Would a benevolent God construct a world in which publications like Slate and the New Republic hired Gregg Easterbrook to write about science? I say no. The fact that they do hire him is a proof of the non-existence of a benevolent God.
Peter Woit nevetheless thanks the One Who Might Be that Gregg Easterbrook did not review his book about string theory but Lee Smolin's:
Not Even Wrong: Yesterday I also saw two reviews [of Lee Smolin's book] that I don't think much of. The first is Gregg Easterbrook's piece at Slate, The Trouble With String Theory. It's a very enthusiastic review of Smolin's book, and when I started reading it my initial reaction was positive, although it did seem a bit over the top. As I read on, besides wondering "Hey, is he going to mention my book too?", I started to remember who Easterbrook is, and how stupid some of his previous writings on physics were. By the end of it, I was very glad Easterbrook had left me out of it. One sometimes depressing aspect of being on this side of the string theory controversy is seeing who some of one's allies are.
Easterbrook is best known as a sports writer writing about the NFL, but for some reason various prominent publications feature his writing on other topics. The biggest mystery of all is why places like Slate and the New Republic have him writing about science, a topic he seems to know nothing about, and be actively hostile to. For once, Lubos Motl's paranoid rantings about "anti-science" people who dislike string theory do actually have someone they legitimately apply to. This latest Easterbrook effort isn't even original, he's plagiarizing himself...
Chad Orzel observes:
Uncertain Principles: Take the Bad with the Good: The bad news is, Gregg Easterbrook is writing about science for Slate. Actually, Gregg Easterbrook writing about anything other than football is bad news, but science is particularly bad. His knowledge of the subject always seems to operate at the Star Trek sort of level-- like he's read the glossary of a bunch of general science books, but never really understood how it all fits together... the problematic paragraph being this one near the end:
Today if a professor at Princeton claims there are 11 unobservable dimensions about which he can speak with great confidence despite an utter lack of supporting evidence, that professor is praised for incredible sophistication. If another person in the same place asserted there exists one unobservable dimension, the plane of the spirit, he would be hooted down as a superstitious crank.
...In the context of string theory, "dimension" has a precise scientific meaning-- roughly, "a direction of motion perpendicular to all other directions of motion." In the context of religion, "dimension" is a metaphor. Equating the scientific and "spiritual" meanings of dimension, the way Easterbrook does, makes about as much sense as saying "A big drop in stock prices could lead to a bear market, which would be bad because bears ripped apart that guy in Grizzly Man." It lends a wonderful Lemony Snicket quality to the article, but doesn't exactly mark him as a Deep Thinker...
Jacob Levy would presumably say that Gregg Easterbrook's writing about science for Slate might be one of those apparent evils that we cannot, because of our limited vision, see as really part of a greater good.
What hidden greater good that we cannot perceive might Gregg Easterbrook's writing about science for Slate be a part of? Suggestions are welcome.