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Protecting “Public Intellectual Life”

Bruce Chapman

“Progressives” in science and other fields increasingly deal with serious opponents by belittling them and ruling their arguments out of order. That wouldn’t matter in a free debate, but the left wing in science also disallows debate. That way they are allowed to mischaracterize their opponents’ positions and the opponents cannot correct the record in a reply. You will not see a pro-intelligent design article in the New York Times, for example.
The situation is a bit better in England, where, despite the absence of a First Amendment, journalists seem to admire a good joust. The most recent case was an announcement by Richard Dawkins that he would not debate American theist William Lane Craig on the existence of God because Craig supports “genocide.” This claim is bizarre, but quite in keeping with Dawkins and the bullying “New Atheists.” The true motivation, of course, is that Dawkins is afraid of Craig. There’s nothing new there.
What is unusual is that in this case Dawkins was taken to task by Tim Stanley in the London Telegraph last week. And this week Daniel Came, a sceptic at the generally left wing Guardian, takes Dawkins apart for anti-intellectualism.
The tactics of Dawkins and other New Atheists, says Came, are “fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life.” The only deficiency in that sound characterization is the qualifier “potentially.” The dead hand of dogmatism is all over philosophical questions in biology today.