“Gnu” Darwinist Jerry Coyne attacks mathematician David Berlinski
|November 22, 2011||Posted by News under Culture, Darwinism, Intelligent Design, News|
Recently Jerry “Why Evolution Is True” Coyne launched, via his blog, an attack on mathematician David “Devil’s Delusion“ Berlinski that we thought was, well, unhinged. Assailing Berlinski for his comments on the 20th anniversary of Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial, he opined,
Yesterday, at the Discovery Institute’s News and Views site, Berlinski wrote “Majestic Ascent: Berlinski on Darwin on Trial,” a post apparently designed to fête the twentieth anniversary of Phillip Johnson’s execrable Darwin on Trial: the book that launched the ID movement. Johnson’s book is full of inaccuracies and lies (I use the word deliberately, because no honest scholar could make the claims that he did). And, sure enough, Berlinksi’s post is full of lies as well. I’m not going to analyze it in detail, but here are a few blatant misrepresentations.
First, a specimen of how incredibly pompous and awkward Berlinski’s writing is. Do not write like this! I think he’s trying to ape Gould’s style, possessed with a big vocabulary but lacking Gould’s wit and erudition.
Actually, if you want to learn to write well, study Berlinski along with your Strunk & White, and recognize Coyne’s screed for what it is – a classic in twisted envy. One might envy many sentences written by Berlinski, Johnson, and Gould – none whatever by Jerry Coyne. It’s not much to ask, either, that the lit critic be a competent practitioner.
In “Jerry Coyne Hasn’t Understood a Word David Berlinski Said” (Evolution News & Views, November 21, 2011) Ann Gauger of the Biologic Institute replies:
Jerry operates in an adaptationist world, where evidence of variation is evidence, if not proof, of natural selection. When he sees a good adaptationist story or a series of fossils that paint a transitional picture, he doesn’t seem to consider whether or not the details are plausible. He mentions, for example, the whale fossil series as proof that transitions happened, but fails to consider the incredibly shrinking window of time available, or the enormous amount of genetic information that is required for the transition from terrestrial to aquatic whales to have occurred. Did it occur by natural selection alone? There isn’t enough time, as David Berlinski and Rick Sternberg realized long ago. But not Jerry.
Jerry also ignores the disputes over adaptationalism vs. neutral evolution. The question is whether natural selection is powerful enough to overcome genetic drift, so as to drive evolution in a forward direction, or whether we are a lucky accumulation due to the drift of numerous genetic accretions. Motoo Kimura, Michael Lynch, and Austin Hughes see the trouble. And so does David Berlinski. But not Jerry.
It is no dispraise of Jerry to say that he has tenure for not seeing the problem. There are thousands like him across the Western world. With the position comes a pair of No See spectacles, to be worn at all times when assessing the evidence.
The fact that Jerry’s specialty, evolutionary biology, doesn’t matter a whole lot in itself postpones the day people gain positions like his – and then just refuse to wear those blinders, oops, specs.