Uncommon Dissent That's the title of William Dembski's latest book. It is an anthology of mostly original essays by people who take exception to this or that aspect of “Darwinism”. I only just obtained a copy yesterday, and I will be going through it over the next few weeks. If I come across anything that merits a response, I will blog about it.
The book's subtitle is: “Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing”. This subtitle was chosen carefully. There's a reason it does not say “Scientists Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing”. Very few of the contributors hold PhD's in any field related to biology. That is highly significant. The ID folks are constantly telling us that evolution is failing as a scientific paradigm, and that scientists are jumping ship in droves. But when they have a chance to put together an anthology of testimonials authored by people who dissent from modern evolutionary theory, they have to resort to philosophers, lawyers or scientists who do not work in any field related to biology.
The contributors to the volume are: Robert Koons, Phillip Johnson, Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger, Nancy Pearcey, Edward Sisson, J. Budziszewski, Frank Tipler, Michael Behe, Michael Denton, James Barham, Cornelius Hunter, Roland Hirsch, Christopher Langan and David Berlinski. Dembski wrote the introduction but does not contribute a chapter.
Koons and Budziszewski are philosophers. Johnson and Sisson are lawyers. Barham, Langan and Pearcey have no particular academic credentials.
Berlinski, Dembski and Schutzenberger are mathematicians. Dembski makes his living hawking ID, while Berlinski is a science writer who seems to make his living as a gadfly. Neither carries out research in any branch of math or science. Schutzenberger, who died a few years ago, was a very good mathematician. His contribution to this volume is a reprint of an interview he gave shortly before his death in which he says some dispargaing things about Darwinism. Sadly, his criticisms here are so vague as to be difficult to respond to.
Tipler is a physicist with some genuinely good work to his credit. He also has some crackpot work to his credit, most notably his book The Physics of Immortality. His contribution to the volume is mostly an argument that peer-review stifles new ideas. He says almost nothing about ID until the end of the essay. He does not endorse ID, but does parrot the idea that there are grave problems with Darwinism. Like Schutzenberger's, his criticisms are too vague too respond to.
That leaves Behe, Denton, Hunter and Hirsch as the only contributors with credentials in biology. I will pay particular attention to their essays as I work my way through the book.
Not a very impressive line-up. In his public presentations Dembski is fond of telling people about all the underground support he has among serious scientists. His books are littered with vague encomiums, occasionally from people with actual credentials. But when Dembski sets out to produce an anthology to show that there are people who are knowledgeable, serious, and not at all motivated by religion, who dissent from Darwinism, he does not feel he can go to them for contributions.
This was Dembski's big chance to convince us that Darwinism is in trouble as a scientific enterprise. He blew it.