Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Leiter v VanDyke Redux

Brian Leiter has replied to VanDyke’s latest response, posted on Ex Parte and as a comment here, and it is a devestating reply, to be sure. I was hoping Brian would get around to doing this, mostly because I’ve been too busy to do it myself. The misuse, probably born of misunderstanding and trusting Beckwith’s portrayal, of Laudan, Kuhn and other philosophers of science and their positions on methodological naturalism, fairly screamed out from VanDyke’s reply and Leiter corrects the misconceptions very well.

VanDyke gets himself into particular trouble, I think, with this smug citation of Laudan:

ďIf [Leiter] had even perused Dr. Beckwith’s book he would have come in modest contact with some of the leading lights in this literature including Larry Laudan, a philosopher of science who is currently on the faculty at the University of Texas and whose greatness Leiter himself extols…”

This is a brave leap in the dark, ending with a resounding thud as he lands. Leiter is infinitely better equipped to discuss Laudan’s contributions to philosophy of science and the demarcation problem than VanDyke, not only because he’s actually read Laudan’s work on the subject (VanDyke clearly has not) but because Laudan’s office is right down the hall from Leiter’s office at UT. As Leiter notes:

My colleague Larry Laudan is, needless to say, well beyond being amazed anymore by the gross misrepresentations of his views–and of issues in the philosophy of science–in law reviews and by proponents of ID. (Didnít it occur to VanDyke that I might walk down the hall and point out his nonsense to Laudan? He just rolled his eyes and chuckled).

While I still tend to think that Leiter’s rhetoric is a bit overly harsh, I think he’s absolutely right when he says that this is all an example of a guy (VanDyke) who simply got in way over his head, pontificating on a subject he knew virtually nothing about, and his reputation took a justifiable beating as a result. It’s time for him to just take his lumps and decide that should he venture into such territory again, he’ll be better prepared to defend his views than he was in this case. Unfortunately, I think, based upon his reaction so far, that rather than doing that, he’s going to continue to filter this through his perceptions of persecution by the “Darwinian establishment” and continue to strike the martyr pose. And as Leiter correctly notes, this is hardly an auspicious beginning for a prospective scholar.

Comments

  1. #1 Lars
    April 6, 2004

    Leiter’s walk down the hall to talk to Laudan reminds me of the time that Woody Allen was able to pull Marshall MacLuhan out from behind a sign in order to settle an argument with some guy in a movie lineup. How sweet that must be.

  2. #2 DS
    April 6, 2004

    [Unfortunately, I think, based upon his reaction so far, that rather than doing that, he’s going to continue to filter this through his perceptions of persecution by the “Darwinian establishment” and continue to strike the martyr pose.]

    Or maybe he’s planning on running for political office somewhere in fundyland USA.

    ~DS~

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