Intelligent Design

Berlinski versus Derbyshire

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David Berlinski Derbyshire

Recently, while speaking in southern California, I heard from a nationally-recognized academic expert on the ID / evolution debate that he refused to see Expelled, at least in its current theatrical release. “I don’t think I want to give any money to those guys,” he said dismissively. That’s OK — money is money, and the 9 or so bucks he might have spent on Expelled would show up in the box office totals — but at least this person hasn’t yet delivered himself publicly of opinions about the movie.

No such niceties for ID critic John Derbyshire, who doesn’t actually need to see a movie before opining about it, as David Berlinski points out at National Review Online.

28 Replies to “Berlinski versus Derbyshire

  1. 1
    wnelson says:

    Ah, the pleasure of pwnage.

    Why Derbyshire would lay himself open — admit to not seeing the movie is beyond me.

  2. 2
    DLH says:

    Berlinski observes:

    . . . John Derbyshire has declared that the documentary Expelled contains a blood libel against Western Civilization. . . .A blood libel, one might recall, refers to the charge that the Jewish people are irredeemably stained by their occasional, if modest, need for Christian blood.

    The s totalitarian imposition of Darwin’s worldview, as Derbyshire advocates, was foundational to Hitler’s holocaust – causing far greater bloodshed than any “blood libel” ever did. Thus Derbyshire himself exemplifies what Expelled exposes.

    China, India, the Muslim world . . .None of them ever accomplished what began in northwest Europe in the later 17th century, though: a scientific revolution. . . . A body of common knowledge gradually accumulated. Patterns were observed, laws discerned and stated.

    In his diatribe, Derbyshire exposes his ignorance of how the Judeo-Christian worldview was foundational to modern science. See: The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton 1994 (Crossway) ISBN: 0891077669.

    Derbyshire tries to rewrite legal history as evolution, ignoring the primary source of the Mosaic code, the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. By “We are a nation of pressure groups, . . .” Derbyshire advocates totalitarianism – rather than a Republic under law – undermining the unalienable rights preserved by the US constitution. Derbyshire claims

    The barbarians are at the gate, as they always have been. Come man the defenses with us, leaving the liars and fools to their lies and folly.

    Derbyshire himself is exposed by Berlinski as the barbarian, liar and fool.

    Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

    Proverbs 16:18

    PS “German-English Freedict dictionary”:
    Geschrei [g??rai]nsn

    clamor, clamour, hue, vociferation

  3. 3
    scordova says:

    Can somone (like GilDogen) translate the French phrases Berlinski uses? I don’t know what they mean. I could use BabelFish.com, but I’d prefer a translation by a real person.

  4. 4
    Ekstasis says:

    John Derbyshire, although he says “I am a writer—novelist, pop-math author, reviewer, and opinion journalist—living on Long Island, New York” (http://www.johnderbyshire.com/), has actually been hangin out with the ID crowd!! He says “Hence the dishonesty and sheer nastiness, even down to plain bad manners, that you keep encountering in ID circles.” With such poor taste, should we continue inviting him to all the parties? http://www.johnderbyshire.com/.....elled.html

    I suppose since he is so busy keeping company in multiple circles, he simply did not have the time to see the movie. A busy man, you understand. So many brilliant thoughts that humanity is dying to hear from him, and so little time.

    And guess what else he is up to? Following Ben Stein around like a snoop, a private eye. Oh, you think I am kidding, do you? Check out his own statement: “Darwin, a man who spent decades observing and pondering the natural world — that world Stein glimpses through the window of his automobile now and then, when he’s not chattering into his cell phone.” Is Derbyshire looking through the bedroom window at Ben Stein to monitor his other life activities as well? Does this seem a bit strange for a man of such towering intellect? Ben, please just book a nature walk at a nearby park so Derbyshire can hide in the bushes and observe!!

    And for the final accompli, he has now decided that ID is “not merely non-science, nor even merely anti-science; it is anti-civilization. It is an appeal to barbarism….” Why not just get it over with and change the name Discovery Institute to The Center for Latter Day Ghengis Khan.

    Can we add one more item to his lengthy bio — he is a sit-down comedian and humorist. Move over Will Rogers.

  5. 5
    Upright BiPed says:

    Ekstasis:

    I thought Derby’s comment that the ID crowd operatred with such bad manners was the point in which Derby humiliated hmself (in there was, in fact, only one point in his diatribe that could hold that distinction). I can only think of PZ Myers, well, and every debate I’ve ever been in with Darwinists.

    Scordova:

    “…he asserts, “that it is a piece of creationist porn.” Perhaps I will be forgiven for suggesting that John Derbyshire’s late-night scrutiny of the Internet may have corrupted his habitual search for le mot juste. Expelled has nothing to do with creationism, and if it is pornographic, the details have not become widely known.”

    le mot juste = the just word

    (I had to look them up over the weekend myself)

  6. 6
    ungtss says:

    scordova:

    Perhaps I will be forgiven for suggesting that John Derbyshire’s late-night scrutiny of the Internet may have corrupted his habitual search for le mot juste.

    le mot juste = the right, or fair, word.

    After first considering the possibility that Ben Stein was financed by secret Saudi funds — Je m’imagine cela — Derbyshire at once reprises two errors.

    Je m’imagine cela = I imagine it.

    Also, Geschrei = scream in German.

  7. 7
    Upright BiPed says:

    Oh, and if I remember correctly, geschrei turned out to be German for ‘shout’.

  8. 8
    wnelson says:

    Aother thing — maybe this is “fire for effect” on Derbyshire’s part. A bit like the “who created God?” argument by Dawkins — something they know is crap, but is put out there for some marginal effect.

    There is a term for this is in marketing circles — an approach where negative information is put out, the source becomes discredited, but the negative information gets disassociated from the discredited source, and then enters “common knowledge.” (It happens more than you might think.)

  9. 9
    Borne says:

    Berlinski versus Derbyshire ?
    Can you say, “No contest”? Poor Derby.

  10. 10
    Borne says:

    “Can somone (like GilDogen) translate the French phrases Berlinski uses? ”

    le mot juste = literally “the right word” – basically meaning “the correct view”

    Je m’imagine cela = “I can just imagine that”!

  11. 11

    My colleague Terry Rickard comments:

    It’s too bad that someone who is an otherwise brilliant writer has such a blind spot. All the more ironic, because in the Epilogue to his book Prime Obsession, a mathematical biography of Bernhard Riemann, he recounts in almost reverential tones Riemann’s peaceful death from TB in Selasca, Italy, in mid-recitation of the Lord’s Prayer with his wife’s hand in his, and describes his gravestone inscription:

    “Here rests in God
    Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann
    Professor at Gottingen
    Born in Breselenz, Sept. 17, 1826
    Died in Selasca, July 20, 1866
    All things work together for
    good to them that love God”

    How could Derbyshire fail to see the irony in his sneering condescension toward modern scientists and mathematicians who hold the same belief as the heroic subject of his writing? I think he is too much a product of late 20th century English skepticism and cynicism, within which he came to adulthood. Perhaps he will, like Anthony Flew, come to his senses once he gets down off his high horse.

  12. 12
    jerry says:

    This is part of a debate, not just between Berlinski and Derbyshire. The other debater is John Manzi.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/

    Also Berlinski denies that there is a theory of ID.

    “I have no theories to offer — not even theories of intelligent design, which I have rejected in the pages of Commentary.”

  13. 13
    Ekstasis says:

    Sorry to stray somewhat off topic, but one of the participants from Panda’s Thumb just tipped us off to what is possibly the next step in the Icons of Intolerance’ gamebook:

    “So far, the effort to curtail the teaching of biological nonsense in our high schools has been mostly reactive. It is time for at least a little bit of proactive policies. As a beginning matter, it might be possible to persuade our major private universities and colleges and public universities in states where it is politically possible to insist that admission applicants not only have a biology course, but a biology course where evolution is given its proper treatment. Students failing to demonstrate that their high school course met the proper standards would have to take a noncredit or ”bonehead” biology class steeped in evolution.”

    http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....is-ne.html

    And just where did they come up with this nefarious scheme? While they may ignore most of the lessons of history, this one they did not: the oh-so-effective method wielded by the ol’ USSR of presenting education and career opportunities only to those who were gladly indoctrinated in the Communist belief system, and assented to all the right doctrine.

    Get ready to chalk another up for academic tyranny.

  14. 14
    boring guy says:

    Prior to reading Derbyshire’s column on NRO, I had a very enjoyable exposure to the writings and ideas of Berlinski. I read his latest book, saw the movie, heard him on Dennis Prager’s show, and read a Tour of the Calculus. Loved it. Not that Berlinski needs me to defend him, but Derbyshire trying to dismiss him as a goof is evidence that Derbyshire has popped a blood vessel.

  15. 15
    JPCollado says:

    What a coincidence.

    While reading the first few pages of David Aikman’s ‘Jesus in Beijing’ last night, I noted Aikman mentioning a renown Chinese intellectual whom he had the pleasure of meeting while working as a correspondent for Time magazine in the 1980s. The Chinese fellow spoke in perfect fluent English, according to Aikman, and was well versed in the history of western culture.

    Mr.Aikman goes on to describe his shock, in the course of his conversation with this individual, after hearing the scholar openly admitting about the significance of the Judeo-Christian legacy in how it contributed to the rise and development of the culture that Derbyshire unknowinlgy speaks of.

    I guess the only thing I could glean out of this is…..shame on Derbyshire for not knowing what a person in a repressed country already seems to know a lot of.

    I’ll try and see if I could fetch the Chinese guy’s name later on today.

  16. 16
    JPCollado says:

    My post in #14 is in reference to DLH post # 2:

    “In his diatribe, Derbyshire exposes his ignorance of how the Judeo-Christian worldview was foundational to modern science.”

  17. 17
    inunison says:

    Ekstasis,

    It is even worse now, than it ever was behind the Curtain. We did have classes in Marxism but they were voluntary and they did not contribute to your final score at the end of the year. Comparing to modern day militant Darwinists, Communists were embodiment of wisdom and masterly propaganda.

  18. 18
    SteveB says:

    Derbyshire lead with his nose when he admitted that he hadn’t seen the movie; as such, it’s no surprise that he didn’t make it through the first round with Berlinski. Not even a contest.

    Having said that, I was wondering if anyone could help me out with this quotation from his piece:

    Beyond this settled conviction [that the world is round], I have no theories to offer — not even theories of intelligent design, which I have rejected in the pages of Commentary.

    Needless to say, this seems a little inconsistent with his thesis. Anyone care to interpret this and how it fits in with his argument?

    -sb

  19. 19
    PannenbergOmega says:

    A Blood Libel on Our Civilization Can I expell Expelled? By John Derbyshire

    Okay. Mr. Derbyshire is obviously not an unintelligent human being. So you would they he would have been tactful enough not to use the term “blood libel” in an apparently positive sense.

    The way he is using it, forgive me, sounds almost like something out of a speech by a certain group of guys who ran Germany in the 30s/40s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_libel

  20. 20
    DLH says:

    See Ben Stein interview linked at Beyond Expelled

    Direct link to: R.C. Sproul interview Ben Stein part #3

    In the interview R.C. Sproul says:

    “We are expelling some of the deepest philosophical inquiries in the history of humanity. You go back in time – Emmanuel Kant the dean of western philosophers – who argued against the traditional arguments for the existence of God, said the one that bothered him the most – was the teleological argument – the argument from design – he said “I can’t get away from it.” David Hume said the same thing.”

  21. 21
    boring guy says:

    DLH: Note: Kant was most disturbed by the Teleological argument

    By this do you mean it was an argument he found most difficult to refute?
    {DLH From the interview – Yes. See revised quote above}

  22. 22
    russ says:

    The Commentary article that Jerry asks about in #12 is available for a fee from the magazine. The article is “Has Darwin Met His Match?” December 1, 2002

    Here’s where I found the following quote. http://www.talkreason.org/arti......cfm#again

    David Berlinksi:

    “‘Intelligent design’ proposals to rehabilitate Paley have failed, for good reasons, some of which I [Berlinski] give here. Evolutionary biology has failed, for good reasons which I also give here. Therefore nobody has a plausible scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. This I, [Berlinski] unlike almost all the professional evolutionists and philosophers of science in the world, have now understood.”

  23. 23
    jerry says:

    Russ,

    Berlinski has written a lot in Commentary. My library has the full text version on line so I got a copy a month ago when this first came up. There are several long discussions in the reader’s comments to all of Berlinski’s articles in Commentary.

  24. 24
    DLH says:

    Derbyshire objects: “When our greatest achievements are blamed for our greatest moral failures . . .” That is the heart of the issue. If we do NOT identify the causes of those moral failures and redress them, then we will repeat them.
    If Darwin indeed led to Hitler and the Holocaust, then Derbyshire’s objections themselves are those causes being repeated. From Darwin’s worldview, what basis has Derbyshire for objecting? Ben Stein says:

    If Darwinism correct and we are all just accidents just haphazard descends of a mud puddle, then Hitler was right – If you can kill 6 million Jews, it has no moral significance, any more than wiping mud off of your shoe. . . .But if life came about by an all powerful designer, then it is an incredibly horrible event which must never happen again. . . .

    A brief summary on Kant:
    3.4 Mechanism and Teleology of Emmanuel Kant Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    In the case of the origin of species, Kant tentatively endorses a view which allows the natural development of higher species out of lower ones, but which denies the possibility that the lower species in turn could develop out of unorganized matter as such. . . . In the case of the origin of particular organisms, Kant endorses a view (epigenesis) on which the emergence of an apparently new plant or animal is not just the expansion or unfolding of one which already existed in miniature (as on the preformationist view), but a natural process whereby a new living thing comes into being. At the same time, he denies that a living thing can come to be out of non-living matter: the matter from which the embryo develops must already be teleologically organized.

    3.6 Teleology, Morality and Religion

    . . . Appeal to natural teleology may justify the assumption of an intelligent cause of nature, but it cannot justify the assumption that this cause has wisdom, let alone that it is infinite in every respect, and in particular supremely wise (§85, 441). For this we need to appeal, not to natural, but to moral, teleology, and in particular to the idea (itself belonging not to natural, but to moral teleology) of man as final end of nature.. . .

  25. 25
    boring guy says:

    Thanks DLH.

  26. 26
    russ says:

    Berlinski has written a lot in Commentary. My library has the full text version on line so I got a copy a month ago when this first came up. There are several long discussions in the reader’s comments to all of Berlinski’s articles in Commentary.

    Jerry, sorry, I meant my comment as a reply to SteveB in post #18, but I mistakenly referenced your post. But perhaps you can fill out the details more for us since you’re familiar?

  27. 27
    johnnyb says:

    “Beyond this settled conviction [that the world is round], I have no theories to offer — not even theories of intelligent design, which I have rejected in the pages of Commentary.”

    My understanding is that Berlinski is not an ID’er, but a “friendly critic” – one who values their contribution without agreeing with them fully.

  28. 28
    Wonderware1 says:

    I loved the movie expelled. You actually gain knowledge from seeing this movie. It’s funny too.

    How about three of the key players Ruse, Myers and Dawkins. Ben Stein asks Ruse how life started and Ruse replies “on the back of crystals”. Brilliant deduction.

    Next comes Myers. Ben Stein asks Myers what role religion should play in peoples lives. Myers responds something to the effect that there is to much emphasis on religion and I (Myers)would like to see it as a hobby, like knitting.
    Generous of Myers.

    Finally come Dawkins. Stein asks him how the universe began. Dawkins replies (as I remember) “nobody knows”. Stein then asks him how did life start on earth. Dawkins gives the possible credit to space aliens but never to God.
    Oh Dawkins all that time, money and effort for that education.

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