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Jerry Coyne: When Will the Times Literary Supplement Rid Itself of This Troublesome Editor?

Jerry Coyne has an amusing post on philosopher Thomas Nagel's Times Literary Supplement review of Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design. Nagel is a world class philosopher and University Professor of Philosophy and Law at NYU who has made seminal contributions to philosophy of the mind, political philosophy, and ethics. Nagel has chosen Meyer's book as one of the best books of the year for 2009:


Stephen C. Meyer's Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter -- something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin. The controversy over Intelligent Design has so far focused mainly on whether the evolution of life since its beginnings can be explained entirely by natural selection and other non-purposive causes. Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause. He examines the history and present state of research on non-purposive chemical explanations of the origin of life, and argues that the available evidence offers no prospect of a credible naturalistic alternative to the hypothesis of an intentional cause. Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.

Coyne isn't happy that the TLS has permitted publication of a viewpoint on ID with which Coyne disagrees. Coyne makes it clear that he has threatened the TLS editors. Perhaps, in ClimateGate's Phil Jones' marvelous phrase, the TLS will "rid itself of this troublesome editor." Coyne sniffs:

Nagel is a respected philosopher who's made big contributions to several areas of philosophy, and this is inexplicable, at least to me. I have already called this to the attention of the TLS, just so they know.

There's a lot of stuff that's inexplicable to Jerry Coyne, and the editors of TLS are no doubt grateful for the reminder.