Most connoisseurs of arrant dingbattery will concede that NRO's Phi Beta Cons lacks the cracked glamor and solvent-huffing intensity of the Corner. To put it in terms that James Lileks can understand, the Corner is Wayland Flowers' Madame, while PBC is Burr Tillstrom's Ollie.
But that doesn't mean it's not worth the occasional visit. Today, for instance, I've been following an exciting evilutionary dust-up between Carol Iannone - who, as I've detailed elsewhere, is a sort of larval Althouse, only dumber - and Anthony Dick, an associate editor of NR and one of its lonely anti-ID voices.
Dick has answered Iannone's objections to "Darwinism" patiently, and at some length. The most interesting part comes during their debate over falsifiability. Iannone gripes that "Darwinians accept falsifiability only on their own terms." It's not clear what this is supposed to mean, but Dick seems to draw pretty much the same inference I do, which is that Iannone thinks a theory has been "falsified" once someone complains about it with sufficient vehemence.
In essence, she's claiming that scientists aren't properly "multicultural" and "diverse" (to use words that are demonized daily at PBC), and therefore don't understand that the willful incredulity of Carol Iannone carries at least as much epistemic gravitas as all that tedious stuff scientists do with beakers and hoses, and those big round bottles, and that thing you always see in the movies (you know...the thing you put your eye against).
Anyway, here's Dick's response:
The basic idea of falsifiability in science is quite simple: A scientific theory makes a positive claim about the world. If an empirical observation contradicts the theory, then the theory must be abandoned.That's not quite true in theory, and even less so in practice. And for the sake of efficiency, I'm resisting my impulse to find out precisely where Dick stands on the Bush administration's "positive claims" about the world. Let's just put all that aside for now, and struggle onwards:
Modern evolutionary biology is bound to a fairly fixed timeline, with a fossil record that is constrained by the principle of gradual descent with modification via natural selection over billions of years. In the eyes of 99 percent of working scientists, no fossilized organisms have yet been found that contradict (or even seriously call into question) this evolutionary timeline.Not the best rebuttal I've ever seen, but it does have the virtue of simplicity. And God knows simplicity is important when you're debating someone like Iannone, who prattles vacantly about "ribosome, the molecule that constructs DNA."
Iannone's response to all this is one of the funniest things I've read in a while. Here it is, in full:
Last Words on IDQED, motherfuckers!
[Carol Iannone 10/17 05:12 PM]
I really do feel that Anthony's answers, which I do appreciate as more complete than I've ever been able to wring out of any Darwinian, show that Darwinian theory is itself non-falsifiable. And the present pope is beginning to cast doubt on the falsely confident assertion that revealed Christianity and Darwin are totally compatible.
The best part is, Anthony Dick now knows exactly how sane people feel when they read Jonah Goldberg or Ramesh Ponnaru on politics.
(Photo by Catherine Wagner.)