The Panda’s Thumb is an excellent new blog devoted to defending the integrity of science against attacks from creationists. I put it straight into my blog roll. Mark Perakh has a post where he tells a story that should be very familiar to those who know about Lott’s antics at Amazon.com.
My book Unintelligent Design became available from Amazon in the middle of December 2003. On December 22 those curious observers who watch the sometimes funny exchange of opinions regarding books offered by Amazon, already could read a review of my book signed “A reader from Waco, Tx.” The opinion of that anonymous and very prompt reviewer was that my book was bad because it was published by a bad publisher — Prometheus Books. The anonymous reviewer recommended instead a forthcoming book by William Dembski titled The Design Revolution (which presumably must be good because of being published by a good publisher — InterVarsity Press). The reviewer from Waco promised that Dembski’s book would answer all my concerns. Of course, the fact that Dembski holds a non-teaching position at Baylor university which is located in Waco, Tx, was supposed to be a mere coincidence.
Some other reader responded to the reviewer from Waco referring to the latter’s review as that from “reader from Waco.” Suddenly, a few days later, the review from Waco reappeared on Amazon, word for word, but now signed “A reader from Riesel, Tx,” thus making a reference to “a reader from Waco” in another reviewer’s reply incomprehensible. Of course, the fact that Dembski happens to live in Riesel, Tx, was supposed to be just another of those coincidences whose probabilities Dembski is so fond of calculating. Indeed, Dembski would not, of course, advertise his own book anonymously, would he? It would be against his rigorous standards of decent behavior. Then something unthinkable happened. There was a glitch on the Canadian Amazon website wherein all real authors of anonymous reviews were revealed for a whole week. Who turned out to be the reader from Waco a.k.a. reader from Riesel? Surprise, surprise! It was our old acquaintance, mathematician, philosopher, theologian and the Isaac Newton of information theory, William Dembski.
The reason why the location of the reviewer changed to Riesel would be that Dembski posted a review under his own name on January 20, 2004 and gave his location as Riesel. Amazon reports the same location for all reviews by the same reviewer so Dembski’s anonymous review was also changed to Riesel.
This is not the only bit of underhanded behaviour that “Intelligent Design” proponents have been guilty of recently. Brian Leiter posted a blistering critique of a pro-Intelligent-Design book review by one Lawrence VanDyke. Chris Mooney explains what happened next:
perhaps because Leiter’s critique was so (justifiably) scathing, conservative attack dogs pounced. The National Review Online ran a piece by one Hunter Baker, a “freelance writer in Texas,” accusing Leiter of abusing his position as a distinguished scholar to try to ruin a young student’s career. Yet as Leiter notes here, Baker isn’t exactly a disinterested party. In fact, he’s the teaching assistant of pro-ID scholar Francis Beckwith, whose book was reviewed by VanDyke! Does National Review have any shame?
That would be the same National Review that published David Kopel and Glenn Reynold’s smear of Steve Levitt using as source a “scholar” whose identity they deliberately concealed. And even though Levitt immediately denied the charge, to this day the NRO has not seen fit to correct the article.