on 12 October 2016
For the past decade attorney and political commentator Ann Coulter has been one of the most passionate, articulate voices on behalf of modern American conservatism. In her first book, "High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton", Coulter made a persuasive case for former President William Clinton's impeachment, conviction and removal from office (Looking back, I might add a more serious charge than those she cited in her book; gross dereliction of his duty to defend the United States from attack by refusing to take seriously the threat of Islamofascist terror. If Clinton had listened to excellent advice from aides like Dick Morris, then perhaps the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on the United States would have been prevented.). More recently, in "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism", Coulter wrote a stinging indictment of the Left's handling of American foreign policy since the end of World War II; one which should be taken seriously by anyone interested in the history of American foreign policy in the postwar world (I thought so highly of this book, that it earned recently a glowing Amazon.com customer review from me.). For these reasons alone I should be prepared to write a glowing review of "Godless: The Church of Liberalism"; instead, I will condemn, not praise, Coulter's prose.
Coulter contends that secular humanism has become the unofficial state religion of the American Left. Furthermore, she argues passionately that this religion has allowed the Left to embrace causes like women's reproductive health rights, to defend spies and murderers ranging from Alger Hiss to Mumia Abu-Jamal, and to subscribe to a creation myth known as "Darwin's Theory of Evolution". Coulter also implies that the Left has gone far astray from the moral and religious values of our Founding Fathers. In "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" Coulter offers a somewhat paranoid view of the Left, ignoring the significant roles played by liberal Christian religious leaders during the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war protests against the Vietnam War from the 1950s to 1970s; roles which some liberal Christian theologians like Reverend Jim Wallis, author of the recent best-selling book "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It", are not yet willing to concede to the so-called Christian Right. Coulter also ignores the excellent scholarship of eminent historians like David McCullough and Gordon Wood (Our foremost authority on the history of the American Revolution and the early republic in the decade after the drafting of the U. S. Constitution; he was also one of the finest professors I had in college.) who have stressed the strong influence of both the Scottish and French Enlightenments on the Founding Fathers' religious and political thinking (Furthermore, Newsweek editor-in-chief Jim Meacham, in his recently published "American Gospel", has argued persuasively that our Founding Fathers had a more secular humanist view of Judeo-Christian values; contrary to the more fundamentalist Protestant interpretations voiced by Ann Coulter, Patrick Buchanan, Pat Robertson and others of their ilk.).
Nearly half of "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" is devoted to "debunking" the liberal creation myth known as "Darwin's Theory of Evolution". Regrettably, Coulter demonstrates repeatedly her ignorance of the scientific method, ignoring the overwhelming body of evidence which exists from the fossil record to molecular biology, in support of both the fact of evolution, and of Darwin's theory of evoluion via natural selection. Coulter presumably believes that evolution is a liberal creation myth since prominent evolutionary biologists such as Edward O. Wilson and especially, Richard Dawkins, have either expressed their strong indifference or hostility towards Christianity; however theirs is a minority view since I know of many prominent scientists, ranging from University of Arizona ecologist Michael Rosenzweig (a devout Jew) to Brown University cell biologist Kenneth Miller (a devout Roman Catholic; author of "Finding Darwin's God"), who see no conflict at all between their personal embrace of religious faith and superb scientific research in evolutionary biology and other aspects of biology. Coulter seems too eager to point out hoaxes like the infamous Piltdown Man discovery or inept scientific research like Ernst Haeckel's assertion that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" (A hypothesis which the late Stephen Jay Gould debunked in technical works such as his classic mid 1970s book on this subject, "Ontogeny and Phylogeny", and in his superb essays for general public consumption from his "This View of Life" column in Natural History magazine which were also published in a critically acclaimed series of essay collections.). Coulter adds to her ignorance about the significance of the fossil record as important evidence on behalf of evolution by ridiculing as an evolutionary dead end, the recent discovery of Tiktaalik, an aquatic primitive tetrapod which shared a mosaic of fish and amphibian features (The current July/August 2006 issue of Natural History has an article, "From Fins to Limbs", by noted British veterbrate paleontologist Jennifer Clack, which correctly notes the importance of Tiktaalik towards our understanding of the evolution of tetrapods from fish ancestors.).
Coulter comes across as yet another strident apologist for Intelligent Design, contending that a liberal bias in scientific research is the reason why serious scientific research on Intelligent Design has not yet been published in prominent scientific journals. She cites as a sole example, a survey article written by Intelligent Design supporters which was published in an obscure journal published by a Washington, D. C.-based biological society, using it to demonstrate liberal bias against Intelligent Design scientific research. Regrettably, Coulter's legalistic argument doesn't hold muster, since the article in question did not contain any notable research validating the Intelligent Design hypothesis (Coulter should ask herself why prominent scientific journals like Nature and Science have yet to publish Intelligent Design-oriented research articles; could the answer lie in the fact that Intelligent Design is not a credible scientific theory?). Coulter also resorts to a bizarre, McCarthyesque attack on Judge John E. Jones III, the Republican jurist of the Dover, PA trial, who ruled that Intelligent Design is a religious doctrine masquerading as science (Coulter's bizarre behavior stands in stark contrast to the well-reasoned, often profound, critiques of Intelligent Design and favorable appraisals of Darwin's Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection written by fellow conservative commentators Charles Krauthammer and George Will immediately after Judge Jones issued his verdict (These were published in the New York Post and Washington Post soon after Jones' verdict was announced.).
Ann Coulter has earned degrees from two universities which are among the world's preeminent centers for research in ecology and evolutionary biology: Cornell and Michigan. I am surprised that she shows little interest in or knowledge of the excellent research conducted by evolutionary biologists at both universities (If she had acquainted herself with Michigan vertebrate paleontologist Philip Gingerich's seminal research on the origin and early evolution of whales - which is still ongoing - then I think she would not have made the fallacious claim that the fossil record doesn't support evolution.). Instead of reading "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" for Coulter's insipid insights on evolution, I would have to recommend instead, such notable works as Robert Pennock's "Tower of Babel", Kenneth Miller's "Finding Darwin's God" and Niles Eldredge's "Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life" (Since Coulter does reside in New York City, I hope she has the opportunity to view the American Museum of Natural History's "Darwin" exhibition - curated by noted evolutionary biologist and paleobiologist Niles Eldredge, who is a curator of invertebrate paleontology at the museum - before it closes next month.). But I suspect the prospect of that occuring is as likely as her listening to conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly's recently published advice for her to tone down her strident rhetoric.
(Reposted from my 2006 Amazon USA review.)