The Briar Patch

This is a surprising news item.

Michael Ruse and Daniel Dennett are two of the most prominent philosophers writing about issues related to evolution. It seems they have been engaging in a bit of e-mail correspondence on the side. How do I know this? Because Ruse inexplicably sent the entire correspondence to William Dembski. I say this is inexplicable because there is no indication that Dennett consented to have his private e-mails made public. For Ruse to make public e-mails that were intended as part of a private correpsondence is an incredible breach of professional ethics.

Especially since, as you discover if you look at the correspondence, it was Ruse who initiated it. So – he asked Dennett a leading question, got an expected answer, retorted unpleasantly, got a brief polite ‘think again’ reply – and sent the whole thing off to Dembski?! That sounds almost like a set-up. How very strange – especially since it’s so public.

Close (not to say fanatical) readers of B&W may remember that I’ve done quite a few N&Cs disagreeing with things Ruse has said in interviews and articles – ten of them, in fact, along with one by Jeremy, so many that I did an In Focus to put them all in one place along with those articles and interviews. The first N&C is more than two years old – Ruse has been saying odd things for quite awhile.

I feel somewhat vindicated in all this disagreeing now. (Besides, there was that time my disagreements with Ruse and with Dylan Evans seemed to have inspired Salman Rushdie to talk about them in an article in the Star, which was interesting.) It’s not just my imagination that Ruse has taken an odd path. Dennett says as much in his letter to the Times.

The suggestion by Michael Ruse that this activity of extending the reach of science is tantamount to turning science into a religion is a transparent example of a well-known cheap trick: when you don’t like the implications of some science, and can’t think of any proper scientific refutation, call it ideology – then you don’t have to take it seriously!

It is a very, very, very familiar, stale trick – a variant of the ‘atheism is religion’ trick. And at least in the articles and interviews I’ve seen, Ruse doesn’t back it up convincingly. So now he resorts to sending his correspondence with other people to William Dembski – not a terribly impressive move.

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