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On Commentary, 1996

January 21, 2020

When I get disgruntled with work, I update my CV (you should, too; you are not trapped.) Every time I do so, I realize that there are things that should be on the CV but aren't. I was looking back through things from the late 1990s, and I ran across the writing I did that's linked below. When you revisit things you did 25 years ago, you sometimes forget how cool they kinda were.

 

I was in this mix with Richard Dawkins and Martin Gardner. Non-nerds will not appreciate who Dawkins and Gardner were, but Dawkins wrote a seminal book on evolution called "The Selfish Gene" (go read that) and created the term "meme." Gardner was a monthly contributor to "Scientific American" magazine (there are collections of his works as well.)

 

Why were we all in there?

 

It had to do with a mathematician named David Berlinski, who actually wrote a pretty good math book called "A Tour of the Calculus." But for whatever reason, after the success of that book, Berlinski began to veer away from his expertise in math into the realm of biochemistry and molecular biology. (Here's the point in this tale where that red alert noise from the USS Enterprise should be going off in your head.)

 

Berlinski had been highly praised for his book, but then he wrote an article in a conservative-leaning magazine called Commentary that was entitled "The Deniable Darwin." In that article, he proceeded to outline something of a manifesto as to why, according to what he understood, there was no way biological evolution could occur.

 

It was some of the most ignorant nonsense I had ever read, so along with Dawkins and Gardner and others, I wrote a letter in a response that is linked below from 1996. You may have to scroll down to see what I wrote, and they didn't print the whole thing, but looking back on something I did 25 years ago, it occurs to me that I never had a problem letting anyone know that I have zero tolerance for bullshit.

 

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/denying-darwin/

 

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