Well I must say, my article on “The Darwinian Fundamentalists” accomplished just what I expected (if not hoped) it would by illustrating that “free thinkers” have their taboo and verboten subjects as surely as do anybody else. Poor Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini found that out the hard way. (So, by the way, did Mr. Darwin himself.)
In the brief compass of a couple dozen comments Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini were dismissed because they are not biologists, they were called crackpots, their arguments were misrepresented, they were compared to Ray Comfort, young earth creationists generally, and flat earthers, and so on. (Mike D mentioned Ray Comfort, apparently unaware that I recently satirized him in “Evolution debunked in sixteen minutes!“)
What especially struck me in these criticisms was the leap from “Their book is perfect!” to “Their book is worthless!” as if there isn’t any ground in the middle in which the book might have at least some interesting things to say.
And then there were the charges against me for bringing their book up in the first place. I must say, Mike D took the lead here with youthful aplomb as he accused me of viewing myself as an “expert on evolution” and providing a “literature selection” limited to writings that agree with my “bizarre and convoluted theology”. (What theology is that, exactly?) By comparison to Mike’s tirade, Jeff’s speculations that I have some deeply-seated objection to natural selection which I have yet to share were relatively bland (sorry Jeff!) but no less off base.
As I watched the comments come in I thought how difficult it is to maintain doxastic communities that truly exemplify the spirit of open and critical enquiry. How easy it is to harden categories and shut down the musings of the free thinking iconoclast rather than weigh judiciously each of his irreverent and provocative opinions with a cool and critical demeanor.
You know, if a leading Christian philosopher published a book calling into question the doctrine of the Trinity, I wouldn’t immediately start deriding him (“He’s a philosopher, so his opinions don’t count! He’s a flat earther! Blah blah blah!”) and I certainly wouldn’t start criticizing those who dared mention his book (“You probably always doubted the Trinity, didn’t you! That’s why you’re mentioning this book now!”) Instead, I’d be genuinely interested to see what he had to say. And even though I’d obviously be skeptical about his conclusions I’d be impressed by the courage of conviction he had to dissent from the wider Christian community. How many of us go the low road of thoughtless conformity because others have already done our thinking for us?
Okay, I’m done. Now just give me a minute to retreat to my bomb shelter.