Thursday, February 08, 2007


Out of the Pan

While I'm at it, Pamela R. Winnick, an attorney and former reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has a review in the Wall Street Journal of Monkey Girl by Edward Humes. Since I just got the book and it's next on my "to read" list, I'll refrain from commenting on the review itself, which is mostly negative (may I have a "Surprise!"?).

One indication of where Ms. Winnick may be coming from is her pulling out from Humes' book for particular comment the example of the peppered moth. She even refers to the 1998 Sargent, Millar, and Lambert paper, "The "classical" explanation of industrial melanism: assessing the evidence," in Evolutionary Biology that's prominently used in Chapter 7 of Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution. While Kettlewell's experiments were far from perfect, the report of the demise of the peppered moth as evidence for natural selection in the field is grossly exaggerated.

But here is the best part of the review: after criticizing Humes for "treating all ID-proponents as benighted fanatics with a crude political agenda," Winnick goes on to say:

He even spends four pages bashing Ann Coulter, as if she is an important thinker in need of refutation.
While I didn't know that devoting four whole pages was the dividing line between treatment of important thinkers and the dismissal of hacks, I have to agree with her assessment that Coulter's books are a needless waste of wood pulp.

Ms. Winnick is a partisan hack, though this was not obvious because the Wall Street Journal rather deceptively identified the reviewer as follows: "Ms. Winnick is an attorney and former reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette."

Winnick, in fact, has lectured at the Discovery
Institute (the pro-Intelligent Design think tank
which, perhaps not coincidentally, launched an attack on Monkey Girl the day before the review ran). Winnick is also author of a book entitled, A Jealous God: Science's Crusade Against Religion. The title alone conveys the rather large axe she has to grind; it is no coincidence that every other major publication that has reviewed Monkey Girl has remarked on its even-handedness.

Winnick has made a career of defending intelligent design and attacking evolution (supported by a $25,000 wingnut welfare grant from the arch-conservative Phillips Foundation), which is certainly her right. But the Journal never disclosed her partisanship on this issue, or even the telling title of her book. Even Winnick's rhetoric in the review is nakedly antievolution; only anti-evolutionary partisans refer to evolution, as she did in her review, as "the godless and random forces of natural selection that render the human species a mere accident of nature."
Thanks for that information. While I was unaware of it, I can hardly say I'm surprised.
I read the book last night. There are just four sentences that mention the peppered moth, all associated with Wells' misrepresentations in Icons of Evolution. Those sentences are scattered across three pages (164, 172, and 173). She's really reaching if that's one main focus of her review.
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