As an outsider looking in, I would want to know how physicists respond to these charges. After all, creationists level precisely the same charges against university biology departments (that they are ruled by dogmatic Darwinists yada yada). And in that context I know the charge is bogus. I suspect the same is true here. Physicists are not receiving professorships at prestigious institutions merely for expressing their support for string theory. They are receiving them because they have made significant contributions to our understanding of important open questions.
It’s an interesting parallel, and one of the reasons I’m not entirely comfortable supporting Woit and Smolin (I’m a few chapters into the latetr’s book, but got derailed by my allergies and a John M. Ford tribute re-read– I’ll pick it up again this weekend). I don’t think the parallel is entirely accurate– Darwinian evolution has a huge and overwhelming base of observational and experimental evidence supporting it, while the experimental support for string theory is, um, less overwhelming. String theory has a dominant position because nobody has any definitively better ideas on how to unify gravity with the other fundamental forces, but it’s nowhere near as well-tested as Darwin’s theory.
The ironic thing is that within physics, the analogy to creationism is usually made in the other direction– some string-theory detractors deride the current vogue for the “Anthropic Principle” as basically analogous to the creationist approach to science. It’s sort of funny to see the analogy turned around.
Jason notes that “Smolin in particular has been receiving a lot of uncritical press attention lately. I wish we would see more in the way of replies from string theory supporters.” Obviously, he doesn’t read the same blogs I do. But I’ll help him out by posting this where string theory supporters are more likely to see it, and invite them to go over to Jason’s blog and help him out.