An Appeal to Jerry Coyne's Readers - Evolution News & Views

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An Appeal to Jerry Coyne's Readers

Meyer Darwin's Doubt.jpgWouldn't you enjoy seeing Dr. Coyne rip Stephen Meyer's new book, Darwin's Doubt, to shreds right here at ENV, which is pretty much the living room of the intelligent design movement?

We invited Coyne to join us in this space and debate on the subject of either Dr. Meyer's book or the Eric Hedin affair, or both. The two topics are related (more on that in a moment). But while having lots to say about Hedin and about Meyer, whose evidence and arguments he knows only by presuming and by reading Nick Matzke's phony review at Panda's Thumb, Coyne has, through his silence in response to our cordial invitation, implicitly declined it.

Dear fans of Why Evolution Is True, doesn't this disappoint you? Not a little but a lot? If so, why not direct your own appeal to Professor Coyne to come over here and teach ID advocates a lesson, by reading Dr. Meyer's book, giving evidence of having done so, and telling us exactly what's wrong with its critique of neo-Darwinism and its positive case for ID? Remember, I'm not talking about more ad hominen attacks or invocations of absurd cartoon renditions of Meyer's thesis ("Yes, baby Jesus made the phyla!"). Let Coyne stick to business, and so will we.

I said the Eric Hedin affair and the Darwin brigade's response to Darwin's Doubt are related. That's because they both illustrate the main strategy of the Darwin-defending community in meeting challenges like the one from the theory of intelligent design. The response is always to dodge a debate and, instead, try to silence your opponents.

That's what's happening at Ball State, where Coyne has succeeded in whipping up the university to conduct an investigation of physicist Dr. Hedin for teaching an honors course that includes texts favorable to ID as well as texts critical of ID in the course bibliography. Now the stakes have been considerably raised by Coyne's revelation that Ball State has taken aboard astrophysicist and ID advocate Guillermo Gonzalez as a professor. This will further motivate Hedin's enemies. As John West writes, the committee tasked with investigating the untenured Professor Hedin is grievously stacked against him.

This all seems headed in a bad direction. The result, if Coyne and his friends at the Freedom from Religion Foundation get their way, would be to silence Hedin and intimidate anyone else who wants to teach about ID in a public university setting. And this is how the "consensus" on evolution is maintained: by fear wielded by the comfortable (Coyne) against the vulnerable (Hedin).

On the matter of Darwin's Doubt, it's exactly the same. As Casey Luskin writes in his politely devastating reply to Nick Matzke's "review" of Stephen Meyer's book, the whole point of Matzke's review is to silence debate:

And so Matzke attempts to convince readers that they should distrust the man, Stephen Meyer, and ultimately disregard the book that he has authored, a strategy that Matzke and his colleagues at the National Center for Science Education have repeatedly used to suppress interest in and consideration of the evidence for intelligent design. Thus, the punch line of Matzke's review (emphasis added):

"I'm not sure it [Darwin's Doubt] deserves much more of anyone's time."

Casey shows how bogus Matzke's criticisms are, how Matzke refuses to consider the major lines of argument in the book. It's all a bluff. From the evidence it seem that Matzke composed the bulk of his very long review before obtaining a copy of the book. See too the excellent rejoinder to Matzke by DonaldM at Uncommon Descent, who demonstrates how the fellow has long used citation bluffing to intimidate people who disagree with him, and now applies the same technique to Darwin's Doubt, brandishing elaborate charts that turn out, on inspection, to support Meyer's analysis.

Yet Coyne touts Matzke's "excellent" review, perhaps considering it a valid excuse for not engaging with Meyer himself. After all, what needs to be said has already been said. Safe behind the defensive wall of Nick Matzke, Coyne also points out that after all, he himself is not a paleontologist: Darwin's Doubt is "likely to float yet another god-of-the gaps argument, but I’ll leave the assessment of its validity to the professional paleontologists who will undoubtedly review Meyer’s book." Yet the book is massively interdisciplinary if nothing else. The fact that the hook for the story it tells is a paleontological mystery should not keep anyone with a background in biology or any of several other fields that figure in it from offering a thoughtful judgment of the whole.

If, in order to review the book, you had to be a specialist in every field Meyer touches on, then no one could review it. There could then be no well-informed scientific debate about the argument of Darwin's Doubt. Is that the outcome Coyne wants? Maybe so.

That's why I turn to his readers. I suppose the leading Darwin defenders in the academic world have a professional stake in seeing lively, informed, critical discussion of their crippled theory muffled. I can also see why some angry, resentful folks among the Darwinist rank-and-file likewise only want to see competing theories squelched, not debated -- theories that are friendly, perhaps, to worldviews they have rejected for private, personal reasons of their own.

But the average reader who enjoys Coyne's Why Evolution Is True for its spritely, pugilistic tone? I'm talking to you. Surely you would enjoy seeing your hero come over and teach us a lesson about "good science" by trouncing us on the actual merit of our ideas, or lack of it? The author of Why Evolution Is True has never done that. Rather than bluffing like Nick Matzke, give us the real goods -- the details please -- on why ID fails as science.

Or how about you other pro-Darwin bloggers. What about your own readers? I trust that some of you, for goodness sake, would enjoy seeing a champion of the Darwin community like Coyne, having read Darwin's Doubt, come over here and trounce us? So let Jerry Coyne know your feelings.

Sometimes I've wondered if Darwinists really are completely united in a wish to run from any fair fight. Am I wrong to wonder? At least show me that. Go back over to Why Evolution Is True now and tell Coyne you want to see him take us apart, on our home turf. Go on, what are you waiting for?