Leiter v VanDyke Redux

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Brian Leiter has replied to VanDyke's latest response, posted on Ex Parte and as a comment here, and it is a devestating reply, to be sure. I was hoping Brian would get around to doing this, mostly because I've been too busy to do it myself. The misuse, probably born of misunderstanding and trusting Beckwith's portrayal, of Laudan, Kuhn and other philosophers of science and their positions on methodological naturalism, fairly screamed out from VanDyke's reply and Leiter corrects the misconceptions very well.

VanDyke gets himself into particular trouble, I think, with this smug citation of Laudan:

"If [Leiter] had even perused Dr. Beckwith's book he would have come in modest contact with some of the leading lights in this literature including Larry Laudan, a philosopher of science who is currently on the faculty at the University of Texas and whose greatness Leiter himself extols..."
This is a brave leap in the dark, ending with a resounding thud as he lands. Leiter is infinitely better equipped to discuss Laudan's contributions to philosophy of science and the demarcation problem than VanDyke, not only because he's actually read Laudan's work on the subject (VanDyke clearly has not) but because Laudan's office is right down the hall from Leiter's office at UT. As Leiter notes:
My colleague Larry Laudan is, needless to say, well beyond being amazed anymore by the gross misrepresentations of his views--and of issues in the philosophy of science--in law reviews and by proponents of ID. (Didn't it occur to VanDyke that I might walk down the hall and point out his nonsense to Laudan? He just rolled his eyes and chuckled).
While I still tend to think that Leiter's rhetoric is a bit overly harsh, I think he's absolutely right when he says that this is all an example of a guy (VanDyke) who simply got in way over his head, pontificating on a subject he knew virtually nothing about, and his reputation took a justifiable beating as a result. It's time for him to just take his lumps and decide that should he venture into such territory again, he'll be better prepared to defend his views than he was in this case. Unfortunately, I think, based upon his reaction so far, that rather than doing that, he's going to continue to filter this through his perceptions of persecution by the "Darwinian establishment" and continue to strike the martyr pose. And as Leiter correctly notes, this is hardly an auspicious beginning for a prospective scholar.

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Steven Thomas Smith on Wexler/Beckwith at Harvard Read More

Steven Thomas Smith on Wexler/Beckwith at Harvard Read More

12 Comments

I don’t think Leiter is harsh enough.

While you were posting this, I was also posting something similar on my own site.

…based upon his reaction so far, that rather than doing that, he’s going to continue to filter this through his perceptions of persecution by the “Darwinian establishment” and continue to strike the martyr pose

I can’t help wondering if VanDyke entered law school with the express mission of “destroying Darwinism”

Stupid question: when VanDyke refers to P. Z. “Meyers”, is this supposed to be who I think it is? And if so, where did VanDyke learn to proofread?

I also suspect that “Futuyama” should be “Futuyma”, but maybe he’s referring to someone else?

This reminds me of the couple of times that aideeists have brought up faculty members of my university as evidence of scientists who doubt “Darwinism.” It’s fun to point out that I never see any of them at the evolutionary biology seminars or conferences held on campus and yet I’m expected to consider their opinion as based on expert scientific experience. One once took objection to me refering to “my university” without bothering the check if my university was the same as the scientists’ he was refering to.

Many people seem to be constitutionally incapable of spelling “Myers” correctly. Go ahead, try asking anyone on talk.origins if they’ve ever heard of that Myers fella—you’ll get nothing but denials. Ask ‘em about “Meeaahhhrzzz” or “Mayeerts”, though, and then they’ll know who you are talking about.

I’ve even had a number of students in my classes who insist on spelling their own names incorrectly, with extra “e”s or “i”s in there. When I try to correct them, they always give me blank looks.

Assume for a moment that you are a school board member searching for a law firm to represent the district in various forms of litigation – parents suing because of the use of corporal punishment, parents suing because of the lack of corporal punishment, students angered over the prayer policies of the district (whatever they are), parents suing because Susie’s 3.949 was not rounded up to the 3.5 they think necessary to get into whatever college they’re aiming for, vendors angered at the district’s bidding processes, and perhaps the odd suit against science teachers for teaching science. Assume you’re particularly worried about the latter because you live in a Bible Belt state, but in a district where more than half the kids take the Advanced Placement exam in biology – which is 30% based on evolution.

Now assume Mr. Van Dyke comes to the board to urge his firm be hired for such representation. If you know that every creationist ploy has been defeated in court, in a string of cases, and you see that he features his review of Beckwith’s book in his publications, do you think twice?

Same hypothetical, but assume that Dr. Beckwith has gotten a law degree and passed the bar: Do you hire HIS firm?

Well, even after proofing it, I missed that it should have been “3.049” instead of “3.949.”

Silly typo. My apologies

Ed: try again, man. Anyone suing because their 3.049 wasn’t rounded up to 3.5 wouldn’t have much of a case. Only the White House Office for Management and Budget and Dembski can get away with that kind of math.

Re: the guy who writes the ferengi blog.

Van Dyke posted one blog in which he spelled it both “Meyer” and “Meyers”. So even he is not sure of the correct spelling. In the spirit of voting on how many chromosomes humans have, how many ribs men have, and whether or not evolution is scientifically valid, I think it is fair to say, the man’s name is “Mairz”. This is determined by the relative frequency of that particular spelling on t.o.

One thing you may want to consider, though, is that VanDyke may be positioning himself to be the next in the line of lawyers (Philip Johnson comes to mind) who have made more than a bit of money shilling for the ID crowd.

I don’t think I’d characterize Phillip Johnson as making money shilling for the ID crowd. For all practical purposes, Johnson invented ID. He is certainly the driving force behind the entire political strategy.

Leiter writes:

Lawrence VanDyke has consumed more of my time than the intellectual content of his work is worth on the merits. But the good news is that his little apology for ID in the Harvard Law Review has been exposed for the piece of incompetent shilling for ignorance that it is–so much so that no one will dare cite it on behalf of teaching lies and misinformation to public school children ever again.

Heh. Leiter gave Van Dyke a good drubbing, but he totally misunderestimates the ID movement. Being complete garbage isn’t enough to make them pause when choosing citations to support their agenda. They will gleefully cite Van Dyke’s article and use its appearance in Harvard Law Review as evidence of ID’s growing influence and importance. I would bet any amount of money on it.

The fact that Van Dyke’s review can’t withstand scrutiny is irrelevant as far as they’re concerned. All they care about is whether or not it looks good on the surface, once it’s been given the appropriate spin.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on April 6, 2004 9:02 AM.

Mooney vs. Marburger was the previous entry in this blog.

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