Denyse O’Leary has a post defending Frank Beckwith’s credentials from an anonymous attacker on her blog. The anonymous critic wrote:
Beckwith is not a law professor. He does not have the requisite education to be a law professor. He has no juris doctorate. Therefore, he can only teach at the undergraduate level. And even then, he can only teach the “philosophy of law.” Not law itself.
Now, I fully agree with O’Leary that this is a silly and pointless attack on Beckwith. She is absolutely right to point out that he has a Masters in Juridical Studies from Washington University-St Louis, which is an excellent law school, as well as a PhD in philosophy. She’s also correct to point out that many respected legal scholars hold similar degrees, including Paul Finkelman and Kermit Hall. But this part jumped out at me:
Unlike the requirements for the JD, he was required to write a scholarly dissertation for his degree, which was published as several law review articles and then revised as a book and then reviewed positively in Harvard Law Review. Not bad.
Now we can certainly debate the merits of the book in question, Darwinism and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design. I obviously do not find it persuasive, but I like and respect Frank Beckwith. But to say that the book was reviewed positively in the Harvard Law Review leaves out one important detail: it was reviewed not by a professor at Harvard Law but by Lawrence Van Dyke, who I believe was a 2L at the time (possibly a 3L).
More importantly, the review and Van Dyke’s subsequent attempts to defend it was highly amateurish and ended up making him look quite absurd on a national stage. Leiter was correct to point out that Van Dyke’s review read like a press release from the Discovery Institute, as he credulously repeated all of their talking points without a hint of having actually given them any thought. As a result, he passed on one false statement after another and ended up looking quite silly. But you would certainly not know any of that by reading O’Leary’s simple claim of the book having been positively reviewed in the Harvard Law Review.