Monday, January 31, 2005

Around the Blogs

Here are a few entries at other blogs that have caught my eye recently:

Biologist Sahotra Sarkar comes to the same conclusion as I did about the Wall Street Journal op-ed I analyzed in yesterday's post. You can find the link here. Here's an excerpt:


As biologists, as well as ordinary citizens of a democracy who are presumably ready to defend freedom of speech, what should our position be? The first point to emphasize is that, by short-circuiting the normal review process as Editor of a journal, Sternberg is guilty of professional misconduct. Second, this professional misconduct is of a type that calls into question the integrity of the scientific process on which we rely every day when we trust each other’s work published in peer-reviewed journals. Third, it is therefore entirely reasonable to have doubts about the scientific integrity of Sternberg’s own work. Consequently, not only is it reasonable to “ostracize” him in the rather weak sense of refusing to collaborate with him (one of Klinghoffer’s complaints). In fact, if we care about the veracity of our own results, it would be unwise to collaborate with or rely on Sternberg. It is thus entirely to be expected if Sternberg finds himself isolated at the Smithsonian (as Klinghoffer alleges).


Philosopher John Wilkins offers this fine post taking Michael Ruse to task for his overly simplistic treatment of the question of whether evolution is a religion. An excerpt:


Worse still, Ruse continues to talk about "evolutionists", as if we were a set of ideologues marching in concert. There was such a movement - it tended to focus more on Schopenhauer and Hegel at the end of the nineteenth century than on Darwin, and it was largely based on a pre-Darwinian understanding of transmutation. Bergson and Spencer are two representatives, and Teilhard was a late flowering of what was by then a largely mystical belief in progress. I never understood why Huxley and Simpson gave it credence either.

But today, there are battlelines drawn that are quite different. “Evolutionist”, if it means anything at all, means a philosophy that drew on evolution as an inspiration for idealist (in both senses) philosophy. It was roundly rejected in analytic Anglo-American philosophy, as described in

Cunningham, Suzanne. Philosophy and the Darwinian Legacy. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1996.


Finally, while not technically a blog, don't miss this fine article from Slate about the Lawrence Summers controversy. Recall that he is the President of Harvard who casually suggested recently that some of the disparity between men and women in math and science has to do with “innate differences” between the sexes (i.e. genetic differences). The Right, which was horrified by the suggestion that there was a genetic component to one's receptiveness to religious belief, has predictably declared that Summers is just a lonely and courageous truth-seeker being pilloried by the mindless minions of political correctness. Slate contributor Meghan O'Rourke explains why that is nonsense:


This matters because, whatever the influence of genetics may turn out to be, there is no doubt that the enduring social consensus that women are on average worse than men in math and science plays a major role in shaping women's careers and their career choices. It does so in two ways: through discrimination and through socialization. Contrary to the pie-in-the-sky assumptions of many of Summers' media defenders, studies show that discrimination against women in the academy is alarmingly widespread, if often unconscious.


Exactly right. Go read the whole article.

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