900. So I am curious to know what contempory sources he was working from.

  8. I believe the reason Karl Pearson was opposed to Mendelism had little to do with the use of statistics and a lot to do with a commitment to nominalism in science. Darwin’s theory is exceptionally compatible with a nominalist perspective because it views nature as a giant extruder; there are no truly discreet kinds; it is simply the human mind that makes it so for its own convenience. Mendelism implies the actual existence of an unobservable, namely the gene, and this is what raised Pearson’s ire, in much the same way that Ernst Mach could get his stuffings in an uproar over the existence of atoms.

  9. Might find this article on Mendel interesting:

    http://www.weloennig.de/mendel02.htm

  10. D.A.Newton said:

    believe the reason Karl Pearson was opposed to Mendelism had little to do with the use of statistics and a lot to do with a commitment to nominalism in science.

    I wonder on what you base this conclusion? I did a quick search on JSTOR for articles by Pearson which included Mendel in the content (there were 14 of them). They look pretty quantitive to me. Certainly no objection to Mendel citing statistics!

  11. (10) Mark, as I understood D.A.’s remark, Pearson was opposed to Mendel because Mendel posited the existence of an unobservable entity, “the gene.” This conflicted with Pearson’s commitment to nominalism in philosophy of science. The analogy with Mach’s attitude towards atoms is striking. Although, in connection with that point, it’s also worth pointing out that Mach changed his mind about atoms as the evidence accumulated. Likewise, if my hazy memory is at all reliable, T. H. Morgan began his work on fruit-flies as a skeptic about genes and changed his mind as the evidence accumulated. By contrast with Mendel, Darwin’s epistemology is highly nominalistic — he rejects “real essences” and ‘nominalizes’ species as distributions of characters across populations. I began reading the Origin of Species recently and was astounded at how Lockean it sounded!

  12. (11) Carl, I think I understood D.A. Newton’s remark which was very interesting. I was just asking on what evidence, i.e. documents, he based it. I am not saying that Pearson was not motivated by nominalism – I know nothing about his philosophy of science. But it is compatible with him taking a very quantitative approach in his criticisms of Mendel and my brief look at the papers I mentioned bear this out. (One of them is in German and I haven’t the foggiest idea what he is writing in that one).

    Anyhow this has all moved a long way from Denyse’s colleagues initial remark and ID.

  13. Sorry about being a week late with this. The source for my comment on Karl Pearson’s nominalism is the criticism of Pearson’s book, “The Grammar of Science”, by the American Philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce in his January 1901 review in the Popular Science Monthly. The review is reprinted as selection #6 in the 2nd volume of “The Essential Peirce.”

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