Friday, September 29, 2006

Review of Richard Weikart: From Darwin to Hitler (part 1)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

In a couple of previous posts I have dealt with Richard Weikart and been somewhat confused over his position. So I decided to read his book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. While I am reading the book, I will post commentaries on it, and this post is the first of those commentaries.

In the "Preface" Weikart writes p. ix:

I became fascinated with the topic of evolutionary ethics while doing research for my dissertation, Socialist Darwinism: Evolution in German Socialist Thought from Marx to Bernstein (published in 1999). Little did I suspect the course my study would take. While examining Darwinian discourse in Germany, I found that many darwinists believed that Darwinism had revolutionary implications for ethics and morality, providing a new foundation for ethics and overturning traditional moral codes.

This are the first words in the book, and we have had the word 'Darwinism' introduced, but not defined. And yet, it is implicitly defined by association with the word 'Socialist' and following that with the phrase "revolutionary implications for ethics and morality, providing a new foundation for ethics and overturning traditional moral codes".

Already here we know that this book isn't a scientific book, but a political book, the intended audience being anti-socialist conservatives.

Following that Weikart mentions more about his further readings pulling out things that apparently are chisen (dare I say: intelligently designed?) to shock that audience.

In particular we may notice this piece further down the same page:

Last, but not least, James Rachel's book, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (Oxford, 1990), stimulated my thinking. Rachel's argument that Darwinism undermines the sanctity of human life and his support for euthanasia seemed remarkably similar to some of the ideas I encountered in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Germany.

Apparently Weikart is trying to warn us that if we don't do something about Darwinism now, then history will repeat itself. But we still don't even know, what 'Darwinism' is, except it's something that undermines the sanctity of human life (because we are "created" from animals?)

The ever so infamous Wedge Document begins with:

The proposition that human beings beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West's greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

This document was written for fund-raising purposes and to some extent works as the strategic plan for the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, of which Weikart is a fellow.

In other words, if you like "representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences", you'd better go with being created in the image of God rather than being created from animals.

Moving on to the "Introduction" we read at p. 2:

The famous bioethicist Peter Singer and his compatriot James Rachels argue that because Darwinism effectively discredits the Judeo-Christian conception of the sanctity of human life, therefore abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide can be morally justified.

First, as far as I have understood, the term 'Judeo-Christian values' was applied by conservative protestants in order to persuade Catholics and Jews to vote for the Republican party.

Second, I don't know anything about James Rachels and I am certainly no expert on Peter Singer; but from what I know about him, he employ a utilitarian ethics, which in the present case means that we should strive to decrease suffering. Does human life have a value in itself, even if you are suffering? And how does martyrdom fit in here? Things are not as simple as Weikart makes it sound. Where Darwinism comes into it for Peter Singer is not in a degrading of human life, but in an upgrading of animal life, effectively discrediting the 'speciesism' that he claims that the biblical creation story represents - with humans specifically created in the image of God separate from animals.

On the following few pages Weikart discusses whether the line from Darwin to Hitler was straight or not, admitting that 'Darwinism' (still not defined) did not necessarily lead to the holocaust, nor was it far from the only influence, but it was an influence on Hitler though mediated through ideas that weren't original to Darwin.

having established taht Darwinism was one, though not the only factor that led to the holocaust, weikart quotes Sheila Faith Weiss at p.6:

Finally, one might add, to categorize people as "valuable" and "valueless," to view people as little more than variables amenable to manipulation for some "higher end" as Schallmayer and all German eugenicists did, was to embrace an outlook that led, after many twists and turns, to the slave-labor and death camps of Auschwitz.

Hey, wait a sec here, will you? Since when wasn't the Judeo-Christian point of view anything else than that human lives are amenable to manipulation (by God) for some "higher end" (God's plan of Salvation and the kingdom of God)? Sin is defined as not accepting that manipulation.

At p. 9, Weikart finally sees fit to grant us a definition of 'Darwinism':

When I use the term Darwinism in this study, I mean the theory of evolution through natural selection as advanced by Darwin in The Origin of Species. In the late nineteenth century century, however, the term Darwinism was often used loosely. Sometimes it meant the idea of biological evolution in general, other times it referred to Darwin's particular theory of natural selection (as I am using it in this work), and elsewhere it meant an entire naturalistic worldview with biological evolution as its centerpiece.

Ok, so now we know. The obvious problem here is that The Origin of Species does not cover humans. Darwin first did this in 1871 in The Descent of Man. Why doesn't Weikart point out that to Darwin in Descent, social insticts such as sympathy counted as a peculiarity of being civilized?

Let's look at a frequently quoted piece from Descent, chapter 5:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

This piece is usually quoted to show that Darwin was against vaccination and suggested that humans should be put under the same rules as domesticated animals. But let's have some of the next paragraph to go with this:

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.

This completely turns the meaning around, doesn't it? Darwin's point is not that vaccination should be abandoned to let natural selection do its tricks, because that same natural selection has already given us the instinct of sympathy.

Sure, Darwin might not have been correct, sympathy may not be an instinct, but something we learn. Still, Darwin's claim is that there are social instincts, and that they belong to the noblest part of our nature. Why shouldn't this count as 'Darwinism' as well?

It certainly serves to the credit of Weikart that he - unlike some creationists - does not paint a negative picture of Darwin. However, it detracts from that credit that Weikart doesn't make it clear that Darwin's theory of evolution does not necessarily imply any devaluation of human lives.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What is Darwinism? (5) Back to the roots: Ernst Haeckel

In collaboration with Alan Fox (Languedoc Diary) this article is posted on his blog as What is Darwinism?. Charles Darwin's Origin of Species was translated into German in 1860, and reportedly was it a revelation to Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel, however, went much further than Darwin and developed a metaphysical paradigm, monism, a variety of pantheism, according to which everything evolved gradually. When creationists refer to 'evolution', it's usually something much closer to this monism they refer to than to Darwin's theory of evolution (that e.g. doesn't include an evolving universe).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What is Darwinism? (4) The verdict of Phillip Johnson

Phillip E. Johnson, currently program advisor of the Discovery Institute's center for Science and Culture, gave back in 1992 a lecture titled What is Darwinism?.

We'll begin with jumping to Johnson's second to last paragraph:

We are now in a position to answer the question with which this lecture began. What is Darwinism? Darwinism is a theory of empirical science only at the level of microevolution, where it provides a framework for explaining such things as the diversity that arises when small populations become reproductively isolated from the main body of the species. As a general theory of biological creation Darwinism is not empirical at all. Rather, it is a necessary implication of a philosophical doctrine called scientific naturalism, which is based on the a priori assumption that God was always absent from the realm of nature. As such evolution in the Darwinian sense is inherently antithetical to theism, although evolution in some entirely different and non-naturalistic sense could conceivably have been God's chosen method of creation.

This should make it clear, which game we are playing here. Johnson is out to pitch Darwinism against theism; not in the sense of denying any and all evolution, but in the sense of denying 'macroevolution' - in the very end, common descent.

This of course puts Johnson among the baraminologists, those who believe that there are essential differences between organisms, the kind barriers, beyond which evolution cannot go.

Let's now return to the very beginning of the lecture. In the first paragraph Johnson mentions the Jeopardy television game:

There is a popular television game show called "Jeopardy," in which the usual order of things is reversed. Instead of being asked a question to which they must supply the answer, the contestants are given the answer and asked to provide the appropriate question. This format suggests an insight that is applicable to law, to science, and indeed to just about everything. The important thing is not necessarily to know all the answers, but rather to know what question is being asked.

So we know that Johnson is going to tell us that the question is not "What is Darwinism?", since Darwinism is the answer to the real question. This question is revealed by Johnson in the last paragraph of the lecture:

In 1874, the great Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge asked the question I have asked: What is Darwinism? After a careful and thoroughly fair-minded evaluation of the doctrine, his answer was unequivocal: "It is Atheism." Another way to state the proposition is to say that Darwinism is the answer to a specific question that grows out of philosophical naturalism. To return to the game of "Jeopardy" with which we started, let us say that Darwinism is the answer. What, then, is the question? The question is: "How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it?" Theistic evolutionists accomplish very little by trying to Christianize the answer to a question that comes straight out of the agenda of scientific naturalism. What we need to do instead is to challenge the assumption that the only questions worth asking are the ones that assume that naturalism is true.

Johnson was at the time of writing this lecture professor of law, now retired. In a court case the two parties usually provide evidence for their claims. Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was actually written over this pattern, of course with Darwin providing evidence for evolution, but also suggesting, what line of evidence his opponents would need to provide.

In The Origin of Species chapter 6, "Difficulties on Theory", Darwin writes:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.

Aha; but Michael Behe can find them everywhere, so apparently Darwin's theory has broken down!

Except, of course, that Behe's examples all have been shown to not really fit the bill. A leading critique of Behe's is Kenneth Miller, who happens to be a Roman Catholic - just like Behe.

In the "Introduction" to The Origin of Species, Darwin outlines the case at hand:

In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world have been modified so as to acquire that perfection of structure and co-adaptation which most justly excites our admiration. Naturalists continually refer to external conditions, such as climate, food, &c., as the only possible cause of variation. In one very limited sense, as we shall hereafter see, this may be true; but it is preposterous to attribute to mere external conditions, the structure, for instance, of the woodpecker, with its feet, tail, beak, and tongue, so admirably adapted to catch insects under the bark of trees. In the case of the misseltoe, which draws its nourishment from certain trees, which has seeds that must be transported by certain birds, and which has flowers with separate sexes absolutely requiring the agency of certain insects to bring pollen from one flower to the other, it is equally preposterous to account for the structure of this parasite, with its relations to several distinct organic beings, by the effects of external conditions, or of habit, or of the volition of the plant itself.

Ending the "Introduction", Darwin writes:

No one ought to feel surprise at much remaining as yet unexplained in regard to the origin of species and varieties, if he makes due allowance for our profound ignorance in regard to the mutual relations of all the beings which live around us. Who can explain why one species ranges widely and is very numerous, and why another allied species has a narrow range and is rare? Yet these relations are of the highest importance, for they determine the present welfare, and, as I believe, the future success and modification of every inhabitant of this world. Still less do we know of the mutual relations of the innumerable inhabitants of the world during the many past geological epochs in its history. Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate study and dispassionate judgement of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained -- namely, that each species has been independently created -- is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main but not exclusive means of modification.

Now, if Darwinism is the answer to the question: "How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it?", Darwin would probably have phrased this rather differently. Note that even baraminologists, such as Johnson, do not believe "that each species has been independently created", only that each kind has been independently created. However, we are still waiting for the baraminologists to hand us a working definition of a kind.

This is of course assuming that Charles Darwin was a Darwinist. But even if he wasn't, the main point here remains that the micro-macro distinction may be more a question of pragmatics than a question of reality.

Returning to Johnson, he aks the question, why macroevolution is still considered scientific, although it lacks any empirical basis - it being simply an extrapolation of microevolution. He then writes:

The answer to that question lies in the definition of five key terms. The terms are creationism, evolution, science, religion, and truth. Once we understand how these words are used in evolutionary discourse, the continued ascendancy of neo-Darwinism will be no mystery and we need no longer be deceived by claims that the theory is supported by "overwhelming evidence."

It's certainly always nice in any discussion to have clear definitions of terms used - if for no other reason, then at least to figure out, what it's all about. So let's have a look at, how Johnson defines his five key terms.

First creationism:

The first word is creationism, which means simply a belief in creation.

Fine; but what does 'creation' mean? Let's again look at Johnson's claim that Darwinism is the answer to the question: "How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it?" Apparently Johnson acknowledges that it is meaningful to talk about non-theistic creation, and apparently any Darwinist is a creationist.

But let's return to Johnson:

In Darwinist usage, which dominates not only the popular and profession[al?] scientific literature but also the media, a creationist is a person who takes the creation account in the Book of Genesis to be true in an very literal sense. The earth was created in a single week of six 24-hour days no more that 10,000 years ago; the major features of the geological [column?] were produced by Noah's flood; and there have been no major innovations in the forms of life since the beginning. It is a major theme of Darwinist propaganda that the only persons who have any doubts about Darwinism are young-earth creationists of this sort, who are always portrayed as rejecting the clear and convincing evidence of science to preserve a religious prejudice. The implication is that citizens of modern society are faced with a choice that is really no choice at all. Either they reject science altogether and retreat to a pre-modern worldview, or they believe everything the Darwinists tell them.

I beg to disagree - though acknowledging that I am guilty and used to equate 'creationist' and 'YEC'. A few months ago I suggested on an evolutionist web-site that the expression "the Intelligent Design creationist William Dembski" should be changed to "the Intelligent Design proponent William Dembski", since I didn't consider William Dembski to be a creationist - after all Henry Morris didn't either. However, I was informed that there were many varieties of creationism. Intelligent design being one. Then I considered claiming that if 'Intelligent Design' implies 'creationist', the latter word was redundant; but I gave up the fight. So Johnson is not necessarily quite right here, and we still don't really know, what he means by a 'creationist', since we don't know what he means by 'creation'.

Johnson then gives us his own definition of, what a creationist is:

In a broader sense, however, a creationist is simply a person who believes in the existence of a creator, who brought about the existence of the world and its living inhabitants in furtherance of a purpose.

This gives us a slight problem, namely that many people who do not consider themself to be creationists will come to count as creationists. When we talk about evolution versus creation, it's the process we are dealing with, not whether there is some underlying purpose. Compare to for instance the process of publishing books; this can be described without reference to why a certain publisher publishes certain books. Some publishers specialize in books with certain political content; but they still use the same techniques as anyone else.

And Johnson runs into an even bigger problem, when he continues:

Whether the process of creation took a single week or billions of years is relatively unimportant from a philosophical or theological standpoint. Creation by gradual processes over geological ages may create problems for Biblical interpretation, but it creates none for the basic principle of theistic religion.

Apparently Johnson hasn't spent much time talking with YECs. For any YEC, you either accept the six-day creation, or you are heading straight for hell.

Jonathan Wells, who is a fellow of the Discovery Institute has written a Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter, where he in the first chapter writes:

5. What is the biblical doctrine of creation?

Answer: The Bible teaches in the first chapter of Genesis that God created all things, and that His work of creation had the following characters:
  • Ex nihilo Out of nothing
  • Fiat By His word or command
  • Special Each created "kind" of organism reproduces separate from the other kinds
  • Perfect Good, very good, to glorify the Creator and make His creatures happy
  • God's image Intellect, affections, moral responsibility, and will in man
  • Six-day creation

The literal six-day creation is important to YECs, because a literal interpretation of Genesis 2-3 is crucial to their entire argumentation. So it's not simply a question of "problems for Biblical interpretation", but for some it is of fundamental importance.

However, Johnson is not the one to worry about this. He continues:

And creation in this broad sense, according to a 1991 Gallup poll, is the creed of 87 per cent of Americans. If God brought about our existence for a purpose, then the most important kind of knowledge to have is knowledge of God and of what He intends for us.

Since I happen to not be a US citizen, I really enjoy such statements. Did God anly bring about the existence of (US) Americans? Science has the peculiar property that it has to be the same everywhere. If the earth is around 6,000 years old, it is around 6,000 years old in India as well as in the USA. If the earth is around 4.55 billion years old, it is around 4.55 billion years old in Russia as well as in South Africa. We cannot vote about these things nation by nation. We need to provide evidence that everybody can agree upon.

All in all, Johnson's big creationist tent is both too big and not big enough.

Johnson spends the next paragraphs discussing, whether "creation in that broad sense [is] consistent with evolution". Not surprisingly he says "no", if evolution is understood as fully naturalistic evolution. In the process Johnson confuses the theory of evolution with the Big Bang theory, although they are not really related. The theory of evolution deals with how speciation occurs here on earth, while the Big Bang theory deals with the origin of the universe, and how its structures develop.

But we'll leave that aside. After discussing creationism and evolution, Johnson's next point is science:

We have already seen that Darwinists assume as a matter of first principle that the history of the cosmos and its life forms is fully explicable on naturalistic principles.

As mentioned above, Darwinists, who limit themselves to what the theory of evolution is about, are not dealing with the history of the cosmos. They may certainly accept e.g. the Big Bang theory; but they don't do that as Darwinists, since it's an entirely different issue.

Let's return to Johnson:

This reflects a philosophical doctrine called scientific naturalism, which is said to be a necessary consequence of the inherent limitations of science. What scientific naturalism does, however, is to transform the limitations of science into limitations upon reality, in the interest of maximizing the explanatory power of science and its practitioners.

I suppose that Johnson would also claim that since land surveyors employ plane geometry, they must believe in a flat earth. Well, they need not, so Johnson's argumentation doesn't quite work.

It is, of course, entirely possible to study organisms scientifically on the premise that they were all created by God, just as scientists study airplanes and even works of art without denying that these objects are intelligently designed. The problem with allowing God a role in the history of life is not that science would cease, but rather that scientists would have to acknowledge the existence of something important which is outside the boundaries of natural science. For scientists who want to be able to explain everything-and "theories of everything" are now openly anticipated in the scientific literature- this is an intolerable possibility.

Ehh, but what does this have to do with Darwinism? It certainly has little to do with Darwin's theory of evoltion. Anyway, some theists claim that God being rational created a rational world; that is, a world we can understand through conservation and reason. The Pythagoreans believed that arithmetic was a theory of everything; but they were certainly not atheists.

Johnson spends the next paragraphs discussing scientific paradigms in the sense these were introduced by Thomas S. Kuhn. This discussion lead up to:

I am not suggesting that scientists have to change their rules about retaining and discarding paradigms. All I want them to do is to be candid about the disconfirming evidence and admit, if it is the case, that they are hanging on to Darwinism only because they prefer a shaky theory to having no theory at all. What they insist upon doing, however, is to present Darwinian evolution to the public as a fact that every rational person is expected to accept. If there are reasonable grounds to doubt the theory such dogmatism is ridiculous, whether or not the doubters have a better theory to propose.

Unfortunately things aren't that simple. We cannot return to studying organisms in isolation. An important ingredient in Darwinian biology is the interaction between organisms. Note that the word 'ecology' was coined by the evolutionist Ernst Haeckel, who has become ever so demonized by creationists, YECs or otherwise. The theory of evolution has become the faoundation of several fields of practical importance, and that's a more important factor than mere orthodoxy.

Following the above quoted paragraph, Johnson writes:

To believers in creation, the Darwinists seem thoroughly intolerant and dogmatic when they insist that their own philosophy must have a monopoly in the schools and the media. The Darwinists do not see themselves that way, of course. On the contrary, they often feel aggrieved when creationists (in either the broad or narrow sense) ask to have their own arguments heard in public and fairly considered. To insist that schoolchildren be taught that Darwinian evolution is a fact is in their minds merely to protect the integrity of science education; to present the other side of the case would be to allow fanatics to force their opinions on others. Even college professors have been forbidden to express their doubts about Darwinian evolution in the classroom, and it seems to be widely believed that the Constitution not only permits but actually requires such restrictions on academic freedom. To explain this bizarre situation, we must define our fourth term: religion.

Again it is clear that Johnson is really addressing an issue that is somewhat peculiar to the US scene, and that his case is neither scientific nor theological, but political. However, let's read, what he has to say about religion. Johnson begins his expositions with:

Suppose that a skeptic argues that evidence for biological creation by natural selection is obviously lacking, and that in the circumstances we ought to give serious consideration to the possibility that the development of life required some input from a pre-existing, purposeful creator. To scientific naturalists this suggestion is "creationist" and therefore unacceptable in principle, because it invokes an entity unknown to science. What is worse, it suggests the possibility that this creator may have communicated in some way with humans. In that case there could be real prophets-persons with a genuine knowledge of God who are neither frauds nor dreamers. Such persons could conceivably be dangerous rivals for the scientists as cultural authorities.

The problem here is obviously: how do tell the real prophets from the false prophets? In science there is no such thing as revelation, because any two persons given the same evidence must be able to come to the same conclusion. Referring to an authoritative source of knowledge peculiar to one of the persons is not acceptable.

And moving from origins to eschatology, which after all is the proper domain of prophets, we run into the problem that there is quite some disagreements between the interpretations of past prophecies, in particular whether they have been fullfilled. For contemporary prophets, the case is simpler, the end is as near as it has always been. Why listen to the prophets? When the term they have set expires, a new term will be set, so why not simply wait for that to happen?. Anyway, while some scientists - such as Richard Dawkins - do have status as cultural authorities, they have that status due to going outside their proper field of expertise. The problem is not with science as such, only that maybe currently people with a background in natural science may rank slightly higher as cultural authorities than people with a background in theology or, as in the case at hand, in law.

But let's return to Johnson:

Naturalistic philosophy has worked out a strategy to prevent this problem from arising: it labels naturalism as science and theism as religion. The former is then classified as knowledge, and the latter as mere belief. The distinction is of critical importance, because only knowledge can be objectively valid for everyone; belief is valid only for the believer, and should never be passed off as knowledge. The student who thinks that 2 and 2 make 5, or that water is not made up of hydrogen and oxygen, or that the theory of evolution is not true, is not expressing a minority viewpoint. He or she is ignorant, and the job of education is to cure that ignorance and to replace it with knowledge. Students in the public schools are thus to be taught at an early age that "evolution is a fact," and as time goes by they will gradually learn that evolution means naturalism.

Not quite that simple. The idea that religion is 'mere belief' is mainly associated with very strict forms of positivism; but there's even more to it than that. In Deuteronomy 18:22 we read:

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (KJV)

So, even the very Bible dabbles in religion critique and educates its readers (or rather, listeners originally).

And even if students are taught that "evolution is a fact", and they gradually learn that evolution means naturalism, then that only implies that they learn that "naturalism is a fact". If naturalism isn't a fact, what is then Johnson's case? I suppose that students in the USA are not taught that the USA does not exist; the existence of the USA is a fact, yet it isn't a natural fact. Non-natural objects do exist. That's a fact. It's also a fact that the theory of evolution exists; but that theory is not a natural object. If all humans died, there would be no theory of evolution, but evolution would of course still function, though there wouldn't be anyone around to be concerned with it.

Let's return to Johnson:

In short, the proposition that God was in any way involved in our creation is effectively outlawed, and implicitly negated. This is because naturalistic evolution is by definition in the category of scientific knowledge. What contradicts knowledge is implicitly false, or imaginary. That is why it is possible for scientific naturalists in good faith to claim on the one hand that their science says nothing about God, and on the other to claim that they have said everything that can be said about God. In naturalistic philosophy both propositions are at bottom the same. All that needs to be said about God is that there is nothing to be said of God, because on that subject we can have no knowledge.

Again Johnson is referring to old school positivism. Anyway, did Johnson as a professor of law teach about Mosaic law? If not, why is it then a problem for him that creation isn't taught in a science class?

And next up is truth:

Truth as such is not a particularly important concept in naturalistic philosophy. The reason for this is that "truth" suggests an unchanging absolute, whereas scientific knowledge is a dynamic concept. Like life, knowledge evolves and grows into superior forms. What was knowledge in the past is not knowledge today, and the knowledge of the future will surely be far superior to what we have now.

Reification of adjectives should be handled with some care. A statement may be true; but does that mean that we can cut it in pieces, and one of those pieces will be made of the stuff "truth"? Yes, "truth" suggests an unchanging absolute, and how can we obtain knowledge about such a thing, when knowledge is changing?

Continuing the paragraph, Johnson writes:

Only naturalism itself and the unique validity of science as the path to knowledge are absolutes. There can be no criterion for truth outside of scientific knowledge, no mind of God to which we have access.

Yes, science defines its own path to knowledge, but not necessarily as an absolute. Also we may wonder, what Johnson means with access to the mind of God. Does he mean that we have such an access through the Bible? Then he has the problem that not all religions acknowledge the divinity of the Bible, and how will Johnson explain to members of those religions that there can be no criterion for divine truth outside the Bible?

Johnson continues his discussion about scientific metaphysics and writes:

So far I have described the metaphysical categories by which scientific naturalists have excluded the topic of God from rational discussion, and thus ensured that Darwinism's fully naturalistic creation story is effectively true by definition. There is no need to explain why atheists find this system of thought control congenial. What is a little more difficult to understand, at least at first, is the strong support Darwinism continues to receive in the Christian academic world. Attempts to investigate the credibility of the Darwinist evolution story are regarded with little enthusiasm by many leading Christian professors of science and philosophy, even at institutions which are generally regarded as conservative in theology. Given that Darwinism is inherently naturalistic and therefore antagonistic to the idea that God had anything to do with the history of life, and that it plays the central role in ensuring agnostic domination of the intellectual culture, one might have supposed that Christian intellectuals (along with religious Jews) would be eager to find its weak spots.

Maybe so, maybe not so. Again Johnson appears to confuse the 'how' and the 'why'. Let me illustrate it quite simply. In Genesis 1, God tells the sea and the earth to bring forth plants and animals; but God doesn't give any detailed instructions about how that should be done. As for the 'why', it appears to be that it looks good in the eyes of God - no matter how it is actually done. Maybe it is Johnson who is on the wrong track?

Back to Johnson:

Instead, the prevailing view among Christian professors has been that Darwinism-or "evolution," as they tend to call it-is unbeatable, and that it can be interpreted to be consistent with Christian belief. And in fact Darwinism is unbeatable as long as one accepts the thought categories of scientific naturalism that I have been describing. The problem is that those same thought categories make Christian theism, or any other theism, absolutely untenable. If science has exclusive authority to tell us how life was created, and if science is committed to naturalism, and if science never discards a paradigm until it is presented with an acceptable naturalistic alternative, then Darwinism's position is impregnable within science. The same reasoning that makes Darwinism inevitable, however, also bans God from taking any action within the history of the Cosmos, which means that it makes theism illusory. Theistic naturalism is self-contradictory.

Maybe so, maybe not so. Again Johnson appears to confuse the 'how' and the 'why'. Hey, haven't I written this somewhere before? Johnson appears to be too concerned about having a micro-managing god. But even if there be a micro-managing god, how are we to know how that god micro-manages? Does Johnson have a theistic alternative that can approach anywhere near the level of detail of naturalistic science? If he hasn't, what has he then really to offer?

Two paragraphs later, Johnson writes:

Persons who advocate the compromise position called "theistic evolution" are in my experience always vague about what they mean by "evolution." They have good reason to be vague. As we have seen, Darwinian evolution is by definition unguided and purposeless, and such evolution cannot in any meaningful sense be theistic. For evolution to be genuinely theistic it must be guided by God, whether this means that God programmed the process in advance or stepped in from time to time to give it a push in the right direction. To Darwinists evolution guided by God is a soft form of creationism, which is to say it is not evolution at all. To repeat, this understanding goes to the very heart of Darwinist thinking. Allow a preexisting supernatural intelligence to guide evolution, and this omnipotent being can do a whole lot more than that.

As Johnson writes, "Darwinian evolution is by definition unguided and purposeless". It does not carry its purpose within itself. True, but what does that mean? Johnson is apparently measuring Darwinian evolution by a very specific theism as if that theism was the only one. What problem would be solved by admitting creationism to be taught in science classes? Wouldn't we end up with having it all become a battle between preterists, pre-tribulators, post-tribulators, and whoever else has an opinion? That kind of political battles are all fine and dandy in the appropriate arena; but is a science class necessarily such an arena?

Continuing, Johnson writes:

Of course, theists can think of evolution as God-guided whether naturalistic Darwinists like it or not. The trouble with having a private definition for theists, however, is that the scientific naturalists have the power to decide what that term "evolution" means in public discourse, including the science classes in the public schools.

Again Johnson is turning things the political way around. He can of course do that as much as he wants; but then we are not dealing with a naturalism versus theism issue; but possibly a political party issue.

Back to Johnson:

If theistic evolutionists broadcast the message that evolution as they understand it is harmless to theistic religion, they are misleading their constituents unless they add a clear warning that the version of evolution advocated by the entire body of mainstream science is something else altogether.

The entire body of mainstream science. Now, that's quite a mouthfull, isn't it? Are all of these people Darwinists? Members of the secret evilutionist conspiracy? But Judge Phillip E. Johnson has seen through it all, even to the very heart of that conspiracy, hasn't he?

That warning is never clearly delivered, however, because the main point of theistic evolution is to preserve peace with the mainstream scientific community. The theistic evolutionists therefore unwitting serve the purposes of the scientific naturalists, by helping persuade the religious community to lower its guard against the incursion of naturalism.

Indeed he has, and he has even seen that theistic evilutionists are the unwitting zombies used by the atheistic evilutionists to blindfold the religious community.

After these shocking exposures of the evolutionist conspiracy, Johnson writes:

We are now in a position to answer the question with which this lecture began. What is Darwinism? ...

But are we? Methinks it is rather like we are more in a position to see that Johnson shouldn't watch all those horror movies. That's not healthy for a man aged 50+. Maybe he should take a long vacation, spend some more time with his family, and things like that. Then, I think, all those bad dreams will wither away by themselves.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What is Darwinism? (3) Harun Yahya - Racism and Social Darwinism

Harun Yahya in his article Racism and Social Darwinism is even more direct in linking Darwin with Hitler than Ricard Weikart is.

Yahya writes:

Racism is the most important component of fascist ideology, which was responsible for the greatest genocides, massacres and wars of the 20th century. When we look at Nazi ideology, in particular, we see that racism is the main constituent of fascism. The Nazis set out with the dream of making the German race, which they regarded as the superior race, dominant all over the world, and tried to eradicate other races, and particularly the Jews, to that end. As Wilhelm Reich put it, "The race theory is German fascism's theoretical axis."

Please hold your horses here. The most important component of fascist ideology is rather nationalism. And The Nazis did not set out with the dream of making the German (or "Aryan") race dominant all over the world, only in Europe.

The greatest influence in the sudden development of racism in the 19th century Europe was the replacement of the Christian belief that "God created all people equal" by "Darwinism".

The belief that "God created all people equal" is not really a Christian idea, but a deistic idea from the Enlightenment. Deists may count as Christians by some Christians, but certainly not by all.

By suggesting that man had evolved from more primitive creatures, and that some races had evolved further than others, it provided racism with a scientific mask.

It did? Darwin was not sure about this. And those traits that he thought might have been more evolved in the "civilized" races than in the "savage" races were the social instincts such as sympathy, even sympathy with animals!

In short, Darwin is the father of racism.

Oh, dear! In The Descent of Man, Darwin mentions that different authors operate with different numbers of species/races of humans, but he suggest that there is really only one human species/race, and he provides evidence for this. So how can Darwin be the father of racism. See also below about Gobineau.

Yahya quotes James Joll:

Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose books On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, and The Descent of Man, which followed in 1871, launched controversies which affected many branches of European thought... The ideas of Darwin, and of some of his contemporaries such as the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, ...were rapidly applied to questions far removed from the immediate scientific ones... The element of Darwinism which appeared most applicable to the development of society was the belief that the excess of population over the means of support necessitated a constant struggle for survival in which it was the strongest or the 'fittest' who won. From this it was easy for some social thinkers to give a moral content to the notion of the fittest, so that the species or races which did survive were those morally entitled to do so.

Gobineau wrote about the superiority of the Aryan race before Darwin wrote Origin of Species, and also Herbert Spencer was out with his theory a few years before Origin of Species. And this book doesn't even mention human society. This is done in "The Descent of Man"; but here Darwin suggests that the "inferior" should refrain from marriage, not anything about any struggle - he rather wanted to avoid that. And Herbert Spencer's "social Darwinism" implied that the state should protect the weak against the strong, but not hinder social progress.


The doctrine of natural selection could, therefore, very easily become associated with another train of thought developed by the French writer, Count Joseph-Arthur Gobineau, who published an Essay on the Inequality of Human Races in 1853. Gobineau insisted that the most important factor in development was race; and that those races which remained superior were those which kept their racial purity intact. Of these, according to Gobineau, it was the Aryan race which had survived best.

As Yahya writes here, Gobineau's book was from 1853, six years before "Origin of Species", so how could Gobineau have based his book on Darwin's?

Apparently, racist ideas are completely independent of 'Darwinism', at least of any 'Darwinism' related to Charles Darwin.

Yahya then writes:

The evolutionist German biologist Ernst Haeckel is one of the most important of Nazism's spiritual fathers. Haeckel brought Darwin's theory to Germany, and prepared it as a program ready for the Nazis. From racists such as Arthur Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain Hitler took over a politically-centred racism, and a biological one from Haeckel. Careful inspection will reveal that the inspiration behind all these racists came from Darwinism.

Haeckel died in 1919, so how could he have prepared Darwin's theory as a program ready for the Nazis?

And again, how could 'Darwinism' have been the inspiration behind Gobineau's racism?

Yahya next writes:

Indeed, a heavy Darwinist influence can be seen in all the Nazi ideologues. When this theory, which was given form by Hitler and Alfred Rosenburg is examined, one sees concepts such as 'natural selection,' 'selective mating,' and 'the struggle for survival between the races,' which are repeated dozens of times in Darwin's The Origin of Species.

What Yahya ignores here is that Origin of Species does not mention human races. The extension from animals to humans was first to appear in The Descent of Man, and as mentioned above, in this book Darwin suggests that humans should be considered one race.

The name of Hitler's book Mein Kampf was inspired by Darwin's principle that life was a constant struggle for survival, and those who emerged victorious survived.

Not according to Wikipedia.

Yahya quotes Wilhelm Reich:

The race theory proceeds from the presupposition that the exclusive mating of every animal with its own species is an "iron law" in nature. Only exceptional circumstances, such as captivity, are capable of causing a violation of this law and to leading to racial interbreeding. When this occurs, however, nature revenges itself and uses every means at its disposal to oppose such infringements, either by making the bastard sterile or by limiting the fertility of later offspring.

True, but ask any creationist about the same. To creationists, species (or rather kinds) are closed, so why is this 'Darwinism' rather than 'Creationism'?

Yahya then writes:

As we have seen, this biological view that forms the basis of the Nazi's race theory is undiluted Darwinism. Nonsense such as that nature's aim is to 'cause superior species to evolve,' that it uses natural selection to do so, and that the weak are inevitably eliminated are really just a summary of Darwinism.

As any creationist can tell Yahua, Darwin's theory of evolution does not posit any overall purpose for evolution; that is, Darwinian evolution has no aim, so Yahua manages to get everything completely wrong here.

These evolutionist views, which have no scientific basis and are just a reworking of the superstition of 'ascribing consciousness to nature,' existing in animist cultures, finally reached their culmination in the savagery of the Nazis. The theory was put into practice in human societies, again in a manner in conformity with Darwinism.

As mentioned above, the superstition of 'ascribing consciousness to nature' is not part of Darwin's theory of evolution. It might have derived from Hitler misunderstanding Haeckel's monism.

Next Yahya mentions the "fascist National Alliance", which is a White Supremacy group with a "Darwinist, neo-pagan ideology." If they are really Darwinist, they must believe in only one human race, and then they can hardly be racist, can they?

Yahya ends with quoting the Qur'an and saying that for God race doesn't matter, and that "in God's eyes 'superiority' consists of closeness to Him, and fear of Him". This is all quite well, especially since Yahya starts with stating that anti-semitism is racism. Many prominent Muslims are proponents of anti-semitism, and since they as Muslims are subject to the commandments of the Qur'an, apparently something is wrong somewhere.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Social Matthewism

Denyse O'Leary apparently has a soft spot for Australians. Not only David Stove, but also Hiram Caton: Aussie poli sci prof: Darwin's main claim to fame was his social status.

O'Leary quotes Caton:

... Darwin's celebrated book did not deliver an earth-shaking new vision of nature, as creationists believe. The Origin of Species came nowhere close to the bestseller list. It sold about one-third as many copies as did Vestiges. Darwin's main claim to novelty, the discovery of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution, was implicit in Spencer's theory and indeed had been clearly stated three decades previously by the Scot Patrick Matthew, who aptly styled it "the natural law of selection".

We have had creationists tell us that Darwin really stole all his Darwinist ideas from the creationist Edward Blyth, and now we are told that natural selection really was invented by the Scot Patrick Matthew. Who can we trust these days?

Looking up Patrick Matthew on Wikipedia proved to be very rewarding.

Matthew, who was a fruit grower and therefore knowledgeable about trees, published in 1831 a book, On Naval Timber and Arboriculture, in which he made this observation:

There is a law universal in nature, tending to render every reproductive being the best possible suited to its condition that its kind, or organized matter, is susceptible of, which appears intended to model the physical and mental or instinctive powers to their highest perfection and to continue them so. This law sustains the lion in his strength, the hare in her swiftness, and the fox in his wiles. As nature, in all her modifications of life, has a power of increase far beyond what is needed to supply the place of what falls by Time's decay, those individuals who possess not the requisite strength, swiftness, hardihood, or cunning, fall prematurely without reproducing—either a prey to their natural devourers, or sinking under disease, generally induced by want of nourishment, their place being occupied by the more perfect of their own kind, who are pressing on the means of subsistence . . .

Isn't this 'Darwinism' pure and simple?

Yet Matthew was an ID proponent;

There is more beauty and unity of design in this continual balancing of life to circumstance, and greater conformity to those dispositions of nature which are manifest to us, than in total destruction and new creation . . . [The] progeny of the same parents, under great differences of circumstance, might, in several generations, even become distinct species, incapable of co-reproduction.

The Wikipedia article has this little piece of interest:

He considered the task to be of great importance, as the navy permitted the British race to advance. Matthew noted the long-term deleterious effect of dysgenic artificial selection—the culling of only the trees of highest timber quality from forests—on the quality of timber. In an appendix to the book, he elaborated on how eugenic artificial selection—the elimination of trees of poor timber quality—could be used to improve timber quality, and even create new varieties of trees.

So, to improve the quality of timber, the trees of poor quality should be eliminated.

Well, well, well. Could it be that Adolf Hitler wasn't a Darwinist but really a Matthewist?

While we are at it anyway, have a look at Arthur de Gobineau

This guy

... was a French aristocrat who became famous for advocating White Supremacy and developing the racialist theory of the Aryan master race in his book An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-1855).

Please note that, since Darwin's The Origin of Species is from 1859, and his The Descent of Man is from 1871, Gobineau could not have been influenced by Darwin.

All in all, the theory that Charles Darwin is the root of all evil appears to not have much of a foundation.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What is Darwinism? (2) The Second Tablet Project

J. Budziszewski, Associate Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, has written an interesting article, The Second Tablet Project.

According to Budziszewski, there is an ongoing project whose aim is to have us only accept the last five of The Ten Commandments, but not the first five.

What kind of people are then these Second Tabletters?

You guessed it! They are of course the irresponsible, pleasure-seeking Darwinists!

Budziszewski illustrates the theistic reasoning:

And this makes a difference. A theist who attributes the order of nature to God can say things like this: “I see that the sexual powers cause conception, and that the fact that they do so is part of the explanation of why human nature has been endowed with such powers in the first place. This tells me that conception is a purpose of the sexual powers, a part of what they are for. When I employ them, I ought to respect this fact; I ought not to use them in ways that are incompatible with their purpose.” Adding inference to inference in this fashion, he gradually works out a comprehensive account of the right use of the sexual powers and the respect that is owed to the natural institutions which direct and contain them, and he can reason similarly about the other natural powers and institutions.

So the theist moves from observed effect to purpose. Assuming Budziszewski to be correct, a male, married theist figuring out that a pregnant woman cannot be made pregnant again, until after the child is born, but that he himself still can make other women pregnant in the meantime, will therefore after have made his wife pregnant run around looking for other women to make pregnant. Yeah, we really need more theistic logic, don't we.

Next up is the atheist/Darwinist:

But an atheist might reply like this: “I use the word purpose too, and I am even willing to concede that you use it correctly. If one thing causes another, and that’s part of the explanation of why the first thing occurs, then the second thing is a purpose of the first; even a Darwinist like me can concede that much. So what? How do you get from ‘One of the purposes of the sexual powers is procreation’ to ‘I should not use the sexual powers in ways that are incompatible with procreation’? So far as I can see, the only thing that follows from the connection between procreation and sex is that when I do have intercourse, it would be prudent to watch out.” Stretching a point a bit—taking into account the entire set of things there are to “watch out” for (not only conception, but jealousy, emotional emptiness, loss of trust, and so forth)—perhaps a purely prudential justification of marriage and family and so forth could be developed. Perhaps a purely prudential justification for each of the other natural laws and institutions could be developed in the same way. And perhaps that is the sort of thing that Grotius had in mind.

This is odd, isn't it? Who more than a Darwinist would consider the "sexual powers" to serve any other purpose than procreation?`How do selfish genes do their trick?

Maybe Budziszewski does not consider Richard Dawkins to be a Darwinist? But since others do consider him to be Darwin reincarnate, that leaves the rest of us puzzled as to, what a Darwinist really is.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Francis Galton - a racist?

Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, invented the word 'eugenics' and wrote several articles and books about how to improve the English population, or the English "race" as he called it.

Galton's vocabulary may appear ill-chosen for a modern taste; and therefore I will here attempt to figure out, what Galton actually meant.

This exposition is based on Galton's book Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development.

In the chapter "Variety of Human Nature", Galton writes:

The instincts and faculties of different men and races differ in a variety of ways almost as profoundly as those of animals in different cages of the Zoological Gardens; and however diverse and antagonistic they are, each may be good of its kind. It is obviously so in brutes; the monkey may have a horror at the sight of a snake, and a repugnance to its ways, but a snake is just as perfect an animal as a monkey.

In other words, translating to relations between humans, even if humans of one race (such as the English) might find the ways of another race repugnant, this does not imply a difference in quality, only that they are different. So already here we could dismiss the claim that Galton was a racist in the standard meaning of the word. But let us continue the investigation.

Galton continues:

The living world does not consist of a repetition of similar elements, but of an endless variety of them, that have grown, body and soul, through selective influences into close adaptation to their contemporaries, and to the physical circumstances of the localities they inhabit.

This is a tip with the hat to cousin Charles. In particular should be noted the phrase "repetition of similar elements". This refers to creationists of the Platonistic variety. These conjectured that the Creator had used a finite number of elements, each kind being composed of a certain subset of these elements. Some ID proponents today operate with a similar idea.

Back to Galton:

The moral and intellectual wealth of a nation largely consists in the multifarious variety of the gifts of the men who compose it, and it would be the very reverse of improvement to make all its members assimilate to a common type.

That is, Galton was certainly not into making a stereotyped "master" race.

However, in every race of domesticated animals, and especially in the rapidly-changing race of man, there are elements, some ancestral and others the result of degeneration, that are of little or no value, or are positively harmful. We may, of course, be mistaken about some few of these, and shall find in our fuller knowledge that they subserve the public good in some indirect manner; but, notwithstanding this possibility, we are justified in roundly asserting that the natural characteristics of every human race admit of large improvement in many directions easy to specify.

Note the inconsistent use of the word "race" here. First humans are considered one race, and later more than one race. A genuine racist would have been more consistent in applications of this keyword. Notice also that Galton suggests that "natural characteristics of every human race admit of large improvement[s]". The English are not perfect. A key feature is here the "natural characteristics". The way Galton sees things, each "race", that is, nationality, has certain characteristics resulting from adaptation. No indication that any nationality is superior to any other outside its habitat.

In the chapter "Selection and Race", Galton writes:

So long as the race remains radically the same, the stringent selection of the best specimens to rear and breed from, can never lead to any permanent result. The attempt to raise the standard of such a race is like the labour of Sisyphus in rolling his stone uphill; let the effort be relaxed for a moment, and the stone will roll back. Whenever a new typical centre appears, it is as though there was a facet upon the lower surface of the stone, on which it is capable of resting without rolling back. It affords a temporary sticking-point in the forward progress of evolution. The causes that check the unlimited improvement of highly-bred animals, so long as the race remains unchanged, are many and absolute.

In other words, improvement of a race requires an improvement of the entire race, selective breeding is not sufficient. Also notice the use of the word "evolution" in the meaning "improvement" rather than "adaptation". It is not based on natural selection, but rather on, what happens to be considered as desirable, and what is considered desirable may of course vary among nationalities.

Back to Galton:

In the first place there is an increasing delicacy of constitution; the growing fineness of limb and structure end, after a few generations, in fragility.

And from the next paragraph:

The next difficulty lies in the diminished fertility of highly-bred animals. It is not improbable that its cause is of the same character as that of the delicacy of their constitution.

Again, the point of these two factors is that selective breeding cannot on its own lead to a stable improvement.

Concluding, Galton writes:

Whenever a low race is preserved under conditions of life that exact a high level of efficiency, it must be subjected to rigorous selection. The few best specimens of that race can alone be allowed to become parents, and not many of their descendants can be allowed to live.

A "low" race here, of course, is relative to the conditions, not an absolute term.

On the other hand, if a higher race be substituted for the low one, all this terrible misery disappears. The most merciful form of what I ventured to call "eugenics" would consist in watching for the indications of superior strains or races, and in so favouring them that their progeny shall outnumber and gradually replace that of the old one.

That is, Galton does not suggest that "inferior" people should be disallowed from marriage, merely that "superior" people should be favored; that is, encouraged to marry and have children. And again, remember that "inferior" and "superior" are not absolutes.

Ending this paragraph, Galton writes:

Such strains are of no infrequent occurrence. It is easy to specify families who are characterised by strong resemblances, and whose features and character are usually prepotent over those of their wives or husbands in their joint offspring, and who are at the same time as prolific as the average of their class. These strains can be conveniently studied in the families of exiles, which, for obvious reasons, are easy to trace in their various branches.

Exiles are emigrants, and emigrants are immigrants, so it's not as if Galton is completely against foreigners.

This is even more clear in the following paragraph:

The debt that most countries owe to the race of men whom they received from one another as immigrants, whether leaving their native country of their own free will, or as exiles on political or religious grounds, has been often pointed out, and may, I think, be accounted for as follows:--The fact of a man leaving his compatriots, or so irritating them that they compel him to go, is fair evidence that either he or they, or both, feel that his character is alien to theirs. Exiles are also on the whole men of considerable force of character; a quiet man would endure and succumb, he would not have energy to transplant himself or to become so conspicuous as to be an object of general attack. We may justly infer from this, that exiles are on the whole men of exceptional and energetic natures, and it is especially from such men as these that new strains of race are likely to proceed.

Remember that this was written in the age of free enterprise, where people of "exceptional and energetic natures" were particularly in demand.

In short, Galton is not into keeping the English race pure, rather he acknowledges that immigrants are of great value to the society.

The very next chapter, "Influence of Man upon Race" begins with this wonderful paragraph:

The influence of man upon the nature of his own race has already been very large, but it has not been intelligently directed, and has in many instances done great harm. Its action has been by invasions and migration of races, by war and massacre, by wholesale deportation of population, by emigration, and by many social customs which have a silent but widespread effect.

The influence of man upon the nature of his own race has not been INTELLIGENTLY DIRECTED!!!

Please read that sentence a couple of times - until you understand that eugenics is not "Darwinism", but "Intelligent Design".

All in all, Francis Galton is in no way suggesting any drastic measures for the improvement of races, nor any absoluteness in comparison between races, nor that racial mixture is in itself the root of all evil.

That is to say that the Nazi version of eugenics can hardly be said to have been a direct application of Galton's suggestions.

For an alternate view, se Richard Weikart's article Father of Eugenics.

Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?

Having read Read State Rabble's article Richard Weikart: Workin' in a Quote Mine, I figured that the quote-mining season was in.

And I went mining with my pick axe and spade. And in 'Rev. Dr.' Lenny Flank's talkreason article Deception by Design, I found this wonderful quote:

The Christian community has a golden opportunity to train an army of dedicated teachers who can invade the public school classrooms and use them to influence the nation for Christ." (D. James Kennedy, Education; Public Problems and Private Solutions, Coral Ridge Ministries, 1993)

Let's do some intelligent design to it, shall we?

Such as this:

The Christian community has a golden opportunity to train an army ... who can invade the ... nation ...." (D. James Kennedy, ... Problems and ... Solutions, Coral Ridge Ministries, 1993)

Which nation is James Kennedy referring to here? Well, everybody can pick their choice - that's not important. What is important is that this can be used to show that James Kennedy himself is a Darwinist, and through guilt by association, Richard Weikart is a Darwinist as well.

Friday, September 08, 2006

What is Darwinism? (1) David Stove's Decalog

The late Australian philosopher David Stove made a list of ten propositions made by Darwinians, So You Think You Are a Darwinian?

Stove writes:

Most educated people nowadays, I believe, think of themselves as Darwinians. If they do, however, it can only be from ignorance: from not knowing enough about what Darwinism says. For Darwinism says many things, especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by any educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought on the subject of Darwinism.

If 'Darwinians' denote adherents of, whatever is denoted by 'Darwinism', it might be argued that Darwinians might be the experts on, what 'Darwinism' actually denotes.

What does Darwinism say? Darwinism says, whatever Darwinians say.

Later Stove writes:>/p>

What is needed to make someone an adherent of a certain school of thought is belief in all or most of the propositions which are peculiar to that school, and are believed either by all of its adherents, or at least by the more thoroughgoing ones. In any large school of thought, there is always a minority who adhere more exclusively than most to the characteristic beliefs of the school: they are the ‘purists’ or ‘ultras’ of that school. What is needed and sufficient, then, to make a person a Darwinian, is belief in all or most of the propositions which are peculiar to Darwinians, and believed either by all of them, or at least by ultra-Darwinians.

Not that simple, not at all that simple, Mr. Stove. After the discovery of Mendel's results in genetics, 'Darwinism' came to mean that an inherited trait in the offspring was a blend of the two instances of the same trait in the parents. This implies (1) that all inheritable traits are continous, and (2) that phenotype = genotype. The issue was first settled in the 1930s with the modern synthesis of Darwinian evolution and Mendelian inheritance.

Do modern Darwinians reject Mendelian inheritance? Of course they don't. That would be extremely ultra-Darwinian. So Stove's idea that ultra-Darwinists are the real Darwinist leads to the quant problem that modern day ultra-Darwinists aren't really ultra-Darwinists.

But let us have a walk-through of those propositions, shall we?

1. The truth is, ‘the total prostitution of all animal life, including Man and all his airs and graces, to the blind purposiveness of these minute virus-like substances’, genes.

According to Stove, this is Richard Dawkins quoting someone else while defending his book The Selfish Gene.

But this is more properly called genetic reductionism.

The main point in The Selfish Gene is to explain altruistic behavior among social animals. Animals living in large colonies, such as ants, bees and whasps, have sterile workers. These sterile workers do not abstain from having their own offspring, because they are given a religious upbringing or anything like that. No, its the chemistry, their genes.

The conclusion from this is that the unit of selection is not the individual organism, but the gene.

Taking genetic reductionism to its extremes is self-defeating, however. If your genes make you believe in genetic reductionism, anyone else with the same genes will also already believe in genetic reductionism, and anyone else without those genes cannot be persuaded, because they lack those genes.

However, let us be less extreme. In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin attempts to argue for the position that there is only one human species in existence. Here is an except from chap. VII:

He who will read Mr. Tylor's and Sir J. Lubbock's interesting works (24. Tylor's 'Early History of Mankind,' 1865: with respect to gesture-language, see p. 54. Lubbock's 'Prehistoric Times,' 2nd edit. 1869.) can hardly fail to be deeply impressed with the close similarity between the men of all races in tastes, dispositions and habits. This is shewn by the pleasure which they all take in dancing, rude music, acting, painting, tattooing, and otherwise decorating themselves; in their mutual comprehension of gesture-language, by the same expression in their features, and by the same inarticulate cries, when excited by the same emotions. This similarity, or rather identity, is striking, when contrasted with the different expressions and cries made by distinct species of monkeys. There is good evidence that the art of shooting with bows and arrows has not been handed down from any common progenitor of mankind, yet as Westropp and Nilsson have remarked (25. 'On Analogous Forms of Implements,' in 'Memoirs of Anthropological Society' by H.M. Westropp. 'The Primitive Inhabitants of Scandinavia,' Eng. translat., edited by Sir J. Lubbock, 1868, p. 104.), the stone arrow-heads, brought from the most distant parts of the world, and manufactured at the most remote periods, are almost identical; and this fact can only be accounted for by the various races having similar inventive or mental powers.

Darwin's point here is that there are things that are not learnt, but are natural (innate) to all humans. It is our genes that are expressed through that which is common to all of us, not personal choices or social customs.

2 '…it is, after all, to [a mother’s] advantage that her child should be adopted’ by another woman.

According to Stove, this quotation is from The Selfish Gene, p. 110.

Looking again at social insects, we notice that the queen doesn't take care of her own offspring. She has workers to do that for her. If a woman (a female human) were to have as many children as she could possibly have, it would likewise be advantageous for her to have someone else to take care of the children - even if it were older siblings.

3. All communication is ‘manipulation of signal-receiver by signal-sender.’

Stove comments:

This profound communication, though it might easily have come from any used-car salesman reflecting on life, was actually sent by Dawkins, (in The Extended Phenotype, (1982), p. 57), to the readers whom he was at that point engaged in manipulating. Much as the devil, in many medieval plays, advises the audience not to take his advice.

An interesting comment considering that this is actually exactly, what the creationist Werner Gitt claims and uses to "disprove" evolution.

I would have to read The Extended Phenotype, , p. 57 to figure out, what Dawkins could have meant; but life is too short for that.

Anyway, what is in particular Darwininian in this quote? As mentioned, even creationists claim this. Are Creationists Darwinians? Are they lured by their genes to only believe that they are creationists?

4. Homosexuality in social animals is a form of sibling-altruism: that is, your homosexuality is a way of helping your brothers and sisters to raise more children.

According to Stove, "[t]his very-believable proposition is maintained by Robert Trivers in his book Social Evolution, (1985), pp. 198-9."

In what way is this proposition Darwinian? Do homosexuals take care of the children of their siblings? Again, I would need to read the page indicated to figure out, what is really meant, and again, life is too short for that.

5. In all social mammals, the altruism (or apparent altruism) of siblings towards one another is about as strong and common as the altruism (or apparent altruism) of parents towards their offspring.

Stove somments:

This proposition is an immediate consequence, and an admitted one, of the theory of inclusive fitness, which says that the degree of altruism depends on the proportion of genes shared. This theory was first put forward by W. D. Hamilton in The Journal of Theoretical Biology in 1964. Since then it has been accepted by Darwinians almost as one man and has revolutionized evolutionary theory. This acceptance has made Professor Hamilton the most influential Darwinian author of the last thirty years.

That's all Stove has to say about this proposition.

However, notice that propositions 4 and 5 both deal with altruism, which happens to be the general theme of sociobiology. How do we explain altruism, if everything is a struggle for survival? And again, the point is that the unit of selection is not the individual, but the gene. But the proposition here could also be defended by appealing to imitation: siblings learn altruism towards each other by imitating the altruism of their parents. Darwin does mention imitation as an important factor, so a Darwinian could have it either way.

6. '…no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers [or offspring], or four half-brothers, or eight first-cousins.'

Another Hamilton quote (Italics are Stove's, however). As Stove mentions, this proposition is a consequence of the theory of inclusive fitness. So it's not really a new proposition, and Stove has nothing else to say about it. And again, this is not a necessary proposition for a Darwinian.

7. Every organism has as many descendants as it can.

Stove comments:

Compare Darwin, in The Origin of Species, p. 66: ‘every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase in numbers’; and again, pp. 78-9, ‘each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio’. These page references are to the first edition of the Origin, (1859), but both of the passages just quoted are repeated in all of the five later editions of the book which were published in Darwin’s lifetime. He also says the same thing in other places.

Now, this proposition isn't implied by the quotes, so it isn't Darwinian, but Stovian. The two Darwin quotes mention "striving to (the utmost) to increase", which is a different thing than having as many descendants as possible.

As Stove further mentions, Darwin is depending on Malthus here.

However, notice that Darwin actually mentions "every single/each organic being" - no parent/sibling altruism here. The sociobiological translation to genes rather than individuals were still in the future.

Still, this proposition isn't peculiar to Darwinians; Jews, Muslims and Christians will tell us that God has commanded us to multiply and fill up the whole earth. So is Stove asking us to go against one of God's commandments? No, couldn't be. Only a Darwinian would do such a thing.

8. In every species, child-mortality - that is, the proportion of live births which die before reproductive age - is extremely high.

Stove comments:

Compare Darwin in the Origin, p. 61: ‘of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive’; or p. 5, ‘many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive’. Again, these passages, from the first edition, are both repeated unchanged in all the later editions of the Origin.

Stove's point is that this doesn't apply to humans in general. Child-mortality has occasionally been high, but not in general.

As Stove mentions, this is again based on Malthus' theory and therefore not peculiar to Darwinians. However, the current rapid increase in the world's human population is something farely new, while as far as we have evidence it is quite traditional for families to have many children.

9. The more privileged people are the more prolific: if one class in a society is less exposed than another to the misery due to food-shortage, disease, and war, then the members of the more fortunate class will have (on the average) more children than the members of the other class.

As Stove correctly mentions, historically the opposite has usually been the case. However, this proposition is actually a strawman. In times of food shortage, the privileged classes will most likely suffer less in terms of child-mortality. However, since often families of the privileged classes have fewer children, they will still not necessarily have more children.

Also, the proposition suffers from the problem that different social classes aren't different species. So it's really a pointless proposition.

10. If variations which are useful to their possessors in the struggle for life ‘do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive), that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed.’

According to Stove, this is from The Origin of Species, pp. 80-81.

Again here, Darwin is taking things somewhat to their extremes. But is it necessary to follow along to these extremes in order to accept evolution? Why can't Stove handle some scaling?

The general problem with these propositions is there dependency on sociobiology and Malthus' law, and that Stove's approach relies too much on quote-mining.

Does the fact that (most) human societies today have a very low child-mortality in anyway disprove that humans and chimpanzees had a common ancestor around five million years ago?

It should be noted that Stove's paper addressed here was mean to be a request for comments, and not to be taken as a final result. However it still clearly shows that 'Darwinism' is a fuzzy term mostly used by quote-miners and people wo tend to read things too literal.

In short, I find that Stove has constructed himself a strawman.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Weikart update: I am confused

Yesterday I wrote a post, Richard Weikart and Darwinism, in which I critisized one of Richard Weikart's online articles, thinking that the article was representative for Weikart. Later yesterday I read Weikart's online response to critics of his book From Darwin to Hitler. And now I am confused. In the latter article Weikart writes:
Concerning the first charge (that I claim that every form of Darwinism led to Nazism), I stated quite clearly in the introduction: "Obviously, Darwin was no Hitler. The contrast between the personal lives and dispositions of these two men could hardly be greater. Darwin eschewed politics, retreating to his country home in Down for solitude to conduct biological research and to write. Hitler as a demagogue lived and breathed politics, stirring the passions of crowds through frenzied speeches. Politically Darwin was a typical English liberal, supporting laissez-faire economics and opposing slavery. Like most of his contemporaries, Darwin considered non-European races inferior to Europeans, but he never embraced Aryan racism or rabid anti-Semitism, central features of Hitler's political philosophy."
Ok, so now we know. But that still leaves us puzzled about, what 'Darwinism' is. Weikart continues:
I specifically denied that Darwinist thinkers are proto-Nazi. I also explained in my introduction: "The opposing view&emdash;that Hitler hijacked Darwinism&emdash;has significant supporting arguments, for many scholars have pointed out that Darwinism did not lead to any one particular political philosophy or practice. Social Democrats with impeccable Marxist credentials were enthusiastic about Darwinism and even considered it a corroboration of their own worldview. After reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, Karl Marx wrote to Friedrich Engels, 'Although developed in a coarse English manner, this is the book that contains the foundation in natural history for our view.' Furthermore, many pacifists, feminists, birth control advocates, and homosexual rights activists&emdash;some of whom were persecuted and even killed by the Nazis&emdash;were enthusiastic Darwinists and used Darwinian arguments to support their political and social agendas. Eugenics discourse was commonplace all across the political spectrum, causing the historian Atina Grossmann to convincingly argue that the path from eugenics and sex reform to Nazism was 'a convoluted and highly contested route.' Nazism was not predetermined in Darwinism or eugenics, not even in racist forms of eugenics."
It gets curiouser and curiouser, doesn't it? What is 'Darwinism'? The Nazis were Darwinists, because they were against for instance homosexuals, who in turn were Darwinists themselves. Is there anybody who isn't a Darwinist? A few sentences later, Weikart writes:
No, all Darwinism didn't lead to Nazism, and I of all people know this quite well. If my critics skipped the introduction of my book, they could also have learned my views in the conclusion, where I stated: "It would be foolish to blame Darwinism for the Holocaust, as though Darwinism leads logically to the Holocaust. No, Darwinism by itself did not produce Hitler's worldview, and many Darwinists drew quite different conclusions from Darwinism for ethics and social thought than did Hitler."
Ok, so I will assume that Weikart disagrees with "Darwin's Deadly Legacy", because everybody back then were Darwinists, even the Jews presumably. In the next paragraph, Weikart writes:
Concerning the second charge (that Nazism depends entirely on Darwinian thought), I specifically confronted this issue in my book, too, stating: "The multivalence of Darwinism and eugenics ideology, especially when applied to ethical, political, and social thought, together with the multiple roots of Nazi ideology, should make us suspicious of monocausal arguments about the origins of the Nazi worldview."
But where is all this in Weikart's Discovery Institute article? Of course, you cannot write as detailed in an article as in a whole book. Yet, the article could certainly have spent a sentence or two on this just for sake of those of us (like me) that don't have time to read the constant stream of books from DI Fellows and their friends. A couple of sentences later:
In a class I teach at my university on the Nazi era, I discuss many factors shaping Nazi ideology: nationalism, the effects of World War I, economic problems, Christian antisemitism, etc.
This is, what the Darwinistic masses have been crying for, isn't it? But why is nothing of all this in the Discovery Institute article? Continuing, Weikart writes:
I do not believe that Nazism has one cause, and in my book I overtly reject a monocausal explanation. The reason I only discussed the role of social Darwinism and evolutionary ethics in the shaping of Nazi ideology should be obvious. My book is not primarily about Nazism. It is about evolutionary ethics. I never claimed that Darwinism or evolutionary ethics is the only cause of Nazi ideology, and I specifically denied that interpretation.
Well, well, well. So From Darwin to Hitler is about evolutionary ethics, and from the above, we can conclude that such a thing doesn't really exist. Any ethics can apparently be combined with evolution. That's, what most of us evolutionists say: no ethics can be derived from the theory of evolution just as no ethics can be derived from Newton's theory of gravity. But the Nazis weren't evolutionists. They didn't want to create a new species, but to recreate the original Germanic ("Aryan") race by weeding out the inferior genes that had come in with Jews and other "inferior" races. In the next paragraph we find these nuggets:
The reviewer in German Studies Review wrote: "This does not mean, Weikart insists, that Darwinism should be blamed for the Holocaust." In Science and Theology News the reviewer wrote: "Darwin’s ideas are not directly responsible for the Holocaust, Weikart claims, because the principles of evolution do not necessarily lead to Hitler’s destructive philosophy."
By the ever burning fires of hell, what is the whole shebang then about? Weikart agrees with just about anyone else outside of Coral Ridge Ministries, so how did he even get involved in Darwin's Deadly Legacy? The last paragraph begins thus:
What I demonstrated in detail in my book is that many leading Darwinists themselves argued overtly that Darwinism did indeed undermine the sanctity-of-life ethic, and they overtly appealed to Darwinism when they promoted infanticide, euthanasia, racial extermination, etc. I specifically noted that not all Darwinists took this position, but those who did were leading Darwinian biologists, medical professors, psychiatrists, etc. They were not some fringe group of ignorant fanatics; they were mainstream Darwinists.
But this still doesn't tell us, what 'Darwinism' is, does it? Anyway, if it hadn't been 'Darwinism', it would have been 'Christianism' or 'something-else-ism'. Politicians simply don't correlate their ideas with scientific theories - they make sure that scientific theories correlate with their ideas, if they can get away with it. And the paragraph ends thus:
They were not some fringe group of ignorant fanatics; they were mainstream Darwinists. Also, I did not simply show that leading Darwinists supported eugenics, infanticide, euthanasia, and racial extermination; I showed that they appealed overtly to Darwinism to justify their position. So, it is not Weikart who is reading Darwinism into the record. Darwinists themselves made these arguments. Therefore, critics of the position that Darwinism devalues human life should not attack me, but rather should attack those Darwinists I exposed in my work.
But what is 'Darwinism'? This is the crucial question we need answered. And wouldn't this people have referred to something else, if something else was in fashion? Is there something unique to Darwinists that make them worse than anybody else across the entire human history? A peek at Respectful Insolence John Wilkins on eugenics and Darwin is recommended. Also Pat Hayes (Red State Rabble) has some interesting posts about Weikart, such as this: Richard Weikart: Workin’ in a Quote Mine.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Richard Weikart and Darwinism

Richard Weikart is an historian. Richard Weikart has a Ph.D. in history. Richard Weikart is a professor of history. So yuo would be excused to think that Richard Weikart is a higly qualified historian, wouldn't you? However, Richard Weikart is also a Discovery Institute Fellow. So we know something must be wrong. Richard Weikart has written the book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany. I haven't read the book; but I have read a couple of Weikart's online articles, and there's sufficient specified complexity in those for me to rule out that reading his book is worth the time. I'll here address one of those articles: Does Darwinism Devalue Human Life?. Weikart begins with a story:
A number of years ago two intelligent students surprised me in a class discussion by defending the proposition that Hitler was neither good nor evil. Though I kept my composure, I was horrified. One of the worst mass murderers in history wasn't evil? How could they believe this? How could they justify such a view?
Is it the task of ah historian to pass value judgment on people? It's the task of an historian to figure out, what happened, and, if possible, why it happened. Hitler most likely considered himself to be good, and this is, what is the problem with 'good and evil' - few people do, what they do thinking it's bad, they think it's good. The question, weikart should ask, is, how can humans get the idea that killing other humans is something good in a society, where this is not supposed to be the cased. When I was studying philosophy I wrote a paper about the historian R.G. Collingwood critisizing his idea of history for its focus on individuals and their thoughts. Apparently Weikart is of Collingwood's line, believing that history is made up of a few individuals, who act on inspiration from books. This is simply too naive. But let's continue with Weikart's little story:
They did it by appealing to Darwinism. Their pronouncement on Hitler occurred while we were discussing James Rachels' book, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (Oxford University Press, 1990). Darwinism, these students informed us, undermined all morality. This was not the first time I had heard such a view. In fact, at that time I was in the beginning phases of a research project on the history of evolutionary ethics, and I had already reviewed the work of some scientists and social scientists who believed that Darwinism undermined human rights and equality.
What is this thing, 'Darwinism'? Apparently some stuff that undermines all morality, and, if Weikart is to be believed, this stuff even undermines human rights and equality. I am no historian; but I do believe to have understood that human rights were an invention of the Enlightenment, which also introduced the idea of human equality. Just for the record: Galatians 3:28 does proclaim equality in the body of Christ; but not in society. Back to Weikart:
Before reading Rachels' book, however, I hadn't thought much about whether or not Darwinism devalued human life itself. Rachels, a philosopher at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, best known for his contributions to the euthanasia debate, argues that Darwinism undermines the Judeo-Christian belief in the sanctity of human life.
It gets curiouser and curiouser, doesn't it? Weikart is an historian, who wants to play moral philosopher, and not only that; he even wants to play Judeo-Christian apologist. Is there really such a thing as the "Judeo-Christian belief in the sanctity of human life"? Well, with the appropriate definition of "human life" perhaps; for instance that only members of one's own (sub-)denomination count as proper humans. Is this really a historian writing here? A person who should know that ideas come and go with the wind. Anyway, humanism was also an invention of the Enlightenment, I believe to have understood. A paragraph and a few sentences later Weikart writes:
Darwinists were in the forefront of the eugenics movement, which often taught that disabled people and non-Europeans were inferior to healthy Europeans. They argued that Darwinism implied human inequality, since biological variation has to occur to drive the process of evolution. Haeckel even suggested that Darwinism was an "aristocratic" process, favoring an aristocracy of talent (not the traditional landed aristocracy, for which Haeckel had no sympathy).
Aha! The eye of the keen historian should have noticed that Haeckel had no sympathy for the traditional landed aristocracy - with its birthrights indpendent of personal qualifications. So we are dealing with a social change - not a focus on ownership of property, but on 'possession' of talent. Why doesn't Weikart, an historian, see this rather than going off in a quest for the stuff 'Darwinism'? Germany had no colonies, but many talented people - it had the highest level of education in Europe. How come that Weikart, an historian, is unable to see this? Weikart proceeds:
Since Darwinism provided a naturalistic explanation for the origin of ethics, many of its adherents dismissed human rights as a chimera.
They did? Maybe they did, but in what way? I live in Denmark, where a very nationalistic, Lutheran pastor (Søren Krarup) claims that we are created as the concrete individuals that we are; that is, including our nationality, our national culture. Same pastor is against international human rights, because that is imposing an international law upon nations. Could it be that we should seek the cause of any dismmissals of human rights rather in nationalism than in 'Darwinism'? Maybe 'Darwinism' was used as apolegetic for nationalism; but if hadn't been 'Darwinism', it would have been 'Blythism' or something else. Back to Weikart:
Darwin expressed incredulity when critics assailed him for undermining morality. In his Autobiography, however, Darwin rejected the idea of objective moral standards, stating that one "can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones."
Ahh; But don't forget that Darwin counted with social instincts such as sympathy between all humans. In chapter 6 of The Descent of man, Darwin writes:
Ants certainly communicate information to each other, and several unite for the same work, or for games of play. They recognise their fellow-ants after months of absence, and feel sympathy for each other.
And in Chapter 5:
The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.
So, indeed Darwin was right in expressing incredulity, when critics assailed him for undermining morality. In short, Weikart is barking up the wrong tree. Weikart quotes Friedrich Hellwald from the book The History of Culture (1875):
In nature only One Right rules, which is no right, the right of the stronger, or violence. But violence is also in fact the highest source of right, in that without it no legislation is thinkable. I will in the course of my portrayal easily prove that even in human history the right of the stronger has fundamentally retained its validity at all times.
Ahh; but notice that Hellwald claims that without violence no legislation is thinkable. This is good old Lutheran thinking. The sword of the emperor, king, or prince is needed to protect the innocent. Isn't Weikart an historian? And even if he isn't, is he against law enforcement? That's certainly not biblical, is it? Next Weikart writes:
This Darwinian undermining of human rights would be fateful for the Judeo-Christian vision of the sanctity of human life.
So, what Weikart really means is that US imperialism - exercised under the cover up establishing human rights - is fine; but no other imperialism should be accepted. Methinks Weikart is like a politician. Certainly not like an historian. Politician or not, Weikart proceeds:
Besides stressing human inequality, Haeckel and many of his fellow Darwinists devalued human life by criticizing Judeo-Christian conceptions of humanity as "anthropocentric." Rather than being created in the image of God, they argued, humans were descended from simian ancestors. They blurred the distinctions between humans and animals, alleging that characteristics that had been traditionally considered uniquely human--rationality, morality, religion, etc.--were also present in animals to some degree. In Darwin's own words, the difference between humans and animals is quantitative, not qualitative.
Oh, dear! Please read the above quotes from Darwin's The Descent of Man. What is wrong with e.g. sympathy also existing among animals? Trying to avoid racism, Weikart ends up in speciesism, as Richard Dawkins calls it. I fail to see, what's so wrong in this recognition that there isn't an abyss of differences separating us from animals, the recognition that animals have many human traits. And why is it so much worse blurring the distinction between humans and animals than to claim that humans are nothing but dust? Proceeding, Weikart writes:
Darwin's explanation that all human characteristics that previously had been associated with the human soul were not qualitatively distinct from animals also undermined the traditional Judeo-Christian conception of body-soul dualism, which endued humans with greater moral and spiritual significance than other organisms.
Oh, dear! Could it be that Weikart hasn't heard the news? Biblical Hebrew has no distinction between body and soul; it's only in translation that this distinction appears. Wouldn't an historian know such a thing? Next paragraph, Weikart writes:
Another element of Darwinism that contributed to the devaluing of human life was its stress on the struggle for existence.
Ahh; but don't forget that Darwin also wrote about sympathy and cooperation. The struggle for existance wasn't invented by Darwin. We find it for instance in Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan, where the solution is a covenant between humans to cease the war of all against all; a covenant embodied in the 'Sovereign', whose duty it was to enforce the covenant upon those who broke it. Now, Leviathan was written in 1651, shortly after the English Civil war and the Thirty Years War on the continent. An appropriate situation to come up with some idea about how to prevent new wars. Wasn't the 19th century much like that? Wouldn't an historian know that? A couple of paragraphs later, weikart quotes Hitler's Mein Kampff:
by no means believes in the equality of races, but recognizes along with their differences their higher or lower value, and through this knowledge feels obliged, according to the eternal will that rules this universe, to promote the victory of the better, the stronger, and to demand the submission of the worse and weaker. It embraces thereby in principle the aristocratic law of nature and believes in the validity of this law down to the last individual being. It recognizes not only the different value of races, but also the different value of individuals. . . . But by no means can it approve of the right of an ethical idea existing, if this idea is a danger for the racial life of the bearer of a higher ethic.
Doesn't Weikart know the evils of beginning a quote in the middle of a sentence and of leaving out part of a quote? Anyway, notice that Hitler here refers to "the eternal will that rulkes this universe". Is that the words of a 'Darwinist', an evolutionist, who doesn't acknowledge an eternal will? Apparently it is this eternal will that embraces the aristocratic law of nature and recognizes the different value of races and of individuals. And notice the phrase "a higher ethic" in the last sentence. Apparently Hitler wasn't into undermining morals, but into improving them - according to an eternal will that rules this universe. Please, Weikart, tell us, who besides Hitler operates with "an eternal will that rules this universe". Hint: "Atheistic Darwinists" is the wrong answer. Weikart begin the next paragraph with:
Thus Hitler justified his racial views by appealing to Darwinian science.
Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Oh, dear! No, Hitler mixed Judeo-Christian metaphysics with various other lines of thinking - Darwinian science being only a tiny part of the mix. Next paragraph minus the last sentence:
Hitler's genocidal program was not the only adverse consequence of Darwinism's devaluing of human life, and Germany was not the only country impacted. Much work on the history of the eugenics movement in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere suggests that scientific and medical elites in many parts of the world imbibed the Darwinian devaluing of human life. Though it did not lead to genocide in these countries, it did lead to other injustices, such as the compulsory sterilization of thousands of people classified as "less fit," based on their hereditary condition (sometimes based on very tenuous evidence, leading to many cases of misdiagnosis).
Well, at least they weren't burned on the stakes as demon-possessed as they were earlier. We are dealing with old Judeo-Christian traditions, only with a different apologetics. And the last sentence of that paragraph:
Social Darwinist and eugenics ideology also played an important role in the budding movement to legalize abortion in the early twentieth century.
Maybe they did; but don't forget that abortions happened also during times of witch-hunting. Next paragraph is about euthanasia. And then Weikart writes:
Thus, historical evidence from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries overwhelmingly supports the thesis that Darwinism devalued human life.
By the ever burning fires of hell, euthanasia is not a devaluation of human life; it is ending a life that for some reason has lost its human value. Is Christian martyr-worship also a devaluation of human life? Anyway, how does euthanasia square with struggle for survival? Next paragraph:
The question now emerges: Is this all just of historical interest? Haven't we learned a lesson from Nazism not to use social Darwinism to devalue humans? Haven't we abandoned biological racism and rabid anti-Semitism, integral components of Nazi ideology?
Yes, we have learned a lesson from Nazi ideology: not to trust religious zealots believing in an eternal will that rules this universe. But maybe some of us didn't listen. Next paragraph minus the last sentence:
Yes, indeed, we have learned much from the Nazi past, and I don't think it is fair to compare our present situation with Nazi Germany, as though they are completely the same. We don't live in a murderous dictatorship, and racism is on the defensive, at least in academic circles. For this we can be thankful. Still, in some respects, I wonder if we have learned enough, especially when I see big-name Darwinists, evolutionary psychologists, and bioethicists using Darwinism today to undermine the sanctity of human life.
Claims are that 100,000 Iraqis were killed in the latest war in Iraq; but who counts with them? During the war I read a CNN interview with a US fighter pilot. She was asked, if she wasn't afraid that her bombs might hit civilians. She answered that she was confident that God would guide her bombs so they would only hit the intended targets. Last sentence of the paragraph:
Whether Darwinism does actually devalue human life or not, there are certainly many people who think it does, and they are not intellectual featherweights.
Oh, so Weikart isn't even sure that Darwinism actually does devalue human life. What is all this about then? And concerning the people that are not intellectual featherwights and who think that Darwinism does devalue human life, what do they mean by 'Darwinism'? Has Weikart bothered to investigate that? Next up, Weikart writes:
First of all, the position that Rachels stakes out on issues of life and death are strikingly similar to that of the Australian bioethicist, Peter Singer, whose appointment a few years ago to a chair in bioethics at Princeton University stirred up vigorous controversy. Singer is renowned--or notorious, depending on one's point of view--for promoting the legitimacy of infanticide for handicapped babies and voluntary euthanasia, as well as for defending animal rights. Darwinism plays a key role in Singer's philosophy, underpinning his views on life and death. Singer claims that Darwin "undermined the foundations of the entire Western way of thinking on the place of our species in the universe."
So, defending animal rights is a sin on line with everything else? And if Singer claims that Darwin "undermined the foundations of the entire Western way of thinking on the place of our species in the universe", he must disagree with Hitler's "eternal will that rules this universe", mustn't he? Would an historian not notice such an important difference? In the next paragraphs, Weikart mentions how various 'Darwinists', among these Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins, have devalued human life. Since I would need to put the quotes into proper context, I'll leave these paragraphs alone. We'll pick up again with this:
Many biologists, of course, disagree with Singer and Dawkins. From the late nineteenth century to today they have assured us that Darwinism has no implications for morality. They allege that those trying to apply Darwinism to morality are committing the "naturalistic fallacy" by deriving "ought" from "is." Darwin's friend and defender, Thomas Henry Huxley, vigorously opposed the attempts of his contemporaries to seek ethical guidance in natural evolutionary processes. More recently, Steven Jay Gould often butted heads with evolutionary psychologists, arguing that morality was a separate realm from biology. In his view Darwinism has nothing to say about how humans should act.
And indeed, how could we conclude any particular moral from evolution? If we have a biologically based moral, and it's the only moral we can choose, there's nothing to discuss about. The mere fact that we can discuss morals shows that they are not based on biology; they are social inventions. Now, Darwin did not deny that culture was of importance, so where is the problem? Has Weikart misunderstood something, or has somebody else? Moving on to the next paragraph, Weikart writes:
Gould, However, did not really divorce science and morality as much as he claimed. While vociferously arguing that Darwinian science on the one hand and religion and morality on the other are "non-overlapping magisteria," separated as far as the east is from the west, he persisted in drawing conclusions from his Darwinian science that are suspiciously laden with religious and moral implications. In Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (1989), the whole point of his book is to use the Burgess Shale--a fossil-laden outcropping of rock in Canada teeming with many extinct, ancient forms of life--as an example of the contingency of history, to demonstrate that there is no real purpose to human existence.
Well, if there is "an eternal will that rules this universe", wouldn't that eternal will have thought up some real purpose to human existance? Was Hitler really a Darwinist, or was he a Judeo-Christian? Weikart starts his ending paragrapg with:
In light of all this, does Darwinism really devalue human life? I think I have shown conclusively that historically Darwinism has indeed devalued human life, leading to ideologies that promote the destruction of human lives deemed inferior to others.
But, but, but ... The problem is that Weikart rather has bundled together under the label 'Darwinism' everything bad, not caring about much, whether it's the same thing in all contexts. Proceeding:
Those on the forefront in promoting abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and racial extermination often overtly based their views on Darwinism.
Except for Hitler, of course, since he based it on "an eternal will that rules this universe". And jumping to the last sentence:
Darwinism really is a matter of life and death.
Finally we are given the answer as to, what Darwinism is. It is really a matter of life and death. But that's a pretty broad category, isn't it? No wonder that Weikart manages to stuff everything into it. Anyway, the main conclusion is that, if Hitler was a Darwinist, every person that believes in "an eternal will that rules this universe" is a Darwinist. Maybe Weikart should have focused more on that line. But for some reason he didn't. We can only wonder why.

About Me

A Christian in Satanist clothes