O’Leary’s Problem

A few weeks ago, Canadian journalist Denyse O’Leary joined the team over at William Dembski’s blog Uncommon Descent. This presented her with a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, she is surely aware that she knows nothing at all about science. But here she was expected to write regularly on the subject. How would she handle that state of affairs?

Well, she has now posted enough to give us a partial answer: By relying on childish, above-it-all arguments that will allow her to sound savvy and street-wise to UD’s sycophantic admirers, without actually having to engage any science.

For example, Michael Shermer recently published an interesting little book called Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. Responding to Shermer’s arguments would have required both reading and thinking, which are not things that come naturally to Ms. O’Leary. So she opted instead for this non-reply:

First, I find the title of Shermer’s book interesting. If Darwin really mattered, Shermer wouldn’t be writing a book insisting that he does.

I mean, who writes a book called “why better gas mileage matters” or “why preventing cancer matters”? Evident benefits prompt no defence.

Gosh. To be that clever! Why have I been wasting so much time actually reading and contemplating ID arguments when I could reply like that. I mean, it’s obvious that ID can’t really be a revolution, for then William Dembski would not have written a book called The Design Revolution. And it’s obvious that ID folks aren’t really oppressed by dogmatic evolutionists, for if they were they wouldn’t need to assert that fact so frantically.

What fun this is! It’s like rhetorical judo. The more passionately you make your argument, the more devastating my reply. “I don’t need to consider your argument, you imbecile. I can tell from your passion alone that it has no merit!”

O’Leary is so fond of this technique, she used it twice on the same day. Here she is replying to a preprint of an anti-ID essay by biologist Emile Zuckerkandl. Apparently Zuckerkandl made the mistake of criticzing ID rather strongly, thereby leaving himself vulnerable to a big dose of O’Leary-Fu:

It goes on. And on. And on, actually.

Well, if this is Gene‘s idea of science, Darwinism is clearly in a steep decline. If I did not know that already, I sure would now.

Essentially, they don’t have much evidence that Darwinism is true. So they must denounce anyone who doubts it.

Zing! Leave it to O’leary to cut through all the nonsense. I’m so dumb, I probably would have felt the need to read Zuckerkandl’s essay and then reply point by point. Thank God I have O’Leary to show me how it’s done.

Of course, this is Dembski’s blog we’re talking about. That means that even O’Leary must occasionally bow to the master. What coud be dumber than O’Leary’s brand of non-response? Dembski shows the way in this post about the Zuckerkandl essay. HIs title:

Schlemiel Zuckerkandl in HIs Dotage.

Making fun of a guy’s name. Now that’s just cold.

Comments

  1. #1 Doc Bill
    August 22, 2006

    Dembski is the Alfred E. Newman of Information Science, that would make Denise O’Leary the Katie Couric of Creationism, which is to say stupid.

  2. #2 Gregory
    August 22, 2006

    Wow, someone should tell Denise that there’s a bird diving for her head, and following her logic she should say, “If there really WAS a bird diving for my neck, you wouldn’t feel the need to tell me there was.” How does that logic work?

  3. #3 dom
    August 22, 2006

    Another reason no one wrote “Why preventing cancer matters”, is that no one opposes cancer research, or tries to remove the study of cancer’s causes and cures from our schools.

  4. #4 natural cynic
    August 22, 2006

    I mean, who writes a book called “why better gas mileage matters” or “why preventing cancer matters”? Evident benefits prompt no defence.

    O’Leary’s observational skills seem to be lacking. If everyone really did understand her question, cigaretes and Hummers wouldn’t exist.

  5. #5 N.Wells
    August 22, 2006

    To be fair, Bill, the Fig Newton of Information Theory, is probably a bit tired of being referred to as Dumbski the IDiot. And yes, that’s not very mature of me either.

    That aside, those guys are heavily into projection: it’s like listening to the Russians at the height of the Cold War, accusing the Americans of whatever it was that they happened to be guilty of that week. “Darwinism is on its last legs”, “all they can do is advertise”, “if they had any supporting evidence they’d be presenting it instead of just arguing against ID”, and so on ad nauseum. It’s almost as pathetic as it is transparent.

    That’s a good analysis of O’Leary’s posting strategy. Her first few posts included some real disasters (details of pouches on koalas, and some highly uninformed nonsense about coelacanths, cockroackes, cycads, and ferns), so she’s now going for attitude rather than facts. She indeed seems to be in over her head, as she not only doesn’t know much science but also seems to have a predilection for posting without doing even the obvious simple little bits of research that would avoid embarrassment.

  6. #6 Doc Bill
    August 22, 2006

    Poor Denise O’Leary. She’s so pathetic that she’s reduced to publishing through Dembski’s blog. Still very wrong, though.

  7. #7 Michael Hopkins
    August 23, 2006

    I mean, who writes a book called “why better gas mileage matters” or “why preventing cancer matters”? Evident benefits prompt no defence.

    In a very real way Ms. O’Leary is quite correct with this statement even if she does completely miss the point.

    There are no books like “Why Evolution is True”, “Why Evolution Matters” or “Why Darwin Matters” if the author is a biologist writing for biologists. For them that evolution matters is an ordinary experience and the evidence for evolution so common place there is no need for such a book. Likewise gas mileage is something that is part of ordinary life of pretty much everyone in American Society. Cancer is also something that has touched the lives of almost everyone in the United States. The significance of both gas mileage and cancer is understandable by almost all ordinary people without any special education. The same is not true for evolution. Most people don’t do DNA testing in their spare time. Most people are rather unfamiliar with the natural world. Most people don’t know what the evidence for evolution is supposed to be. So on and so forth. That the signficance of basic facts of biology might need explaining to non-biologists should surprise no one.

    Furthermore lets take her reasoning to the logical end.
    I googled “Why Einstein Matters” and guess what: that is the title of a real program for non-scientists. And of course there are plenty of stuff out there that don’t quite use that sort of wording. I have read stuff explaining the significance of general relativity. It certainly is not obvious. But it is very much needed in the field of GPS. Plenty of articles have explained the significance of quantum mechanics as well. And it is almost a cliche for popular works on such subjects to point out how weird relativity and quantum theory are but that evidence forces us to accept them since they work.

  8. #8 Ick of the East
    August 23, 2006

    …..Another reason no one wrote “Why preventing cancer matters”, is that no one opposes cancer research, or tries to remove the study of cancer’s causes and cures from our schools.

    I made this exact point in their comment section. But, of course, it never showed up.

  9. #9 mark
    August 23, 2006

    On the one hand, she is surely aware that she knows nothing at all about science. But here she was expected to write regularly on the subject.

    Isn’t that why Dembski took her aboard? If she actually understood science, she would be debunking Dembski’s work…unless she were totally dishonest. If there’s anything she doesn’t know or understand about evolution, I’m sure wMAD would be happy to coach her, and accept full responsibility for any errors she makes.

  10. #10 Billy Carson
    August 23, 2006

    “I mean, who writes a book called ‘why better gas mileage matters’ or ‘why preventing cancer matters’? Evident benefits prompt no defence.”

    A quick search in WorldCat turned up the following titles (among others) published since 2006:
    What Jesus said and why it matters now / Timothy D. Fallon.
    Why church matters / Jonathan R. Wilson.
    Why science matters / Robert W. Proctor.
    Why the Mass matters / Gerard Moore.
    Why the science and religion dialogue matters / ed. Fraser Watts and Kevin Dutton.

    Other topics which according to Denyse’s logic don’t matter: Hannah Arendt, classical music, Darwin, fantasy football, financial capability, Georgia, gender, Emanuel Lasker, John Milton, politics, race in South Africa, size, and trust. And that’s just from books published this year.

    There’s one more: Why truth matters / Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom. London : Continuum, 2006.

    But I expect Denyse has already seen that one because we know her opinion on that subject.

  11. #11 pwe
    August 23, 2006

    Doc Bill: Poor Denise O’Leary. She’s so pathetic that she’s reduced to publishing through Dembski’s blog. Still very wrong, though.

    Maybe she thinks that she has been honored by being allowed to post in Dembski’s blog? She has her own blog, Post-Darwinist, so probably she considers it an acjnowledgement of her hard work to further the cause of ID.

    Her entry fot August 20, Darwinism/Darwinist: Now a term of reproach?, has some charm to it. Interestingly she quotes Allen Orr for the correct explanation, why being a Darwinist may be a bit post; but does she know that?

  12. #12 Timcol
    August 23, 2006

    I’ve been reading Uncommon Descent for about 2 months now. I thought I would follow it so I could be more informed about ID. Well, so far I honestly haven’t learned a SINGLE THING about ID. There’s not a scrap of information about new ID research, new ideas, papers or anything. Nada.

    It’s mostly Dembski’s sophomoric ‘humorist’ posts and now we have ‘the-end-is-nigh’ posts from O’Leery. I don’t think I have ever encoutered a blog in which has so little to say with so many words.

  13. #13 dogscratcher
    August 28, 2006

    “First, I find the title of Shermer’s book interesting. If Darwin really mattered, Shermer wouldn’t be writing a book insisting that he does.”

    Why am I reminded of the scene in “The Life of Brian” where Brian is saying that he isn’t the messiah, and a woman in the crowd argues (paraphrase), “Only the true messiah would deny his divinity!”

    Hey, here it is on YouTube:

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