Intelligence and design
Little did I realise when I became a target of criticism from Steve Fuller of Warwick University that I would be able to wear this as a badge of honour. I just thought it rather odd that someone in a department of sociology seemed so indifferent to the foundational principles of his field, preferring to regard it as a branch of psychology rather than an attempt to understand human group behaviour. I take some solace in the fact that his resistance to physics-based ideas seems to have been anticipated by George Lundberg, one of the pioneers of the field, who, in Foundations of Sociology (1939), admits with dismay that ‘The idea that the same general laws may be applicable to both ‘physical’ and societal behavior may seem fantastic and inconceivable to many people.’ I was tempted to suggest that Fuller hadn’t read Lundberg, or Robert Park, Georg Simmel, Herbert Simon and so on, but this felt like the cheap form of rhetoric that prompts authors to say of critics whose opinions they don’t like that ‘they obviously haven’t read my book’. (On the other hand, Fuller’s first assault, on Radio 4’s Today programme, came when he really hadn’t read my book, because it hadn’t been published at that point.)
Anyway, judging from the level of scholarship A. C. Grayling finds (or rather, fails to find) in Fuller’s new book Dissent over Descent, a defence of the notion of intelligent design, maybe my hesitation was generous. But of course one shouldn’t generalize. Grayling has dissected the book in the New Humanist, and we should be grateful to him for sparing us the effort, although he clearly found the task wearisome. But wait a minute – a social scientist writing about evolution? Isn’t that a little like a chemist (sic) writing about social science?