Tuesday, April 06, 2004
VanDyke wrote a piece reviewing Francis Beckwith's book Darwinism and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design in the Harvard Law Review which prompted Leiter to post this in which he accused VanDyke of academic fraud.
Mr. VanDyke may yet have a fine career as a lawyer, but I trust he has no intention of entering law teaching: scholarly fraud is, I fear, an inauspicious beginning for an aspiring law teacher. And let none of the many law professors who are readers of this site be mistaken: Mr. VanDyke has perpetrated (intentionally or otherwise) a scholarly fraud, one that may have political and pedagogical consequences.
This prompted an article on National Review Online by Hunter Baker, a colleague of Professor Beckwith's, expressing concern about the apparent threats Leiter was making to VanDyke's career. Leiter responded here and here.
Almost two weeks ago, on March 24, VanDyke responded on Ex Parte. Then, today, apparently Leiter noticed and continued his academic crusade against VanDyke.
Some folks don’t know how to cut their losses. Lawrence VanDyke’s complete scientific and scholarly incompetence has been so thoroughly reviewed by me (here and here), biologists, political commentators, and those concerned with science education, that you’d think he might just admit what is now obvious: that he was out of his depth, scientifically and philosophically, and leave it at that. We’re all entitled to make mistakes, after all.
So, while Leiter is not accusing VanDyke of "quasi-fraud", "actual fraud", and "complete scientific and scholarly incompetence", he is doing his best to act surprised that VanDyke would even respond to his accusations. Apparently, once Leiter speaks, everyone who disagrees is expected to simply recognize their error and move on to areas in which their opinions are more in line with the Leiter Truth. And it is an interesting irony that it is VanDyke who won't "leave it at that," considering the fact that it is Leiter who is responding two weeks after what VanDyke said would be his final response, and the fact that it is not Leiter's integrity and professional career that have been called into question.
So, you would expect accusations of academic fraud to be carefully and thoroughly defended, right? Apparently that is unnecessary in this case. All Leiter thinks he needs to do is continue to repeat claims of "fraud," "dishonest[y]" and "ignorance" and drop a bunch of names, and that will be sufficient for those who have not read "Quine, Feyerabend, Bachelard, Kuhn, Hanson, Lakatos, Laudan, Kitcher, Shapin, Barnes & Bloor, and many others" to simply take Leiter's word for VanDyke's intellectual incapacity and dishonesty.
Then, Leiter begins to comment on VanDyke's "spectacular misrepresentations."
Leiter: The only thing "simply wrong" is the claim that philosophers of science believe science manifests an a priori commitment to MN. Once again, VanDyke has no idea what he is talking about; he knows less about the subject than even an undergraduate philosophy major would know.
The closest Leiter gets to an actual argument (i.e., something beyond name-dropping and name-calling) is this last point that: "Evolutionary biologists pursue a research program predicated on the search for naturalistic causal mechanisms because it’s turned out, as an a posteriori matter, that such a research program produces spectacular results. By contrast, there is no research program with any research or results utilizing supernatural causal mechanisms. That is why scientists are methodological naturalists. Their reasons are a posteriori."
This is basically the same as Leiter's point here.
The difficulty, however, is that science did not "a priori pick a naturalistic methodology"; they adopted, based on evidence and experience (i.e., a posteriori), the methods that worked: it turns out that if you make predictions, test the predictions against experience, refine the hypotheses on which the predictions are based, test them again, and so on, you figure out how to predict and control the world around you. This is what the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and a few other ancient events apparently not covered in Mr. VanDyke's education, were about: the a posteriori discovery of the most effective ways to predict and control the world.
Stuart Buck made a fairly lengthy response to this point here, which Leiter does not even attempt to respond to accept by making a rather insulting reference to "another non-philosopher blogger" who "appears to be equally confused on this subject."
Here's the point Buck makes (and which VanDyke apparently agrees with):
Leiter's point may be true, but it is also irrelevant. This is because VanDyke and Leiter are using the term "a priori" in two very different senses.
I would add to this that even if Leiter is technically correct about "methodological naturalism," it seems relatively clear to me that his defense of the a posteriori arrival at methodological naturalism is only possible if you make other a priori philosophical commitments: that our "evidence and experience" is sufficient to allow us to really understand what is going on, and that there is nothing relevant that is beyond our ability to observe and understand. I can certainly understand why people would feel that this is an attractive philosophical position, but it is hardly something that can be scientifically proven.
Perhaps my point proves too much: maybe science is, at its root, essentially unscientific. I am also relatively sure that Leiter will be able to throw a bunch of names at me of other people who have thought about this subject. I don't pretend to be the first person who has come up with this observation. But, seriously, why is acceptance of this unprovable assumption any more scientific than acceptance of the opposite?
Then Leiter talks about a bunch of people I have not read. I am not going to pretend I have anything intelligent to say about Kuhn and Laudan.
Lawrence VanDyke has consumed more of my time than the intellectual content of his work is worth on the merits. But the good news is that his little apology for ID in the Harvard Law Review has been exposed for the piece of incompetent shilling for ignorance that it is--so much so that no one will dare cite it on behalf of teaching lies and misinformation to public school children ever again. And if they do, they will be immediately discredited as soon as someone references this whole, now extended demolition of VanDyke, Beckwith & co.
I think the presumptuousness of this speaks for itself. I realize that I might now have my academic future threatened as a result of my unwillingness to quietly accept the Leiter Orthodoxy. Perhaps I am also now guilty, in Leiter's eyes, of academic fraud.
But if Leiter seriously thinks that Beckwith and VanDyke “want to harm schoolchildren,” I think he needs to look in the mirror when he wants to find “parochial prejudices,” “intellectual dishonesty,” and “ignorance.”
UPDATE: You can read more here and here.
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