In January, Michael Shermer reviewed Dawkins’ The God Delusion (TGD) for Science (see here). This weeks edition features a letter by Martinez Hewlett (Molecular & Cellular Biology, University of Arizona) which argues two points: firstly, that Dawkins’ book is not a work of science, and secondly, that it is a poor piece of philosophy (a point that I have made repeatedly in the past). Shermer in attempting to reply makes a number of claims. Primarily he states:
Martinez Hewlett holds a narrow view of what constitutes a work of science–primary research only, secondary sources cited only in discussion of the primary research. To that extent, only the type of articles that are published in the peer-reviewed sections of journals like Science would constitute real science, with everything else relegated to mere popularization. Were this the case, of course, it would obviate many of the greatest works in the history of science, from Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. If these are not works of science, then what are they?
Guns, Germs, and Steel is hardly one of "the greatest works in the history of science" – it is good, but not that good, and certainly no Origin. Similarly TGD is no Origin, and I would be willing to argue that Hewlett is indeed right – TGD is not a scientific work but is in fact a popular work of philosophy in the tradition of Tom Paine, rather than Charles Darwin. Throughout his reply, Shermer compares Dawkins’ book to "great works of science" and thus (despite his qualifications in history of science) only succeeds in making an ass of himself.