The Calpundit Weighs in on Leiter vs VanDyke and Plugs This Site

Kevin Drum, the legendary CalPundit, parlayed his blogging success into a job for the Washington Monthly. In a post today, he reviews the battle between Lawrence VanDyke and Brian Leiter (and myself, ultimately) and comes to a somewhat surprising conclusion:<blockquote>I’ve been following the whole thing with one eye, and while I have no sympathy for the ID jihadists I admit that all along I’ve had a sneaking feeling that, in fact, maybe it really was a bit inappropriate for an influential, tenured law professor to write such a blistering attack on a lowly student. Positions of power and all that, you understand.

Today, though, I finally got around to reading VanDyke’s note (warning: large, slow-loading file) and I immediately changed my mind: Leiter probably went too easy on this cretin. Here’s the damning sentence:

…while lumping ID with creationism may be a good rhetorical strategy for ID’s opponents, it only detracts from an independent and rigorous evaluation of the merits of ID’s claims against those of naturalistic evolution.

This sentence could be written only by someone entirely ignorant of both the history and substance of ID (which VanDyke surely isn’t) or someone who is simply a shill for creationism.</blockquote>But Drum isn’t done yet. He continues:<blockquote>I expected that VanDyke’s book note (and Beckwith’s book) would claim that schools should be allowed to teach ID on the basis of some kind of abstract legal or philosophical basis, which might be a perfectly publishable argument. Not so. Instead they argue on the obviously specious grounds that (a) ID isn’t creationism and (b) ID is perfectly plausible science.

Leiter was right both on the facts and in the tone he took: it was scholarly fraud. The Harvard Law Review should be ashamed of itself.</blockquote>While this is still more harshly than I would put it, the truth remains, as I said here and here, that on the substantive issues, Leiter was correct and VanDyke was guilty, at the very least, of absurdly sloppy pseudo-scholarship.

One last note on Drum’s article. He says:<blockquote>It turns out there’s one silver lining to this whole dark cloud: it has apparently inspired a group of scientists to start a blog called The Panda’s Thumb, dedicated to debunking the daily assaults on evolution from the ID zealots and the religious right. It’s only a day old but already appears to be a terrific source. Check it out.</blockquote>While we certainly appreciate the plug, it should be noted that the formation of this blog was not inspired by this incident at all. It is a mere coincidence that one followed on the heels of another, though I’m quite certain that some of our friends from the Discovery Institute could put together a compelling Argument from Really Big Numbers showing the staggering implausibility of those two things occuring in that specific order by random chance alone.