Monday, May 7, 2007

Evolution, Spun

The Way I See It #224

Darwinism’s impact on traditional social values has not been as benign as its advocates would like us to believe. Despite the efforts of its modern defenders to distance themselves from its baleful social consequences, Darwinism’s connection with eugenics, abortion and racism is a matter of historical record. And the record is not pretty.

-- Dr. Jonathan Wells
Biologist and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.
It's interesting how someone can make a true statement, yet have it, in common thought, be connected to a false idea.

Note that Doctor Wells did not say "Evolution" or even "Darwinian Theory" - he said "Darwinism." Evolution is a simple scientific theory that seeks to explain genetic variation between animals through a process of natural selection, where environmental factors favor those organisms that are the best adapted to thrive in any given environment. This is the concept known to us as "Survival of the Fittest," and is merely an explanation - it makes no judgments. Darwinism (as in Social Darwinism, for instance) is the idea that "Survival of the Fittest" means that the "Fit" have a greater natural and/or moral RIGHT to survive than some supposed "Unfit," and are thus justified in exercising that right at the direct expense of said "Unfit," or otherwise exploiting them. This concept does not appear once in the entire text of "On the Origin of Species." While people look to Darwin for support of both Eugenics (and other selective breeding programs) and Social Darwinism, Darwin himself supported neither of these concepts.

This underscores the importance of familiarity with those items that are have deep cultural and social meanings. Until I actually read, cover to cover, "On the Origin of Species," I didn't understand the difference either. While people such as Francis Galton and Thomas Malthus bear more direct responsibility for what we now term "Darwinism" in the social and economic spheres, common practice is to lay the blame at the feet of Darwin's evolutionary theory, even though the two are not equivalent.
"It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even if this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true. [...] Santa Claus makes children good in precisely the same way, and yet no one would argue seriously that the fact proves his existence." H. L. Mencken.
Similarly, even if it could be argued that the ills and evils brought about by "eugenics, abortion and racism" were directly attributable to Evolutionary theory, this would not make said theory any more or less accurate than we can determine scientifically. The happenstance that something might be, or be connected to, something loathsome does not make it inherently false.


ben said...

Science needs a new word. "Theory" should not be used for "it's a fact but we'd need all data on planet earth to meet science's 'fact' standard". The science community needs to pull a Rove and come up with some double speak that better sells "theories" that are, for all practical purposes, fact.

Example: strapping C4 to my head and detonating will kill me? Theory or Fact? Fact to most reasonable people.

Example2: green houses gases warm up the planet. Theory or Fact? Here's where we need some double speak :)

Example3: The bible belt needs a F50000 tornado brought on by god. FACT

twiffer said...

why should terminology change because a few people willfully confuse "theory" with "hypothesis"?