Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Jerry Coyne and ID

Evolutionist Jerry Coyne recently wrote a review of Ann Coulter’s new book Godless. In his review (in the New Republic Online), he says:

“[O]ne has to ask whether Coulter (who, by the way, attacks me in her book) really understands the Darwinism she rejects. The answer is a resounding No. According to the book’s acknowledgments, Coulter was tutored in the “complex ideas” of evolution by David Berlinski, a science writer; Michael Behe, a third-rate biologist at Lehigh University (whose own department’s website disowns his bizarre ideas); and William Dembski, a fairly bright theologian who went off the intellectual rails and now peddles creationism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. These are the “giants” of the ID movement, which shows how retarded it really is. Learning biology from this lot is like learning elocution from George W. Bush….”


Who are the people that Coyne describes in his review? Who are these “‘giants’ of the ID movement” that “shows how retarded it really is?” Well, here is what history has told us thus far:

Dr. David Berlinski obtained his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Mathematics and Molecular Biology at Columbia University. He has been a professor of philosophy, mathematics, and English at schools such at Standford University and Rutgers University in the past. He has authored numerous books including, most famously, A Tour of Calculus (Pantheon) and The Advent of the Algorithm (Harcourt Brace). Berlinski has lectured and debated at some of the most prestigious institutes in the world.

Dr. William A. Dembski has seven degrees in five fields of study (psychology, philosophy, theology, statistics, and mathematics). His degrees include a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago. In addition, Dembski completed four postdocs and eight fellowships, once again in a variety of subjects. Dembski has lectured and debated at some of the most prestigious institutes in the world.

Dr. Michael J. Behe obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University. He is the author of the best-selling book Darwin’s Black Box, which was named by National Review and World magazines as one of the 100 most important books of the 20th Century. Behe has lectured and debated at some of the most prestigious institutes in the world.

Certainly you could refer to Berlinski as a “science writer,” Dembski as a “theologian” who “peddles creationism,” and Behe as a “third-rate scientist,” but you would only do that to add your own spin to the facts.

Wait, I take that back. Dembski isn’t a creationist and I didn’t know that Lehigh University (a top-50 research university in America) was into hiring third-rate scientists. On that note, I didn’t know that the University of Pennsylvania (a top—oh wait—an Ivy League school) was into turning out third-rate scientists…and giving them Ph.D.s! Speaking about Ivy League schools, I wasn’t aware that Princeton University was into training “science writers” and giving them Ph.D.s! Coyne better be careful, his own institution (University of Chicago) might also be in the practice of hiring and turning out “science writers” and “third-rate scientists.” After all, Dembski received multiple degrees from that school.

I think Coyne might have over-reacted just a tad to the part about Ann Coutler “attacking” him. But again, fact-distorting and insult-hurling have always been favorites for Coyne and the evolution community.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jerry Coyne's characterisation of the leading lights of ID as a science writer, theologian and a third-rate biologist is justified. A scholar is judged by his/her best work and most recent work. The place where the said scholar studied/taught/worked matters far less if at all. By harshly criticising Behe Coyne isn't saying anything about the institutions Behe has been associated with. How could he? Because these three luminaries have earned their PhDs studying subjects that have nothing to do with IDiocy. With charity Coyne let's Berlinski away calling a crank a 'science writer' and a pseudoscientist such as Dembski a theologian. Behe is certainly not a third-rate biologist, just plain third-rate. A biology graduate who has no idea of the relevant literature in his field, dubs astrology a science, conducts no research and publishes nothing scholarly, and is busy studying rat-traps after having secured tenure is not a third-rate biologist, but third-rate!

Anonymous said...

Research before writing is essential.

Behe is not a biologist. He is a biochemist. Behe has not said that astrology is a science. Behe continues to do research (a requirement for his tenure at Lehigh).


And how is it that, I quote, "these luminaries have earned their PhDs studying sbujects that have nothing to do with [ID]"? What, then, exactly constitutes the "realm" of ID?

truth machine said...

Behe has not said that astrology is a science.

Well yes, he did,as you would know if you had done any research:

Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?

A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

truth machine said...

I think Coyne might have over-reacted just a tad to the part about Ann Coutler “attacking” him.

Then you haven't read her book.

But again, fact-distorting and insult-hurling have always been favorites for Coyne and the evolution community.

That itself is a distortion of fact and a hurling of insults.

Anonymous said...

Truth Machine, perhaps you ought to read your quote more carefully as part of your so-called research.

First, Behe did *not* say he was giving a definition of science. He said that he was giving what he views as the definition of a "scientific theory".

Secondly, he said himself: "There are many things throughout the history of science which WE NOW THINK TO BE INCORRECT which nonetheless would fit that...." (emphasis mine)

He did not say that astrology was a science.



It is the same as someone saying that there are many explanations for something like the Trojan War. Economic reasons, political power, and goddesses' fights over a golden apple are all *explanations* although no one accepts the last one.

Or, that there are many ways to classify the living world. Aristotle's method IS a way to classify living things, but is a method which fits under the list of things that "we now think to be incorrect". It does not make it any less of a method of classification.

There is no comment on the *legitimacy* of things included in the definition, only that a particular definition includes certain examples.

Anonymous said...

Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. Read this to understand why Behe is wrong Mano Singham explains why a scientific theory is not merely an explanation http://tinyurl.com/rsxu8. By Behe's definition it would be demons that cause friction.

Imagine this
You: There are other laws of friction: for example, the drag is proportional to the pressure holding the surfaces together.
Faustus: The demons live in the pores of the surface: more pressure makes more of them rush out and be crushed. Demons act in just the right way to push and drag with the forces you find in your experiments.


Behe offers no (un)observable data and only an illogical inference.

And correction. Jerry Coyne got it wrong, Behe isn't a third-rate biologist; but a 3rd rate biochemist

Anonymous said...

Whether or not Behe's definition of a scientific theory is valid was not part of the original question. The first was the claim that he has no idea of the relevant literature of his field, called astrology a science, and was a poor biologist, which have been shown to be incorrect.

Behe's definition of a "scientific theory" is another matter of debate entirely, one he may take up with Mr. Singham.

I did read the website and the comments, and I am not sure how they are relevant to this particular discussion. The ability to "carry within themselves the seeds of new predictions," which opens a new and entirely different debate on a designer-in-the-gaps, has little relevance to the identity of any of the scientists of whom Coyne spoke.

Jim Sherwood said...

Behe has been listed in American Men and Women of Science for a decade. Coyne is not listed there. To call him 3rd rate is mere arbitrary propaganda. He has done substantial research of the structure of DNA, according to AMWS, and is a full Professor at Lehigh. To claim that he regards astrology as valid science is an absurd misreading of what he said.