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In The New Yorker, Tom Wolfe Compares Persecution of Intelligent Design Advocates to the "Spanish Inquisition"


How did we miss this? The comment is brief but pungent to say the least. Interviewed by The New Yorker earlier this year, the great novelist and journalist Tom Wolfe acknowledged that he's writing a book about evolution -- actually, "a history of the theory of evolution from the nineteenth century to the present." No indication of what his overall thesis might be, but he "invokes the Spanish Inquisition when discussing how academics have cast out proponents of intelligent design for 'not believing in evolution the right way.'"

The metaphor is apt, since the Spanish Inquisition was all about rooting out people who held the wrong beliefs in secret. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 had already pushed out anyone openly professing Judaism. It was converted Jews, claiming to be loyal to the dominant faith, who were the focus of the inquisitors.

No metaphor is an exact equation between two things -- it wouldn't be a metaphor if it were. But uncovering and punishing those with secret sympathies for ID is indeed a priority for zealous evolutionists, who insist everyone needs to believe in evolution in "the right way." The anxiety this provokes, especially in academia, is something we deal with all the time behind the scenes.

I don't have any idea what view Wolfe takes on ID other than his obviously deploring such intimidation. But we noted a while back that he was seen in the audience when Eric Metaxas interviewed Stephen Meyer about Darwin's Doubt at the Union League Club. It was already known then that Wolfe was writing a book called The Human Beast.

His attitudes are now slowly coming into focus, demonstrating once again the Thomas Nagel Principle, aka the Tom Stoppard Rule: when you reach a certain level of fame and accomplishment, if you are independent-minded, you can say whatever you want without fear. Which in turn gives courage to others lacking your bullet-proof armor. This, I predict, is going to be good.

Image: Tom Wolfe, via Wikicommons.