Following the publication of Yale polymath David Gelernter’s wonderful essay at The Claremont Review of Books, “Giving Up Darwin,” we’re seeing, yet again, two ways for Darwinists to approach the subject of intelligent design and Darwin skepticism. Both are pretty lame.
This week we had Razib Khan’s article at National Review, urging that ID proponents aka “evolution deniers” not be engaged, out of deference to evolution’s sparkling contribution to Western civilization. This from a self-described geneticist (actually he’s a PhD candidate) who himself engaged for years with the racists of the alt-right and whose name still appears on the homepage of a website featuring Holocaust deniers. Khan doesn’t mention Gelernter, but he does repeatedly refer to Michael Behe and his (unnamed) recent book, Darwin Devolves. True to his own advice, Khan opts not to indicate what the book argues, much less to argue against it.
Now here’s Jerry Coyne, an actual evolutionary biologist but a bit of a comic figure as well. Typical reasoning from Coyne, who like Khan is an atheist: “Seriously, if God wants us to accept Him, why can’t he just come down to Earth and do a few irrefutable miracles that can be witnessed, photographed, and so on?” That was from a response to Stephen Meyer, author of Darwin’s Doubt, whom Gelernter acknowledges as an important influence, along with David Berlinski and a book I edited, Debating Darwin’s Doubt.
“All I Can Think of Is Religion”
Today Coyne trots out a few shallow criticisms of ID, quotes himself as having said, regarding Meyer’s book, “I won’t waste time showing how they’ve been rebutted,” and leans heavily on insinuations about Gelernter’s motives. Khan says conservatives who doubt Darwin needlessly “fear” evolution. (See Paul Nelson’s post, “I Don’t ‘Fear’ Evolution.”) Coyne focuses not on fear but on religious motivation. He comes back again and again to the observation that Gelernter is a “religious Jew.” What can account for the fact that a scientist as brilliant as that thinks “Intelligent Design is the happening thing”? (Actually, while explaining how Darwinian evolution has failed, Gelernter makes clear that he doesn’t accept ID.) Asks Coyne, “Could it be his religion?” His “Old-Testament goggles”? “All I can think of is religion,” Coyne speculates, returning to this six separate times, by my count, in one post.
There you have it: two approaches to ID for the Darwin faithful. You can ignore the arguments, fail to engage, urge others not to engage, and attribute motives. Or you can engage, just barely, at the most juvenile level, and attribute motives.
As others have said before, one of the first things you notice about ID critics is the low level of most of their critiques. As Jonathan Wells noted here the other day, referring to still another attempt to rebuff design arguments, as found in the new book by chemist Marcos Eberlin, “Some reviews that try to make a book look bad are so ill-informed and malicious that they actually make a good book look better.” Yep. It’s a familiar experience.