In the last issue of the LRB, Steven Shapin mentioned an anti-Darwinian organisation in California called the Institute for Creation Research. 'Its leading lights call themselves Creation Scientists,' he wrote, 'and its website flaunts their doctoral degrees in natural science from distinguished universities.' By some unscientific coincidence, the current issue of the New York Review of Books carries a full-page advertisement announcing 'a scientific dissent from Darwinism'. Most of the page is taken up by the names of a hundred or so scientists who are 'sceptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life'. They are listed 'by doctoral degree or current position', all the way from 'Henry F. Schaefer, Nobel Nominee, Director of Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry, U. of Georgia' down to 'Richard Sternberg, Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution' (would he be higher up the list if he were studying vertebrates?). Their assertion that 'careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged' is fair enough: otherwise evolutionary theory sinks into dogma. It's disappointing then that the size of the list of names doesn't leave room for any actual arguments, though there is just enough space in the bottom right-hand corner to squeeze in the logo and web address of the Discovery Institute.
LRB 1 November 2001 | PDF Download