Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Derbyshire on ID

Ultra-conservative John Derbyshire of National Review Online is not someone I usually quote favorably. But just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, Derbyshire occasionally gets it right. In this blog entry Derbyshire tells us exactly what he thinks of ID:


(1) If scientist X passes a remark about the universe sure being a mysterious place, he has not thereby placed himself in the ID camp. ID is a specific set of arguments about specific scientific topics. Of those arguments I have seen, none struck me as very convincing.

(2) None of the ID people I have encountered (in person or books) is an open-minded inquirer trying to uncover facts about the world. Every one I know of is a Christian looking to justify his faith. This naturally inclines me to think that they are grinding axes, not conducting dispassionate science. This is, in my opinion, not only a path to bad science, but also a path to bad theology. ID is, in my opinion, a species of Science Envy -- like Deconstructionism or Marxism. Science has been brilliantly successful in the present age at explaining things, making things, and improving our health and comfort. People whose natural attraction is to non-scientific disciplines -- literaty criticism, history, theology -- want some of the action.

(3) I do not feel myself to be under any moral obligation to set out detailed arguments against this or that ID-er here on The Corner. Such arguments can be found all over the web, for those who want them. I have better things to do than repeat here what can be easily found.

(4) The “coincidence” point (i.e. “How come physical constants are just precisely what they need to be in order for us to exist?”) is very fascinating to any thoughtful person. I have never seen an answer that struck me as very satifactory; but the non-ID answers -- e.g. the Anthropic Principle in its various forms (Google it) -- are at least as satisfactory as the ID ones (“Because God made things that way.”)


Couldn't have said it better myself. I especially liked that second point.

Derbyshire followed-up with this subsequent post on the subject. Here's an excerpt:


Some readers have chid me for referring to ID as “flapdoodle.” This was, they say, ill-mannered of me. Heaven forbid I should be thought ill-mannered! Me! I therefore beg you to strike out the word “flapdoodle” and replace it with one of the following, according to taste: balderdash, baloney, blather, bunkum, bushwa, claptrap, gobbledygook, hocus-pocus, hogwash, hokum, hooey, humbug, mumbo-jumbo, piffle, rigmarole, tripe, twaddle.


Maybe I'll have to go read his number theory book.

I'm also pleased to note that Glenn Reynolds agrees with Derbyshire. Reynolds is also a conservative, and maintains the blog Instapundit.

Since I routinely take the right to task at this blog it's always nice to have an opportunity to point out that it is only one segment of conservative thought that is anti-science and anti-intellectual. It's a pity the brainless ones are the ones currently in charge of the Republican party.

If more Republicans thought like Derbyshire and Reynolds on this issue, I would still vote for Democrats. But I wouldn't worry so much when Republicans win.

4 Comments:

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apropos of Derbyshire's insight into Christians with axes to grind:

I just finished John Derbyshire's excellent book on Riemann's Hypothesis. Though I highly recommend this book for its presentation of the RH, I will say that it does contain a not-too-subtle coloration of pro-Christian bias in what it discusses, as well as what it does not.

For example, Derbyshire hypothesizes that Riemann's Christian faith motivated Riemann's mathematical genius. Interestingly for this blog, Riemann is widely claimed to be a creationist.

Derbyshire's religious explanation of Riemann's mathematical motivation reminded me of musician/preacher-turned-atheist Dan Barker's
surprising revelation that the motivation for his Christian compositions were musical, not spiritual.

Though Derbyshire skillfully explains the historical forces shaping the characters in his book, he omits mention the Seven Years War when dismissing Voltaire's anti-religious views.

I found Derbyshire's pro-Christian slant on this story to be obvious enough that I did a web search to see if others had seen what I had, and found Derbyshire's explanation of Politics and Religion in Prime Obsession.

I also found this bizarre controversy: apparently, Derbyshire doesn't think very highly of homosexuals [also hinted at by the treatment of some subjects in Prime Obsession]. Lynn Conway, the woman who with Carver Mead taught the world VLSI design and now an EECS professor at the University of Michigan, also has a tough personal story and is a transgender activist.

Conway has compiled Derbyshire's bigoted homophobic writings, which appear to be obsessive themselves. Derbyshire's response: "Lynn Conway is nuts." Maybe, but how did Derbyshire acquire all that knowledge and fascination with homosexuality?

I'm glad that Derbyshire is on the right side of science and the Enlightmenment when it comes to evolution and mathematics, but clearly his attachment to Christianity has clouded his judgement in other matters.

 
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