The Brian Leiter/Lawrence VanDyke dispute just will not die. Crooked Timber is disappointed in the HLS Federalist Society bloggers for jumping to Lawrence's defense and trumpeting about the "important post" with Lawrence's reply. I must confess that I am a bit disappointed in this chain of events as well. While I know that religious conservatives dominate the FedSoc, this wholehearted appropriation of victim language and failure to engage in any substantive rebuttal undermines my confidence in the ability of the Society to "foster balanced and open debate," both on campus and within its own ranks. Most of the objections boiled down to "Leiter was mean," to which I would respond, "but was he right?"
Brian Leiter is a jerk. He ripped Lawrence's note up one side and down the other, and did so in a particularly aggressive way. Unfortunately, the reply on the FedSoc blog doesn't effectively rebut his claims about the note's weaknesses. I thought this was Harvard, where the professors used to verbally attack the students on a daily basis. Have even the HLS Federalists succumbed to the enervation of this institution such that they are injured by the broadsides of a law professor thousands of miles away? I can't help but think that if a conservative professor had written a similarly scathing review of some bit of identity politics claptrap they all would have nodded approvingly. I can only speculate that the following factors may have come into play:
- They were defending their friend (pretty much all the conservatives at HLS socialize together).
- Leiter's attack was perceived as part and parcel of the suppression of conservative viewpoints in the academy, which people mostly acknowledge comes more frequently from other students than from faculty, but is still a touchy subject for some students here.
- Leiter's attack on religion was interpreted as an attack on their religious faith (there are a surprising number of ID believers at HLS).
- Less generous response: the lady doth protest too much. They all knew what would ensue in the wake of Lawrence's review, but were still shocked to be called out on this attempt to smuggle religion into school science curriculums.
Kevin Drum weighs in also.
Update: Christ on a sidecar, Lawrence VanDyke has again posted on the FedSoc blog in response to Leiter.