Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Two Steps Forward...One Step Back Dept.
NRO has over the past year improved its science coverage with articles by Jim Manzi backing up John Derbyshire when it comes to evolution, and suggesting conservatives need to be more science literate.

Unfortunately, apparently following the "equal time" bullshit approach that NRO would rightfully chortle at when it comes to any other subject, they continue to serve up the usual swill from the chowderskulls at the Discovery Institute. DC has it covered here.

(sigh)

Seriously--I would like to know just how many subscribers NRO thinks they would lose if they just came out and told the ID groupies, we've had enough of this crap and we're not publishing it anymore unless you back up your claims with some real science.

3 comments:

Deuce said...

John, I'm really not sure why this particular thing bugs you so much. For one thing, what West has posted isn't "science coverage" per se. He's posting in defense of a bill that Bobby Jindal signed. This is a political issue, and it's not at all clear-cut to me that the "conservative" side of the issue is to believe that the bill is unconstitutional, even if (like me) you don't think ID should be taught in schools.

Futhermore, West isn't even an NRO regular, but wrote a guest article. And even if West's article were outside the conservative mainstream, I see NRO post guest articles that don't agree 100% with the "conservative" line all the time. The idea that every single person at the Discovery Institute should just be considered anathema on every subject, and should never be allowed to post about anything on NRO, frankly strikes me as a bit thuggish, and as handing ammunition to the IDers when they claim that they don't get a fair hearing.

As to the science coverage on NRO, I agree that Jim Manzi's is generally pretty good, and pretty reasonable. But Derb's? Frankly, it's often hard for me to tell when he's posting science and when he's posting pseudo-scientific arguments in support of his atheism. Science and scientism seem to just blur together for him. Sure, he'll make the methodological/philosophical naturalism distinction when it suits him (ie, when he's trying to keep ID out of science), but he promptly drops it the rest of the time.

An inordinate amount of his "science" postings seem to be focused on evolutionary deconstructions of morality and altruism, evolutionary/"neuroscientific" deconstructions of the soul, and evolutionary accounts of racial differences in IQ (which I've gathered from your previous posts you have a low opinion of). Very, very little of his time is spent on actually presenting hard, empirical, repeatable science.

In fact, once you get past his posts hawking reductionism, all that's really left of his "science-related" stuff are his various postings on why he thinks ID sucks (which aren't about science, but philosophy of science), and his posts bashing religion in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, as "relativist", while advancing (what else?) science as the superior way of knowing. And on both these topics (ID and Catholicism), he's too ignorant to make an substantive points - even where there are substantive points to be made.

My question is, why doesn't this stuff, which happens far more frequently since Derb is a regular, not piss you off just as much, or even more, than John West having the occasional guest article about an education bill?

As a scientist who is also a serious Catholic, you ought to see Derb's scientism as just as much a corruption of science as ID. And you should be even further offended that he uses it as a bludgeon against your faith.

John Farrell said...

Deuce, I appreciate the comment, but come on, 'thuggish'?

I am (often) an intemperate carmudgeon, but I've never written anywhere on this site that I wish, for example, that Bruce Chapman would drop dead, or why doesn't someone beat the crap out of so-and-so.

Thuggish is the crew at PZ Myers site where most lately they've been mocking the late Sir John Templeton.

It's true West himself has only posted a few guest articles--but, on evolution in general, most of the guest articles are always by DI fellows: David Klinghoffer, Gilder, Mustafa Akyol (I think his name is). Why not more pieces from commenters from Heritage or Cato or some other institute? It's always the DI.

As for Derb, you're going to have to remind me of his overtly anti-RC links--because I mainly read him on evolution. But again, it kind of proves my point--for all of his misfires (and sure they are many--his response to Tom Bethell had me eating my mousepad I was so frustrated), he was the ONLY guy defending the science until Jim Manzi came along.

Deuce said...

Hey, John, I'd wanted to get back to this, since I figure I ought to back it up if I make an assertion about someone:

As for Derb's overtly anti-RC postings, I was going to try to dig up just the most recent example, but then I remembered that Mark Shea posted about it (and thereby conveniently cataloged it) here. That sort of snide attack is by no means rare for Derb, nor limited to the Catholic Church (though it does seem to be a special target for him)

Actually, if you step back and take a look, I think you'll see that his reputation as NRO's "science guy" stems almost entirely from his promotion of reductionism and his ID-blasting, and hardly at all from any actual science that he posts.

There's very little actual science to be learned from him. His interest in science is limited entirely to evolution, and within that entirely to evolutionary psychology, and within that almost entirely to the "Science is destroying our very notions of morality/God/the self/free will/the soul/human equality/etc" brand of pop science/philosophy. I think you'll be hard pressed to find much that he's written to suggest otherwise.

Also, here he is flipping out because Alan Jacobs dared to tease Saint Pinker (who, of course, is far too intelligent to ever be wrong, and must be considered sacred). And here's Jonah and Yuval responding to his over-the-top outburst.

So, to put it succinctly, I don't think that Derb's science postings have been a step forward for NRO. In fact, I think he's precisely the sort of person who supplies creationists with their ammunition: someone who claims to love and promote science, when it's transparent that their real passion lies in using science to bash religion and prop up their reductionist worldview. If you want to convince large numbers of people that science is hopelessly corrupted by atheist ideologues and that they should distrust it, that's exactly the sort of person to do it.

It made me appreciate Manzi all the more when he arrived. Here we have a thoughtful, intelligent, and well-informed guy who likes science qua science, and who posts actual informative things about science.