Monday, September 15, 2008

Grayling, A. C. "Origin of the Specious." NEW HUMANIST 123.5 (2008).

Fuller, Steve. Dissent Over Descent: Intelligent Design's Challenge to Darwinism. Cambridge: Icon, 2008. It is sometimes hard to know whether books that strike one as silly and irresponsible, like Dissent over Descent, the latest book from Steve Fuller, are the product of a desire to strike a pose and appear outrageous (the John Gray syndrome), or really do represent that cancer of the contemporary intellect, post-modernism. I suppose putatively sincere extrusions of the post-modern sensibility might henceforth deserve to be known as “the Steve Fuller syndrome”. For this offering by the American-born sociologist is a classic case of the absurdity to which that sensibility leads. . . . ( Fuller's reply "Against the Faith": I wish I could repay AC Grayling’s compliment by naming an exotic mental pathology after him, but regrettably his review of Dissent over Descent displays disorders of a much more mundane kind: he has merely failed to read the book properly and does not know what he is talking about. Other than a sense of the chapter titles, the reader of his review will learn nothing about the contents of the book. My only difficulty in responding to Grayling is that he connects so little with what I actually say – for example, his longest quote from me is eight words. However, based on what Grayling himself says in the review, my guess is that he cooked it up using this five-part recipe: 1. Flip book’s pages to find names of philosophers. (Hint: index may prove helpful.) 2. Note that author positions these philosophers in unfamiliar ways that seem to make Intelligent Design (ID) look good. 3. Condemn immediately by applying A-level intellectual history boilerplate. 4. Appease readers whose own knowledge is also at this level and whose prejudices are like those of the reviewer. 5. Repeat as necessary. In light of this modus operandi, I conclude that either Grayling simply did not “read” the book as ordinarily understood, or he was afraid to admit he was not up to the job of reviewing it, and so he figured he could bluff his way by saying philosophy-looking things that effectively preached to the converted (i.e. “new humanists”). . . . ( Academics can be so vicious. I wonder why we can't simply agree to disagree?

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