With the Covington Catholic hoax, we were served with a warning about how easy it is to be fooled by media-approved “fact.” My scuffle with National Review’s Kevin Williamson about evolution offers another reminder. I belabor this because Williamson is a star writer who should know better, and because his error is unfortunately typical.
The hypnotically repeated media line is that there is no debate about the “fact” that unguided processes in nature account for all we see before us. Yet there is indeed a debate among scientists, as I indicated with citations of peer-reviewed literature, naming scientists who differ sharply from the majority view, including Nobel laureates and some very mainstream researchers who gathered recently under the auspices of the world’s most august scientific body.
There, in the opening presentation, biologist Gerd Müller of the University of Vienna delineated neo-Darwinism’s “explanatory deficits” including biological novelty and complexity, and the abrupt appearance of new forms, as in the Cambrian explosion. In other words, pretty much everything we think of when we think of “evolution,” all the big stuff, is unexplained by the current theory. Williamson now responds strangely by saying that I have no authorities to point to other than “poets” and “political activists.”
You can find the exchange here:
- Klinghoffer, “The Ultimate Question of Life’s Origins”
- Williamson, “Irreducible Perplexity”
- Klinghoffer, “More Than a Technical Debate”
- Williamson, “Authority Figures”
I thank National Review for giving me an opportunity to respond on their site.
In replying to me, Williamson ignored all the scientists I pointed to, quite apart from our friend and colleague Michael Behe, who question Darwinism or affirm design. But “Where are the ID scientists?” is basically the challenge that Williamson issued in the first place. Did he not read what I wrote in response before replying to me? More likely, rather than admit he was mistaken in characterizing intelligent design, there is a kind of self-induced blindness going on.
This is about ego, not science. Of course, an allergy to conceding error is not unique to ID opponents, but as I said, it is typical of them.
Update: For more on the exchange, by Wesley Smith and Michael Behe, see also:
- Smith, “Stifling the Intelligent Design Debate Is Bad Science”
- Behe, “On Intelligent Design, Do Your Own Homework. Make Up Your Own Mind.”
- Klinghoffer, “Michael Behe’s Marshall McLuhan Moment”
This all adds up, I suppose, to a virtual symposium on mulish prejudice and ignorance.