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Norman Levitt Dies

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Norman Levitt Dies
Volume: 
29
Issue: 
6
Year: 
2009
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
5
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Norman Levitt, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Rutgers University and a fierce critic of pseudoscience, died on October 23, 2009, in New York City, according to the obituary in eSkeptic (2009 Oct 26; available on-line at http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-10-26). Born on August 27, 1943, in New York City, Levitt received his BA from Harvard University in 1963 and his PhD from Princeton University in 1967. After a brief stint at New York University, he spent the rest of his career at Rutgers University, with visiting professorships at Århus University, Stanford University, and the University of British Columbia; he retired from Rutgers in 2007. A specialist in topology, he authored Grassmannians and Gauss Maps in Piecewise-Linear Topology (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1987), but he was better known to the general public for his critiques of pseudoscience and obscurantism, including Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Baltimore [MD]: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), coauthored with Paul R Gross, and Prometheus Bedeviled: Science and the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture (New Brunswick [NJ]: Rutgers University Press, 1999).

While creationism was hardly Levitt's only target, he was certainly concerned about it, especially in its recent manifestation of "intelligent design," which he described — in a press release (available on-line at http://ncse.com/webfm_send/379/1) announcing SciPolicy's amicus curiae brief (available on-line at http://ncse.com/webfm_send/383) for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v Dover — as "not new science, fringe science, nor even junk science. It is merely window-dressing for a movement that is social, political, and, above all, theological down to its core, and which never had the least intention of doing disinterested science." In the wake of the Kitzmiller verdict, he castigated the sociologist Steve Fuller's testimony on behalf of "intelligent design" in a review of Fuller's Science vs Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007) for Skeptic (2008; 14 [1]: 73–7; available on-line at http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-12-19#feature) and reviewed Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design (New York: Times Books, 2006) for Reports of the NCSE (2006 Nov/Dec; 26 [6]: 18–9; available on-line at http://ncse.com/rncse/26/6/review-why-darwin-matters). His widow Renée Greene Levitt asks for memorial contributions to be sent to NCSE in lieu of flowers.