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Monday, May 05, 2008

Berlinski agrees with me that Derbyshire is over the hill as well as over the top

Mathematician David Berlinski thinks that John Derbyshire, who has been popping his cork over the Expelled movie ("creationist porn"), is merely over the hill:
Like so many men who have reached late middle age, John Derbyshire suffers the impression that the “the barbarians are at the gate.” Women no longer topple blood-ripe into his lap. A “gaggle of fools and fraudsters” is everywhere disturbing his tranquility. Things that he treasures are under ceaseless attack.

About intelligent design theory - for which so many scientists have suffered, as the film shows - Berlinski says,
In the United States, at least, creationism is a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Intelligent Design is otherwise. It is the thesis that living creatures appear designed because they are designed. It is said to be Darwin’s great merit that he successfully dissolved the appearance of design in life. Those who believe that the design of living systems is real believe correspondingly that Darwin’s theory is false, or, at best, incomplete.

Whether true or false, the issue is one of fact, and the inferences to which design theorists appeal are in common currency in subjects as diverse as political science, forensics and archeology. Seeing tallies scratched on a pre-historic ax handle, John Derbyshire — of all people! — might well conclude that they represent signs designating the natural numbers. The arrow of thought passes from the properties of an object to its classification as an artifact.

The question that Derbyshire has asked of an ax handle, design theorists ask of Derbyshire. Does he bear the marks of design?
Berlinski thinks that a talented writer like Derbyshire is entitled to make a fool of himself at least once.

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