Maybe it’s a virus: Imagined racism of Darwin


Bad enough Tony Campolo feels compelled to accuse Darwin of being racist without reading the story of Darwin’s life (Darwin was anti-racist, and he and his family supported abolition of slavery and racism, with their political work and money), or without reading what Darwin actually wrote. (See responses here, and here.)

I stumbled into a series of posts at Echidne of the Snakes with the same ill-informed theme, based on the same misguided essay from 1998 — but from an author who staunchly insists on quoting what he thought to be offending passages from Darwin without quoting the rest of what Darwin said — a creationist quote miner, in other words.

He claimed in a thread here to have posted his “final answer” to my frequent urgings that he get the stuff accurate. We can hope it’s his last post on the topic since he won’t fix the errors. We’ll ignore the eerie homage to “final solution” that one could find in his phrasing.

Statue of Charles Darwin as a distinguished scientist. This statue stands (sits?) outside Castle Gates Library in Shrewsbury, Darwin’s boyhood home. The library resides in the 16th-century building which housed Shrewsbury School when Darwin was a pupil. Photo: Pete’s Favorite Things

119 Responses to Maybe it’s a virus: Imagined racism of Darwin

  1. Dan S. says:

    the suggestion that Neandertal was just a modern human with some disease has been around for 30 years, at least.

    Over one hundred and thirty, actually – Virchow suggested they had rickets (caused by vitamin D deficiency) way back in 1872, and this got picked up again by Ivanhoe in 1970.

    But it really is a rather good example of how Robinson goes wrong (despite making some genuinely valuable points – indeed, that makes glaring nonsense like this all the worse). Like I was saying, even if folks uniformly flipped out at him, there are many possible explanations, both substantive and all-too-human – it’s a really wacky-sounding idea (the venus figurines portray iodine-deficient cretins!), reminiscent of long-vanquished misconceptions, that turns career-long ideas upside down, being pushed by an outsider, and some of the evidence seems to have been iffy. But as you point out, at least some researchers gave it due consideration. And peering in even closer, while at least some portrayals of Dobson’s (not that one!) idea have superior cro-mags – possessing a mutation giving them more efficient iodine metabolizing skillz – moving in and outcompeting their cretinous relatives (survival of the fittest, baby!), one of the loudest critics, it seemed, was Erik Trinkaus; instead if pushing the idea that superior moderns exterminated the inferior neandertals, he’s been all about the idea that neandertals and moderns had sweet, sweet love and lots of little hybrid babies – in fact, that they “saw each other as social equals.” Not ruthless competition and a progressivist, peak-of-creation survival of the fittest, but (relatively) happy co-existence and lots of inter-species dating. (whether recent neanderthal DNA analysis supports this is not a subject I’m touching with a 10 foot spear.)

    But – whether she was aware of any of this or not (and to be sure, it’s a bit arcane), it doesn’t matter – it all gets blindly used as a club to beat “Darwinists” with, or at least is all interpreted as evidence for their perfidious ways and ideological blinkers. And the next few paragraphs are just awesomely bad – she misunderstands both ‘survival of the fittest’ and the idea of “selfish genes,” and imagines that people are talking about some sort of selfish, competitive intent in the organism – as opposed to (as is what people are actually proposing) a bigger beak, or a tendency towards altruism, and the idea of gene-centered evolution. Meanwhile, she talks about “Darwinists” deriving “supposed ethical implications” from their theory, but Mr. Selfish Gene himself has repeatedly written that we have the ability to fight against our genes in order to behave morally, etc (which I suppose is an ethical implication, but perhaps not the kind she’s trying to suggest). At best, she’s trying to talk about the ideological shadows and echoes being generated by such ideas (which is entirely fair and useful) – but that’s not the way it comes across, at least to little ol’ me.

    And I’ve been reading over the part of her essay that’s available online, and well . . . – some of it is magnificent (ie, her discussion of the theological implications of Genesis – I assume it’s not original, but it is excellently done – Anthony, is a lot of her book like that? I might have to consider actually paying money for it, then). And a lot of the ideas are good and important (even her broader thesis (a highbrow version of “atheistic Dawinism caused Communism and the Holocaust!! – more specifically, that it provided Western culture with a way to shrug off religion’s nagging insistence that other people should be treated as people, and not cruelly exploited) deserves consideration – but she keeps making these blundering errors and misunderstandings, doesn’t appear to differentiate at all between modern evolutionary biology and “Darwinism” (however intertwined she believes them to be; in a quote apparently from the end of the essay she talks about ‘good science’ compared to ‘good religion’, but this seems more a way to smack at anti-religionists), etc. There’s also a disturbing tendency for her to take an ‘any stick will do to beat some dogs’ route, where whatever Darwin or “Darwinists” say is grounds for criticism, even if it opposes what she just finished criticizing them for. (For example “ Darwin speaks frequently about higher and lower races of man, and he also says that there is little difference in mind or temperament among the races of men. [how progressive sounding, and stressing the essential unity and fundamental equality of all people] Mind is not a consideration for him, so this causes him no embarrassment [Ah.].”

    Or earlier, where she first rips into ‘survival of the fittest’ as an ideological way to justify massive inequality and mistreatment, as a way to bless things as they are” – which, when it has worked as such, is entirely correct – but then turns to it as a scientific principle, and provides us a paragraph with poorly informed confusion topped with a flourish of mockery:

    Since those who are alive tend to make up the majority of any population, one cannot really be surprised to find their traits predominant, and their offspring relatively numerous. [ok, that’s funny] At the same time, one cannot be sure that they have not found the broad path to extinction, like so many creatures before them, doomed by traits that cannot at this moment be called incompatible with their survival, given the fact of their survival. In other words, the theory understood in these terms is notably weak in its ability to generalize, describe or predict. Life forms do change, and there is an orderliness in their existence over time, notably in the phenomenon of species, whose origins Darwin did not, in fact, explain, or even claim to have explained. That the drifting of the forms of life corresponds in significant ways to the drift of the content or configuration of their genetic endowment is not a fact whose meaning is self-evident. The change to be observed is change, not necessarily refinement or complication, and not even adaptation, because it is often maladaptive. In The Descent of Man, Darwin notes, “Natural Selection acts only tentatively.” Behold the great Law that governs nature.

    Indeed, the more I read through the essay, it seems ever clearer that one of her themes is that “Darwinism” is a rival faith, and one both foolish and cruel – which, of course, is something we’ve heard before. Honestly, there are long stretches where it reminds me most of Ann Coulter’s spew on the subject in Godless. Granted, there are differences – Robinson isn’t an apparent sociopath, cruelty, exploitation and destruction fills her with hurt and anger, not a kind of pleasurable excitement, she isn’t relentlessly hostile to the life of the mind, etc. – but it’s there. Granted, probably because Coulter partly doubt got it from her and similar thinkers, filtered through her DI mentors, but . . .

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  2. Ed Darrell says:

    That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone brag about it, Anthony.

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  3. “Experience keeps a dear school but a fool will learn in no other. “

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  4. Dan S. says:

    Oh, and to come clean, the past post I did on my blog was a part of that plan.

    What does this even mean? To make sure he “kept it up” for two weeks? (Contact your doctor if you have a blog-argument lasting over two weeks . . . .) To be intentionally provocative? (Darwin-baiting?)

    Jeez.

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  5. Oh, and to come clean, the past post I did on my blog was a part of that plan. Figure it out, Ed.

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  6. The punch line you hand us here is only too obvious: “It’s obvious why essayists like Anthony and Ms. Robinson appear incapable of quoting Darwin accurately: It is because they do not wish to be tethered by the high standards of morality Darwin called for; they cannot abide by the Golden Rule.”

    My policy of letting people expound to their heart’s content all manner of drivel has hanged you, Anthony.

    How crafty of you, Ed. You left me with no alternative but to keep making the same points that I did in the first comment of this thread, that you had lied about what I wrote and maligned me by associating me with creationism. Why does your positively brilliant trap remind me so much of the Giuliani strategy for winning the Republican nomination?

    I had a plan too, it was to give this two weeks, the same number of weeks you kept it up over where I post. I found out that the people who read your blog don’t care about the facts, they just come here to get a fix of self-righteous smugness which you supply to them.

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  7. Ed Darrell says:

    You miss the point of quoting accurately, Anthony. It’s not enough to get a few of the words the author said. One must get enough of the words to insure one has captured the author’s intent, and one must be careful not to edit the quote so that one has distorted the author’s intent.

    Here’s what I mean: In chapter 5 of Descent of Man, Darwin says that morality is necessary, and that the Golden Rule should one of the pillars of morality for humans: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

    Now read Robinson’s comments. Is she criticizing Darwin’s defense of the Golden Rule?

    Are you?

    If you’re not criticizing Darwin’s defense of the Golden Rule, why are you criticizing Darwin?

    If you missed the point of chapter 5, about the Golden Rule, you have absolutely no right to claim to have quoted Darwin accurately. If you quote him saying something else, you’ve misquoted him, regardless whether you’ve used the same words he used or not.

    It appears you are unaware of this convention of scholarship, that one should not distort the intention of those whom one quotes. From my side, this entire exchange has been a long, now-appearing vain attempt to get you to understand that idea.

    Your use of secondary and third-hand sources is atrocious. You fail to read Darwin, then you cite Robinson’s misciting of Darwin, then you defend it in the face of Darwin’s actual words and intent. You have indeed conducted “lazy, pseudo-scholarship,” and shame on you for doing it.

    You’re dishonest in this small regard, Anthony, and you appear unwilling or unable to confront the facts. Do you have a point about “determinism” in politics? Perhaps. But your examples rely on the misrepresentation of great ideas of Western Civilization. That calls into question the rest of your essay.

    Then, in playground bully fashion, you have the incredible gall to claim I am lazy and don’t read your drivel. Your tendentious and tedious rehashings of your misquotings are not much better than your original essay, which is to me foggier than London in 1952, and more toxic.

    I don’t give a hang about Dawkins’ book here. He’s not deluded in the least about what evolution theory is and what Darwin said. Your entire thesis fails, however, if you get Darwin’s meaning correct. Quit trying to change the goalposts in order to avoid facing the music.

    Get it correct and repent of your academic sins.

    Your sin is similar to this. I could, by your definition of accurate, quote you “accurately” thusly:

    ‘. . . the quotes Robinson used that I looked up . . . are such a snare for the lazy, pseudo-scholarship. Dawkins’ “God Delusion” . . .[:] reason and accuracy.’

    Of course, that is not what you meant at all — but the words are yours, and in a fashion, they are verbatim. Somebody pointed this out to you earlier, and you glossed over it, as if you thought it unfair for someone to do that to your words. You were right — but you missed the blessed point: It is also unfair, dishonest and inaccurate, for you to do that to the words of others.

    We ask that you follow the Golden Rule: Quote others, as you would wish to be quoted accurately by others.

    The punch line you hand us here is only too obvious: “It’s obvious why essayists like Anthony and Ms. Robinson appear incapable of quoting Darwin accurately: It is because they do not wish to be tethered by the high standards of morality Darwin called for; they cannot abide by the Golden Rule.”

    My policy of letting people expound to their heart’s content all manner of drivel has hanged you, Anthony. In this thread you’ve demonstrated no remorse for having gotten the meaning incorrect, and no intention of every correcting it for any reason. You’ve clung desperately to error, as if it was the only substance keeping your essay afloat. You may be right about that.

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  8. Ed, that’s odd, the quotes Robinson used that I looked up too see the context – ended up reading the entire, damned book – were all accurate and verbatim.

    I looked in my notes taken during preparation. Yeah, Ed, I read that ‘review’ you and Dan did. I made a note to look it up but, as it didn’t have any relevance to the point I was trying to make I never got around to it.

    Secondary sources, Ed. Those are such a snare for lazy, pseudo-scholarship. Dawkin’s “God Delusion” failed on just such errors of scholarship. Well, if you don’t count the logical hypocrisy and other failures of reason and accuracy.

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  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Yeah, Darwin’s been dead a long time. But he checked to be sure what he wrote was supported by the evidence available to him at the time. Since nature hasn’t changed all that much in 150 years, his stuff is still valid.

    Robinson’s stuff, being based on false quotes from the start, is still wrong.

    See the difference?

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  10. Ed Darrell says:

    It would be a waste of time to suggest you go read Robinson in full, wouldn’t it. I mean, you refused to read the second part of the essay I wrote even as you condemned it.

    Not a waste of time, just redundant.

    Unless you edited your work to get rid of the error. Did you? It would read better, without the error, I think.

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  11. If you’re claiming the authority of Marilynne Robinson to say the stupid stuff you do

    If what she said is stupid, I wish I could have said it and nearly as well.

    As it happens our essays had quite different themes and motives, though you couldn’t possibly know that. Mine was an entirely political analysis of applying natural selection as the determining force in human life, the inequality that is inescapable from doing so, the negation of the possibility of people in a democratic society governing themselves in a way that could have a beneficial effect for all of its People. I wish I had gone into the effect of Darwinism in reinforcing the power of the elite class but as the like of you wouldn’t read 8,000 words another thousand wouldn’t have helped, now, would it.

    It would be a waste of time to suggest you go read Robinson in full, wouldn’t it. I mean, you refused to read the second part of the essay I wrote even as you condemned it. You had to ask where to find a link to it on the very comment thread attached to it. I’ll leave the argument from authority to you, I didn’t use Robinson as an authority and if you read a comment I made to Dan S. a few goes ago, I said that I didn’t agree with her on everything she said. I’ve got no problem with anyone quibbling with what she said, unlike you I don’t idolize people. She’s got Darwinism just about right.

    You know how funny it is to hear Darwin’s defender criticize Robnison’s essay as worthless because it’s a decade old? He’s been dead for a hundred twenty years, does that make what he wrote a twelfth as valid as what she wrote ten years ago?

    I can see that you aren’t content to have attributed about three opinions I not only never expressed but contradicted in the essay, now you’re trying to weasel out of getting caught by piling on ever more things I didn’t say. You’re a phony scholar, Ed, of a kind that is superfluous on the blogs due to oversupply. I’m not going to get sucked into a discussion of things I didn’t say since you won’t discuss the things I did say.

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  12. Ed Darrell says:

    Robinson accurate? Bizarrely misinformed, I would say.

    In that interview Dan refers to, we find this:

    Q: Will you address the problems you see in Darwinism and the resistance you expect to your view?

    There is a conditioned response to objections to Darwinism, not limited by any means to Darwinists, or to people who understand the issue or even take any real interest in it. Darwinism equals science, and objections to it equal obscurantism— this notion is very firmly rooted, right across the range of educational attainment. There are scientists who take issue with the theory, and there are obscurantists who take issue with it, and then there are the great masses who accept it implicitly, as the schoolmen used to say, believing without reflection from a sense that good people should believe, that doubt is wrong. It is very difficult to discuss Darwinism because one is forever confronting raised eyebrows, forever being scolded by people who know only that one must not object to Darwinism.

    Of no other scientific theory is this true. Nor does any other branch of science invite or even permit this kind of faith. If cosmologists find good evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, contrary to every prediction, they throw themselves into the work of assimilating this observation into revolutionized conceptions of the cosmos. Darwinists, on the other hand, tend to object to new hypotheses on the grounds that they are incompatible with Darwinism. A recent example is the argument that Neanderthals were actually people disfigured by lack of iodine—cretins. This is not a suggestion to be dismissed out of hand. Diet-related illnesses were common in Europe until quite recently. If studies of skeletal remains have not taken account of the effects of diet, this is remarkable, and it very likely reflects the narrow focus Darwinist assumptions have always encouraged. Of course the theory does not hang on the particular case of the Neanderthals, and the cretin hypothesis could only be thought of as a threat to Darwinism if it opened the whole freighted narrative of progressive evolution of the human species to questioning of the same kind—and it is certainly progressive, despite objections to that word. If this can happen, it should happen, not because Darwinism has unsavory origins and a grim history, but because that is how science progresses. It is surely ironic that, because a theory has become synonymous with science, it can claim the authority of dogma.

    Now, Anthony, this is one essay delivered from the high throne of stupid. If you’re claiming the authority of Marilynne Robinson to say the stupid stuff you do, you’re claiming the authority of stupid. Am I being clear yet? What she says here is stupid. Stupid. Dumb. Ill-informed. Off-the-wall. Wrong.

    And, did I say stupid?

    It’s stupid on two fronts. First, the suggestion that Neandertal was just a modern human with some disease has been around for 30 years, at least. Dobson was not the first to suggest it (and with the argument recycling habits of creationists and ill-informed non-creationists like Robinson, probably not the last). There are too many lines of evidence to falsify the claim, starting with the fact that there are any number of specimens of Neandertal that show no signs of disease at all. Same body forms, no disease. The “diseased Neandertal” examples cannot account for this evidence at all. Nor can it account for the finding of Neandertal alongside Homo Sapiensthe argument cannot explain how these creatures could have entire families of iodine-deficient people living next-cave to families that were not iodine deficient, eating the same diet essentially, drinking the same water, etc — for 400,000 years.

    So there is a lot of contrary evidence (I’ve barely scratched the surface here — we also have DNA since 1998 — but I digress).

    Robinson’s claim that “Darwinists” dogmatically attacked Robinson is offensive, and untrue, so far as I can tell. You appear to have accepted it as fact, but it’s not. See that article in the New York Times I noted above, and see this paragraph:

    Paleontologists who specialize in Neanderthal research have raised sharp objections. Dr. Dobson’s conclusions, they contend, are a stretch based on highly circumstantial evidence and at odds with evolutionary biology. But some anthropologists and other geographers said that the data seemed impressive and that the interpretations should be taken seriously.

    ”We sometimes have to rock the boat,” said Dr. Karl W. Butzer, a geographer at the University of Texas at Austin. ”Even if this just generates papers that argue against the idea, it will have served a purpose, making the fossil people think and rethink their positions.”

    Do you see the problem? Dobson’s critics refer specifically to rebutting and refuting evidence, they don’t refer to dogma at all. You can’t tell the difference between dogma and and an evidence-based argument? Then no wonder you get the rest of it wrong.

    And “Darwinists” like Butzer don’t attack Dobson, they note the need to “rock the boat” from time to time. In other words, he says the idea is worth considering.

    If you’re going to allege that Darwinists use dogma, you need an example in which they don’t use evidence instead of dogma, and where they blindly attack the claim without any further resort to data or knowledge, instead of welcoming the challenge, as in this case.

    See the reaction of Lewis Binford, an SMU anthropologist I’ve met and respect:

    Dr. Lewis Binford, an anthropologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas who has studied and written about Neanderthal society, said the new analysis was the first to consider the implications of iodine deficiency in early populations.

    ”The data seem impressive to me and the hypothesis doesn’t seem unreasonable,” Dr. Binford said. ”We stand to learn something if others investigate the geographic and dietary issues of Neanderthals.”

    Now, if Robinson and Anthony were correct, Binford should be one of those calling for Dobson’s scalp for challenging the “orthodoxy.” Instead, Binford says “the data seem impressive, and the hypothesis doesn’t seem unreasonable.”

    Once again, we find the claim of Robinson — and Anthony — are 180 degrees at odds with the facts.

    In any case, you should know better than to accept an argument from Robinson without checking it out, especially an argument that is a decade old.

    Anthony, Robinson’s stuff is at best a decade old. Science has moved on. So, if you wish to rely on Robinson as your authority figure instead of discussing the actual data, you would do well to check to see whether new data are available.

    But she’s wrong on her premises. You would do better to check out her premises to see whether they hold water at all before you start claiming, from Robinson’s authority and two unnamed biologists who run in your circle, that the rest of biology is wrong.

    You have four people who aren’t very critical of Robinson. We have more than that critical of her in these discussions, plus the experts in John Noble’s article. Heck, just in this forum, we’ve got more authority opposed.

    Stick to the facts. That means, don’t quote Robinson, don’t take her word as authoritative.

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  13. Dan, find me a liberal facist who has used the term as Dawkins does Darwinism to apply it to his own ideology. Your Jonah analogy is coprophagous and your line of argument, while silly, is one I’ve seen before.

    She doesn’t even understand how badly she’s embarrassing herself.

    Funny, I’ve talked with Robinson’s essay with two people with extensive academic and professional experience in the biological sciences, they thought she was quite accurate. Oh, make that four, I’m forgetting the people I showed my essay to online. Two of them had also read Robinson’s essay.

    You might remember that she addresses Dennett in the essay, or you would if you got that far in it. When she wrote it in the mid-90s Dawkins and Dennett were the primary keepers of the flame of Darwinism, and they’d do their best to kill off any others who tried to get it away from them.

    Well, I’ll see if it’s in the library.

    Try ABE Books. Or, baring that, avoid discussing something you haven’t read in full and understood. Imagine the anxiety and embarrassment that Ed might have avoided if he’d done that.

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  14. Dan S. says:

    [continued from above]

    e) “You can’t hold those speculations without doing it on authority, there is absolutely no evidence to rely on.

    Without getting into long discussions involving such spine-tinglingly exciting phrases as “substrate neutrality”, a) the idea one can make a good case that life (if any) elsewhere in the universe works along classic evolutionary principles isn’t actually insane. After all, why wouldn’t it?
    and b) Whatever these claims are relying on, it’s not the authority of a 19th century English gentleman – who after all never made such claims! It’s like saying that astronomers’ claims about distant, as yet unseen solar systems show that they are relying on Galileo and Newton as authorities.

    f) “Dan, doesn’t your experience here lead to to think that maybe you should read Robinson’s entire essay before you characterize it?

    It probably should, but no, not really. I suppose if the rest is radically different . . .but I did add the caveat that I was only talking about the part I’ve read, although it doesn’t give me much hope for the rest. My views on her writings re: evolution have also been rather shaped by this interview (pdf), done shortly after The Death of Adam came out, and which I stumbled across trying to find that essay. And in fact, it shaped these views into the idea that – on the subject of evolutionary biology – she’s an ignorant hack, albeit an quite intelligent and well-written one. (I’d like to read some of her fiction, however, partly due to your discussion of it – I did intend to pick up Gilead when it first came out, but never get around to it . . .)

    For example, as I’ve mentioned before & elsewhere, there’s her discussion of the (then recent) “argument that
    Neanderthals were actually people disfigured by lack of iodine – cretins.
    ” One can think of many reasons why this . . . interesting . . . hypothesis was greeted with something less than wild enthusiasm by paleoanthropologists: turf-warfare (it was suggested by a geographer), the fact that there had been earlier, debunked attempts to explain Neanderthals as simply pathological moderns (across disciplines, scientists tend to react very strongly to new ideas that seem reminiscent of old controversies), that explaining an apparently distinct (sub?)species of human ranging from the shores of Spain to the Levant as merely the result of iodine deficiency just is really weird, and that many of the facts might not fit too well. But all this involves engaging with the actual science. Instead, she declared that “Darwinists, on the other hand, tend to object to new hypotheses on the grounds that they are incompatible with Darwinism . . . Of course . . . the cretin hypothesis could only be thought of as a threat to Darwinism if it opened the whole freighted narrative of progressive evolution of the human species to questioning of the same kind—and it is certainly progressive, despite objections to that word.

    Hack. Bloody pomo hack.

    Then she goes off and shows that she really just doesn’t understand evolutionary biology, babbling about the old ‘survival of the fittest’ issue, with some OMG!! Dawkins said genes are SELFISH!!1! thrown in:

    Darwinism is the interpretation of evolution to mean that change in populations of organisms over time reflects the relative survival and reproductive success of those individual organisms which are genetically better suited to survive and reproduce. The theory makes evolutionary change as if purposive [no], because such change modifies organisms to their advantage, whence feathers and lungs and so one [individual organisms do not evolve; lineages do]. Plausible enough, within limits. (I will not object here to the archaism of the model of genetics, which comes from Mendel, Darwin’s contemporary, without significant modi-
    fication. Darwinism does not evolve. [Oh, ha. ha.])
    The trouble comes when that great blank—fitness to survive—is filled in. Rather than looking at organisms to see how they do in fact survive, Darwinists assume that “selfishness” (their word) and a favoring of those genetically nearest is inscribed in the genes, not only of amoebas, but also, and most significantly, of human beings. Fitness is effectively manifested selfishness [Somebody read somebody who read somebody who read Dawkins. Pity someone didn’t understand it]. This is clearly arbitrary. Survival advantage could as well be a matter of lighter bones or a suppler snout. Assuming limited food supply, such traits would confer competitive advantage in the absence of any competitive intent in the organism. [Well, yes. Of course. Hack.]

    She doesn’t even understand how badly she’s embarrassing herself. It’s painful to read, sort of like watching a particularly unsuccessful American Idol contestant – or, perhaps a highly skilled classical pianist going on American Idol and trying, excruciatingly, to do a 50 Cent song. And thinking they’re really good at it, too.

    (Personally, I much prefer Jenny Owen Youngs’ acoustic cover of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” . . .)

    Maybe you should get the book it’s collected in

    Well, I’ll see if it’s in the library. One of these days. Maybe after I get my hands on their copy of “Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body“. Although it’s basically on hold for the next 3.5 billion years : ( – and no doubt incompatible with democracy, to boot . . .

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  15. Dan S. says:

    Except creationists building men of straw
    Unintelligent design!

    Couple of things, Anthony (some repeated from above).

    a) How do you define “Darwinism”? You’ve referred to Huxley giving it its modern meaning; basically, descent with modification, gradually, from common ancestors. But you’ve also insisted that it is an ideology of some sort, of a kind that one doesn’t generally base scientific arguments on. Which one do you mean, or do you see it as both?

    b) Why, in fact, do you (seem to?) think that ‘Huxley gave Darwinism its modern meaning’ is a fairly crushing retort? Perhaps I misunderstand what you’re arguing with this.

    c) “For crying out loud, Dan. They’re writing and talking in English. You and Panda’s Thumb aren’t the bosses of the English language

    Actually, we are – didn’t you get the memo? Hang on, I have it here somewhere . . . .
    Look, they have every legal right to use whatever terms they want. Likewise, we can point out that they are using these terms inappropriately, dishonestly, and as part of a rhetorical strategy to imply evolutionary biology isn’t actually science but just some bizarre religious cult.

    (I’m imagining Jonah Goldberg insisting how David Neiwert and every professional scholar of liberalism, 20thC American history, and fascism aren’t the bosses of the English language, and that ‘liberal fascism” is a perfectly good English term, which H. G. Wells gave its modern meaning back in 1932 . . . but that’s unfair).

    d1)”While Darwinians would like to get their idol away from the inescapable conclusions of applying natural selection politically and socially to the human population, they have to deny he said what he did on the subject.

    Ok, Anthony, what (specific and concrete) political and social proposals (that is, actions) did Darwin propose regarding natural selection and people?

    d2) “3. that the inequality [sic – presumably equality] essential for democracy was denied, since he depends on it for natural selection to work . . .”

    Clarification in aisle 3, please . . . One way of interpreting this – and quite possibly the wrong way – is that it really is a political analysis – not so far from the idea that “quantum gravity has progressive political implications” (to quote the wikipedia article). Almost in a reverse way, though – as if Darwin was going, ‘oh, to make my theory work, I need to deny the possibility of democracy – ok!’ (How bizarre). But either way, it seems really confused on several levels. Perhaps the biggest has to do with the is-ought problem (naturalistic fallacy, appeal to nature, etc.). In a way, it’s like an oddly literalistic view of democracy, with moral claims and ‘higher truths’ – all men [sic] are created equal – being understood as claims in a science textbook (the obvious analogy here is, well, obvious). The “inequality” acted upon by natural selection is of a completely different order than the inequality rightfully denied by that document. Nor does democracy rest upon this sort of literalistic claim!

    Additionally, there’s increasing evidence that suggests ways natural selection has acted upon human populations over the last hundred centuries or so. One of the things that really jumps out, waving its arms about and shouting, appears to be strong selection for adult lactose tolerance, for example. Does that mean democracy is dead?

    d3) “ any form of biological determinism is incompatible with democracy and that it is a sure guarantee of moral atrocities.

    Perhaps you could explain what you mean by biological determinism, and why you come to these two conclusions?

    d4) “ The assertion that natural selection is the ruling force in the modern human population, overcoming reason and morality i

    Ironically, Darwin never claimed this. (Well, perhaps reason, but not morality; the opposite, indeed). Meanwhile, there are modern figures who do make these or related claims (about supposed group differences supposedly produced by natural selection): for example, Charles Murray, James Watson, J. Philippe Rushton (whose ‘research’ argues for a Goldilockian view of racial differences – black people’s genitals are too big, and their brains too small, Asians’ gentials are too small, and their brains too big, but white people, white people are just right – Now that is one unbearably grim fairy tale indeed), etc. . . . Yet you don’t ever mention them, spending time instead going off on Dawkins & Co. Ironically, again, Dawkins actually claims the opposite: see the two paragraphs of his I quote above (in the Feb 7th, 2:01am comment).

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  16. Ed, you didn’t read Dennett’s great tome, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea? Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker? For Pete’s sake, both of them claim on the basis of absolutely no science that Darwinism is the organizing principle of life throughout the universe. Dennett seems to think it’s responsible for everying, including, if my decade old memory serves, the structure of matter. You can’t hold those speculations without doing it on authority, there is absolutely no evidence to rely on.

    You’ve got to master the literature to some extent, Ed. Though you apparently don’t feel that necessity is a requirement. It’s fairly safe to try it with me, Ed but you really shouldn’t try it with Robinson. She’s got a reputation of having read what she comments on, one that anyone who had done what you clearly haven’t and read her essays would confirm.

    You need remedial help in methods and foundations of scholarship, Ed.

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  17. Ed Darrell says:

    ‘Cause honestly, ain’t nobody who relies on Darwin as an authority in the sense you seem to mean.

    Except creationists building men of straw, and Anthony, and Robinson.

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  18. I have to wonder if I’m not somehow talking with an Anthony McCarthy in some unpleasant alternate universe, because that’s not how things are here.

    While I’m not thrilled with the venue, try to remember I offered you the chance of e-mail and you don’t seem to have taken it up.

    As to me being somehow alien, maybe the problem can be solved with exo-biology, if the last master of that ‘science’ isn’t now gone. Though Dawkins and Dennett seem to think they can assert the equivalent through their notion that “A good case can be made that Darwinism is true, not just on this planet but all over the universe, wherever life may be found.” Science not only without that annoying physical evidence but with a virtually certain impossibility of falsifiability. But, I guess standards in such things have changed since I was in college.

    Dan, doesn’t your experience here lead to to think that maybe you should read Robinson’s entire essay before you characterize it? Her theme was quite different from mine and I don’t see exactly eye-to-eye with her but it is a very fine piece of work and I respect it. Maybe you should get the book it’s collected in, The Death of Adam, and read the last essay, The Tyranny of Petty Coercion. No one should go into the materialist blogosphere without having read it.

    Makes me kinda sad, though. What a stupid noisy waste of time and energy and passion that’ll be – and by someone I think of as a nice blogging-person, too.

    Hey, you try having this happen to you a half dozen times and see how you react. I’ve tried ignoring this kind of lie before only to watch it ripple in the blogs. Least I can do is try to set the record straight.

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  19. Dan S. says:

    within 3 square miles, I mean. presumably a radius is involved too, I dunno.

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  20. Dan S. says:

    First off, let me say that I checked and found I’m slightly misquoting Marilynne Robinson – she refers to “the so-called Social Darwinist, Herbert Spencer, and her point may be that, well, he’s (partly) pre Origin, so that’s a misnomer. Of course, her response is to simply label it and everything with 3 square miles “Darwinism”, rather than the proper term, Social Spenserism-Mathusism . . . -kidding, that would be silly . . .

    First, for anyone who wants to read for themselves, Marilynne Robinson’s essay “Darwinism”, ” [partly reproduced here

    is an interesting, provocative but largely unoriginal work that makes some genuinely important points, but has big flaws, too. (At least the part available above). Like you, she makes a distinctionbetween the fact of evolution – “the change that occurs in organisms over time” and “Darwinism,” which she defines as “the interpretation of this phenomenon which claims to refute religion and to imply a personal and social ethic which is, not coincidentally, antithetical to the assumptions imposed and authorized by Judaeo-Christianity.” Unfortunately, it’s not just that she doesn’t mark out space for other interpretations of this phenomena – which alone would constantly threaten to collapse all such interpretations into a big ugly evil ball of “Darwinism” – but at times seems to be constantly working to do so, though perhaps out of unawareness or unconcern or laziness.

    She also spews out the standard creationist take on “survival of the fittest” – it’s a tautology, whine, whine! – but gives it a particularly intellectual dishonest (or uncomprehending) twist – but enough about her (more about this latter, perhaps) – let’s talk about you!

    As Dan knows I’d intended to use contemporary biological determinists to make my arguments against it until her essay forced me to face the fact that they, to a person, relied on Darwin as an authority.

    I have to wonder if I’m not somehow talking with an Anthony McCarthy in some unpleasant alternate universe, because that’s not how things are here. At least, I really, really don’t believe they are – but you don’t provide any evidence for folks to evaluate: no names, no ideas, no nothing. (Or maybe you do – is Dennett one? Dawkins? Who knows – I’m not even sure exactly how you’re using the phrase (ie, “biological determinist”). I also wonder how you mean “relied . . . as an authority.” Do they (you imagine) think Darwin’s a great teacher/prophet/etc. and that we must restructure our society based on his wise guidance? Or is it merely that they work with modern evolutionary biology (perhaps rather badly?), adhering to a more classic set of views? Or . . . ?

    There are many problems here that I don’t have time to address right now – later today, maybe – but the “Darwin as authority” thing is perhaps the biggest. Could you try to explain what you’re trying to say – for example, who and what on earth you’re talking about? ‘Cause honestly, ain’t nobody who relies on Darwin as an authority in the sense you seem to mean. (And in any sense only as a scientist from the mid-19th century whose work, though majorly groundbreaking, was only a foundation on which to build (and with some sectins found unusable and needing to be discarded)

    Maybe an authority on barnacles. But even that, I think, has been surpassed by far.

    And incidentally, that wikipedia article on scientism seems entirely reasonable. I wasn’t going to say it, but looking at your rhetoric here, re: that upcoming essay on dirty tactics of pop materialism – I’ll go get the popcorn. It’s gonna be quite a show.
    Makes me kinda sad, though. What a stupid noisy waste of time and energy and passion that’ll be – and by someone I think of as a nice blogging-person, too.

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  21. Well, I do hope you won’t bust out the ‘ok, show me separation of church and state under a microscope! Hah – you can’t, can you!

    Oh, Dan. You do honor me by reading my archive. However, that’s the argument against the superstition of scientism. While the Darwin industry is largely populated with adherents of that silly idea, it hasn’t featured in this discussion.

    By the way, don’t bother looking up “scientism” in wiki, like many of the articles in these areas it has been edited by adherents of scientism who don’t like their sect being called by its standard English name either.

    social darwinism. I’m not sure you ever mention it; Robinson doesn’t like it either,

    First, for anyone who wants to read for themselves, Marilynne Robinson’s essay “Darwinism”, is brilliant. Though you probably can’t see that if you’re a Dawkinsite bigot. Her reputation doesn’t need me to defend her, though. As Dan knows I’d intended to use contemporary biological determinists to make my arguments against it until her essay forced me to face the fact that they, to a person, relied on Darwin as an authority.

    Robinson deals with “Social Darwinism” quite forthrightly, pointing out that Spenser preceded Darwin, was cited by Darwin and clearly influenced Darwin. And, as can be seen in Descent of Man, Darwin didn’t exactly disassociate himself with the foundations of “Social Darwinism”. While Darwinians would like to get their idol away from the inescapable conclusions of applying natural selection politically and socially to the human population, they have to deny he said what he did on the subject. Or what has this argument supposedly been about, anyway?

    I didn’t see any sense in going back to Spenser since even fewer people read him than do Darwin these days.

    I really do find this WordPress format hard to read. For all its faults, blogspot has better graphics.

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  22. Dan S. says:

    Sorry, didn’t see your two new posts. Hmm. Damn, no time right now. Later.

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  23. Dan S. says:

    Geez, proofreading is my friend. Or rather, it isn’t.

    Another issue, Anthony, is that while you’re never too clear on what this ideology is that’s supposedly shared by Darwins and Dawkins and some people on blogs somewhere, if you’re talking about the misapplication of pseudo-evolutionary ideas to society as a means of legitimizing and reinforcing inequality, there is in fact an accepted and well-known term for that – social darwinism. I’m not sure you ever mention it; Robinson doesn’t like it either, referring, iirc, to ‘so-called social darwinism’ or something like that. Now, one might make an argument against this term, perhaps, but you never actually do. One of the effects is that in your series, it’s sorta ends up so that you have the vast and unknowable reality of “EVOLUTION” (as you put it) on one side, and everything else un/poorly-differentiated on the other, so that modern evolutionary theory is smushed together with 19th century science, social darwinism, Dennett’s ramblings, and who knows what else.

    I’m putting all of this together for another long piece about the dirty tactics of pop materialism.

    Well, I do hope you won’t bust out the ‘ok, show me separation of church and state under a microscope! Hah – you can’t, can you! What good is your science now, sucker?!’ stuff you’ve done elsewhere. It’s not very helpful. But if so, don’t complain if someone says you sound like a creationist, ok?

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  24. Indeed, though, creationists do use the word to refer to a supposed ideology ….. .

    For crying out loud, Dan. They’re writing and talking in English. You and Panda’s Thumb aren’t the bosses of the English language, anyone, including me, can use a perfectly standard English word.

    Maybe that’s the real problem here, you guys don’t like the fact that people can say what they think. Well, I think I’ve demonstrated that I don’t intend to be coerced into playing pretend, denying reality to make you feel better.

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  25. Except that Darwin did not do anything to stop natural selection from working on anyone, anywhere, at any time, nor did he believe such action to be ethical EXCEPT in the case of saving lives — a point you fail to note;

    Double talk, Ed. Just like Darwin’s self-contradicting demurral. He said it and the legacy of Darwin’s statements about natural selection in the human species has had political influence in the past and still does. The Darwinists have been in denial about that from the beginning, it’s time for evolutionary science to face the fact that any form of biological determinism is incompatible with democracy and that it is a sure guarantee of moral atrocities.

    Evolutionary science should look at the political record of the popular-scientific deification of Darwin, of denial of the less attractive legacy from him and his would-be followers. The attempts of people like Ed Darrell to cover up what is already known, of making any analysis of that legacy in political terms has done nothing to protect science from creationism. It is sheer, willful arrogance to deny that the creationists can’t read the record and find what is there and to apply it to their own ends. If they’re so stupid why are they the ones who have convinced the majority of the American public WITHOUT the benefit of having the scientific evidence on their side. The assertion that natural selection is the ruling force in the modern human population, overcoming reason and morality is not warranted by the facts of history and it is politically untenable. I care about science but no where near as much as I do about democracy and the attempts of people to govern themselves on the basis of reason and decency. Scientists who care more about the funding of the biological sciences and in keeping public schools within the wall of separation should ask themselves if the price of appeasing the agenda of the Dawkinsites and other political morons is worth the price of having Republicans appointing people to the Supreme Court and ordering government scientists to delete portions of their reports.

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  26. Dan S. says:

    to claim Robin Hood is gay for example.

    Gay? I thought it was even uncertain if he was, in any meaningful sense at least, a historical figure!

    I wandered over to wikipedia article on him to do some lazy quasi-research on the ‘real person?’ question, and under the ‘See Also’ heading I found a link for “Ishikawa Goemon, semi-legendary Japanese ninja and philanthropist“.

    That’s awesome. When I die, that’s what I want on my gravestone: Dan S., semi-legendary Japanese ninja and philanthropist.

    Now that I think about it, I also want to find an ancient hominid fossil representing a new genus, and name it Philanthropithecus – the loving ape. Aww . . .
    ________

    [again] ““Oh, Dan. I hate to be the one to inform you but the word “Darwinism”, . . .was given its present day meaning by Darwin’s closest associate, Thomas Huxley . . . in the 1860s”

    Anthony, I’m honestly curious as to why you seem to think this is a devastating reply (and you have, after all, mentioned it more than once). It’s a bit bewildering, esp. since I never claimed that “Darwinist/ism” is a recent creationist coinage, only that it’s been recently falling out of favor and has been co-opted by creationists apparently & partly as a rhetorical strategy.

    (One of the things that may have given the impression of bad-faith arguing was that you first told people that science had to let go of Darwin, and then when increasing numbers if folks started saying: well, we have, Darwin ain’t all that, and it’s mostly creationists talking about “Darwinism” these days, you got, well, a little huffy and started going all “No you didn’t, you’re making things up, Dawkins Dawkins Dennett Huxley!! And Darwin Fish!!’ Not wrong, exactly, but a sorta uncharitable and combative reading, and it ended up maybe giving the impression like you were less about constructive criticism and more about dumping on evolutionary bio.)

    Anyway, back to “Darwinism” (groan). The only thing I can figure is that – while not a creationist – you almost sound like some sort of linguistic creationist with ideas about how words are fixed and unchanging (you aren’t, of course, but they do exist.) It’s as if Huxley created the word Darwinism in its modern sense 148 years ago, and it has remained the same up to this day, so . . . um, creationists can’t be using it as a misleading slur? People can’t be saying it’s a bad term? What?

    One of the issues is that you’re never too clear on what “Darwinism/ist” means. Somebody like John Wilkins would say, well, sure, that’s because it has so many meanings stuck onto it that it’s become incoherent and useless as a label (although not as a historical sequence or entity). But you talk about “Darwinism’s” (apparently firm and singular) “present day meaning”.

    Now, if that’s the meaning Huxley gave it at the creation, so to speak – well, let’s see. Reading the 1860 book review where the term is first used in reference to Charles (rather than Erasmus, apparently), as a single flourish at the end, it’s clear that it refers to (common) descent with modification via natural selection. In other words, Darwin’s basic ideas: classic evolutionary theory, from our perspective. Now, no one living in a “Darwinist” in the strictest sense, even Dawkins. but in the sense as these ideas have descended with modification to the “present day” (ooh, genetics!, etc.), as a view of evolution that emphasizes these basic ideas – well, that’s perhaps its major meaning, such as it is, in modern science (besides “they’re a reactionary old fart!”), and the one that Dawkins seems to hold. Ok, fair enough, that makes sense (although only in reference to other aspects within evolutionary bio).

    But then you also talk about how “Its rarity of use in scientific literature would be because it is an ideology,” and that Dawkins “uses it to describe his rather irrationally expansive ideology. It’s never clear what exactly this ideology is, but already we have a rather different meaning than what you state is its single “present day sense”. (Huxley’s essay has a interesting example of how the meaning of words can change over time when he says “With the “cuteness” characteristic of their nation, the neighbours of the Massachusetts farmer imagined it would be an excellent thing . . .).

    Indeed, though, creationists do use the word to refer to a supposed ideology (cult of personality / false religion).

    3. that the inequality [sic – presumably equality] essential for democracy was denied, since he depends on it for natural selection to work,

    And while we can argue some about the other claims, here is where you seem to really go off the rails. One interpretation of what’s going on here is that it’s an example of those basic confusions between is = ought, and the pomo idea that there is no external reality, at least that we can access even imperfectly, only power relations. or perhaps not. Got to get ready for work now, so that’s another story for another time . . .

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  27. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony said:

    I gave it a political analysis demonstrating that 1. Darwin and his closest associates never showed the slightest inclination to allow what he took to be natural selection act on themselves and their families, 2. that he had a far more lenient standard about what he termed ‘useless drones’ bred to the aristocracy than he did the underclass (again, not open to question because Darwin said it), 3. that the inequality essential for democracy was denied, since he depends on it for natural selection to work, 4. that Darwin just about conclusively held that even democratically arrived at attempts to better the lives of the underclass would be ineffective due to what he said would be the degrading effects of relief if those programs worked to keep these people alive till child bearing age, and that none of his assumptions about the deleterious effects of providing medical care and vaccination to the underclass on the general population were supported with science then or today.

    Darwin said it, I just pointed out what it meant for democracy if what he said was followed. Which it has been.

    Except that Darwin did not do anything to stop natural selection from working on anyone, anywhere, at any time, nor did he believe such action to be ethical EXCEPT in the case of saving lives — a point you fail to note;

    Plus, your point on “useless drones” is completely meaningless, considering Darwin’s analysis of how natural selection works against them regardless the small efforts to frustrate it.

    Plus Darwin was very much a democrat, and he favored and worked for programs to keep people alive until child bearing age, especially the poor, halt and lame — directly contrary to your claims;

    And Darwin never said one bad word about medical are and vaccination to the “underclass.” He wondered what the effect would be if we were to treat humans like other animals. He said that if we treated humans like other animals, we would cease being humans, by ceasing to be noble.

    Darwin didn’t say it. You invented it. You can’t point to where Darwin said what you claim, and you refuse to correct your error.

    And so Darwin was right: Religious nuts and others afflicted with similar distortions of reality will rail against science unjustly, saying bad things about good people for cheap political points.

    It would have been bad had Darwin said what you claim, Anthony. But he didn’t. You took the word of an inaccurate essayist rather than read Darwin for yourself, and you got burned. Plagiarism isn’t a crime, but it’s a sin, and it often inflicts its own punishment.

    Read Darwin. It will do you good.

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  28. Ed, I think Darwin Day is a PR loser but I don’t care about it. Maybe you should encourage the underclass to avoid medical care and inoculations to celebrate.

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  29. but i believe some Journals will even endorse it if you are able to point more weakpoints in Darwin arguments and social background.

    If you mean the points I tried to make in the essay that Darwin said what he said about how unfortunate it was that Victorian era societies didn’t allow their ‘weaker members’ to die off in a rate sufficient to avoid “that this must be highly injurious to the race of man”, that’s not open to question, he said it.

    I gave it a political analysis demonstrating that 1. Darwin and his closest associates never showed the slightest inclination to allow what he took to be natural selection act on themselves and their families, 2. that he had a far more lenient standard about what he termed ‘useless drones’ bred to the aristocracy than he did the underclass (again, not open to question because Darwin said it), 3. that the inequality essential for democracy was denied, since he depends on it for natural selection to work, 4. that Darwin just about conclusively held that even democratically arrived at attempts to better the lives of the underclass would be ineffective due to what he said would be the degrading effects of relief if those programs worked to keep these people alive till child bearing age, and that none of his assumptions about the deleterious effects of providing medical care and vaccination to the underclass on the general population were supported with science then or today.

    Darwin said it, I just pointed out what it meant for democracy if what he said was followed. Which it has been.

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  30. Dan S. says:

    Sorry about the proliferation of comments, now that things are popping out of moderation. I also can’t help repeatedly pressing elevator buttons, either . . .

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  31. meson says:

    Anthony, i understand that you want to show Darwin inner views. But you view is highly hypothetical. It is the type of claim scholars often use: such as to claim Robin Hood is gay for example. You present proof that is simply suggestive in nature.

    Ed, however is able to present his views in a more consistent manner. Ed present facts as it it is and refuses to venture into suggestive form of history. Ed’s claim deserves a place in history textbooks.

    Anthony even though your claim is highly suggestive but i believe some Journals will even endorse it if you are able to point more weakpoints in Darwin arguments and social background.

    You might not be wrong Anthony but Ed certainly has a lot of facts to stand upon. In cases such as this Ed certainly is correct. Good job Ed and Anthony, I enjoy this discussion very well. But please keep the discussion as scholarly as possible.

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  32. Dan S. says:

    Oh, Dan. I hate to be the one to inform you but the word “Darwinism”, . . .was given its present day meaning by Darwin’s closest associate, Thomas Huxley . . . in the 1860s

    a) which present day meaning?
    b) who on earth cares? Huxley ain’t the boss of me.

    Its rarity of use in scientific literature would be because it is an ideology and you don’t generally make arguments within science on the basis of ideology. Though scientists and even former, well, I guess he was actually once a scientist,

    Ha!

    use it quite often to describe that ideology.

    If the rest of my overlong comment shows up, it has a big quote from Dawkins going Darwinian this, Darwinism that. Consider it a gift : ) But like I babbled in the 2:09 comment, his use seems mostly to be in a very specific and technical sense, pretty ideology-free – although when he talks about what he sees as the consequences and responses, that’s a different matter. I would completely agree that scientists need to be very clear about what hat they’re wearing, so to speak.

    those two alone are a definitive disproof of Ed’s assertions and what continue to be your suspicions.

    Oy vey, I don’t suspect you of crypto-creationism: I just think you’re misguided. Ed, I’ve been reading him for – how long have you been guestposting at Echidne’s, Anthony – two years? – and I really doubt he’s a creationist. Everybody happy?

    Clearly you are trying to associate me with yet another position I don’t hold.

    Well, I was more making an analogy that I hoped might be effective, but – wait, so you’re not pro-choice? I’m so confused!

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  33. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony, to me it doesn’t matter what your position on any issue is. You misquoted Darwin, attributing to him views he did not hold, and in fact found repugnant. I think that, if you did that in an attempt to honor the man and promote his work, that may be worse.

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  34. Oh, I missed this, Dan S.

    It’s more along the lines of some lax pro-choicer who in pursuing some other cause

    Clearly you are trying to associate me with yet another position I don’t hold.

    I had to tell another idiot, Bob Crispen, that anyone who was familiar with my position on abortion would know that I hold women have an absolute right to control their own bodies in such matters. Perhaps it’s because I’ve pointed out that if the anti-abortion side really wanted to stop abortions they would make realistic, science-based, contraception education and advertisement their highest priority. Well, I did go into pollution and denial of health care as contributing factors, but that would make the argument too complex for present company. I do find that people with a background in history and the law do better with real life complexity than many in the sciences. Not to mention the wannabes that infest the blogs.

    I’m putting all of this together for another long piece about the dirty tactics of pop materialism.

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  35. Oh, Dan. I hate to be the one to inform you but the word “Darwinism”, as I proved the last time that idiotic assertion made at PT was made against me, was given its present day meaning by Darwin’s closest associate, Thomas Huxley, in his review of Origin of Species in the 1860s and that it’s still used by Darwinists such as Dawkins and, though I’m not rummaging though his rubbish to look for it, Daniel Dennett.

    Its rarity of use in scientific literature would be because it is an ideology and you don’t generally make arguments within science on the basis of ideology. Though scientists and even former, well, I guess he was actually once a scientist, use it quite often to describe that ideology. Without Darwinism where would the Dawkins and Dennett be?

    As to granting me the other two disproofs of the assertion that I’m a creationist or, to be redundant, a proponent of imposing “ID” on public school science classrooms, anyone who was considering the matter on the basis of logic and evidence would say that those two alone are a definitive disproof of Ed’s assertions and what continue to be your suspicions.

    As to what ID’ers say, you can let them control your use of the English language if you want to, I’ll stick with a couple of good dictionaries if I need reassurance.

    I’d really like that list of other untouchable subjects. The weekend’s coming up and I might get writer’s block.

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  36. Dan S. says:

    More:
    It’s all very slippery. Mary Midgely’s still angry at Dawkins, almost 30 years on, for the idea of “selfish genes,” writing a few months ago thathe ideology Dawkins is selling is the worship of competition. It is projecting a Thatcherite take on economics on to evolution. It’s not an impartial scientific view; it’s a political drama.” Now, I tend to think that insisting ‘look, it’s just a metaphor!’ is a bit too simplistic – society influences how scientists think about things, the frames and metaphors and tendencies, and those in turn can influence/be picked up by others in society. At the same time, especially with folks whose familiarity and fluency in the humanities or social sciences far outstrips their familiarity and fluency in the natural sciences, there’s the risk of tipping over into a kind of vulgar postmodernism. (There is, of course, an opposite and equally annoying tendency among those whose familiarity and fluency in the natural sciences far outstrips . . . )

    Related is the constant, constant assumption that is = ought, or that specific people are advocating such a view (when this is in fact not clear or mistaken). This arguably shows up in your criticism of Darwin, where you take what he believed (largely incorrectly) to be empirically descriptive claims, and conclude that they were intended as morally prescriptive claims, which is at least not unquestionably obvious. Meanwhile, Dawkins continually makes the same distinction – in fact, calls on us to rebel[] against our selfish genes – as he writes (on the second page):

    I prefer to agree that natural selection is the dominant force in biological evolution, admit its unpleasantness, and fight against it as a human being. I hear the bleak sermon of the Devil’s Chaplain as a call to arms. As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs. I have always held true to the closing words of my first book, ‘We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.’
    If you seem to smell inconsistency or even contradiction, you are mistaken. There is no inconsistency in favouring Darwinism as an academic scientist while opposing it as a human being; any more than there is inconsistency in explaining cancer as an academic doctor while fighting it as a practising one. For good Darwinian reasons, evolution gave us a brain whose size increased to the point where it became capable of understanding its own provenance, of deploring the moral implications and of fighting against them. Every time we use contraception we demonstrate that brains can thwart Darwinian designs. If, as my wife suggests to me, selfish genes are Frankensteins and all life their monster, it is only we that can complete the fable by turning against our creators. Yes, man can be vile too, but we are the only potential island of refuge from the implications of the Devil’s Chaplain: from the cruelty, and the clumsy, blundering waste.

    One can certainly disagree with this particular view of life, there are lots of issues here, and of course, it’s never that simple: Dawkins can’t guarantee that everyone glomming onto his description will in fact also take his conclusion, and not a far less congenial one, and it may be that there are even features of the social/political environment that render this less likely. But this isn’t a simple call to thatcherism.

    What’s rather annoying is how everything gets twisted around a philosophical and political debate about the nature of humanity. (Which of course is a somewhat ivory-towerish response on my part, to be sure . . .)

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  37. Dan S. says:

    Apparently I’ve lost the ability to use end tags. Here:
    You’re not still going on about that, are you? If you don’t like the word take it up with Dawkins.

    Links:
    Panda’s Thumb: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
    ID creationists say: Darwinist or Darwinian, They’re One and the Same.

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  38. Dan S. says:

    I think my comment went into moderation – here’s part of it:

    You’re not still going on about that, are you? If you don’t like the word take it up with Dawkins.

    Links:
    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Not least for the bit where the comments go meta and people start criticizing the use of “guttural” to describe the word “Darwinist,” on the grounds that this term is ideologically loaded and not really used in modern linguistic science . . . also, the revelation that someone in fact does use the term “Copernicanism” (guess who?), and of course, the Princess Bride references.

    The Discovery Institute’s “Evolution News and Views” website throws a fit over some comments by Eugenie Scott and bellows “Darwinist or Darwinian, They’re One and the Same.” OMID, did you know that Huxley used the word Darwinism??!!1!

    If you don’t like the word take it up with Dawkins. As I proved to you he uses it to describe his rather irrationally expansive ideology . . .

    I seem to have forgotten this bit. For sure Dawkins uses the term in a very specific way, referring to specific debates/emphases/grudge matches within evolutionary biology. Does he in fact use it to describe an irrationally expansive ideology? And what, for you, is this ideology? His support for a gene-centered view of evolution (including its explanation of altruism, and the rather colorful offshoot idea that we are, in some sense, “gene survival machines”)? Adaptationism? Sociobio/Evo-pysch? His views on religion and rationalism? On the origins of morality? The term “memes”? A blunt philosophical materialism? What?

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  39. Dan S. says:

    You’re not still going on about that, are you? If you don’t like the word take it up with Dawkins.

    Links:
    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Not least for the bit where the comments go meta and people start criticizing the use of “guttural” to describe the word “Darwinist,” on the grounds that this term is ideologically loaded and not really used in modern linguistic science . . . also, the revelation that someone in fact does use the term “Copernicanism” (guess who?), and of course, the Princess Bride references.

    The Discovery Institute’s “Evolution News and Views” website throws a fit over some comments by Eugenie Scott and bellows “Darwinist or Darwinian, They’re One and the Same.” OMID, did you know that Huxley used the word Darwinism??!!1!

    If you don’t like the word take it up with Dawkins. As I proved to you he uses it to describe his rather irrationally expansive ideology . . .

    I seem to have forgotten this bit. For sure Dawkins uses the term in a very specific way, referring to specific debates/emphases/grudge matches within evolutionary biology. Does he in fact use it to describe an irrationally expansive ideology? And what, for you, is this ideology? His support for a gene-centered view of evolution (including its explanation of altruism, and the rather colorful offshoot idea that we are, in some sense, “gene survival machines”)? Adaptationism? Sociobio/Evo-pysch? His views on religion and rationalism? On the origins of morality? The term “memes”? A blunt philosophical materialism? What?

    It’s all very slippery. Mary Midgely’s still angry at Dawkins, almost 30 years on, for the idea of “selfish genes,” writing a few months ago thathe ideology Dawkins is selling is the worship of competition. It is projecting a Thatcherite take on economics on to evolution. It’s not an impartial scientific view; it’s a political drama.” Now, I tend to think that insisting ‘look, it’s just a metaphor!’ is a bit too simplistic – society influences how scientists think about things, the frames and metaphors and tendencies, and those in turn can influence/be picked up by others in society. At the same time, especially with folks whose familiarity and fluency in the humanities or social sciences far outstrips their familiarity and fluency in the natural sciences, there’s the risk of tipping over into a kind of vulgar postmodernism. (There is, of course, an opposite and equally annoying tendency among those whose familiarity and fluency in the natural sciences far outstrips . . . )

    Related is the constant, constant assumption that is = ought, or that specific people are advocating such a view (when this is in fact not clear or mistaken). This arguably shows up in your criticism of Darwin, where you take what he believed (largely incorrectly) to be empirically descriptive claims, and conclude that they were intended as morally prescriptive claims, which is at least not unquestionably obvious. Meanwhile, Dawkins continually makes the same distinction – in fact, calls on us to rebel[] against our selfish genes – as he writes (on the second page):

    I prefer to agree that natural selection is the dominant force in biological evolution, admit its unpleasantness, and fight against it as a human being. I hear the bleak sermon of the Devil’s Chaplain as a call to arms. As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs. I have always held true to the closing words of my first book, ‘We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.’
    If you seem to smell inconsistency or even contradiction, you are mistaken. There is no inconsistency in favouring Darwinism as an academic scientist while opposing it as a human being; any more than there is inconsistency in explaining cancer as an academic doctor while fighting it as a practising one. For good Darwinian reasons, evolution gave us a brain whose size increased to the point where it became capable of understanding its own provenance, of deploring the moral implications and of fighting against them. Every time we use contraception we demonstrate that brains can thwart Darwinian designs. If, as my wife suggests to me, selfish genes are Frankensteins and all life their monster, it is only we that can complete the fable by turning against our creators. Yes, man can be vile too, but we are the only potential island of refuge from the implications of the Devil’s Chaplain: from the cruelty, and the clumsy, blundering waste.

    One can certainly disagree with this particular view of life, there are lots of issues here, and of course, it’s never that simple: Dawkins can’t guarantee that everyone glomming onto his description will in fact also take his conclusion, and not a far less congenial one, and it may be that there are even features of the social/political environment that render this less likely. But this isn’t a simple call to thatcherism.

    What’s rather annoying is how everything gets twisted around a philosophical and political debate about the nature of humanity. (Which of course is a somewhat ivory-towerish response on my part, to be sure . . .)

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  40. Dan S. says:

    Perhaps another useful analogy might be the Robin Morgan essay Echidne writes about, which seems to have gotten some folks angry . . .

    Her piece presses all the buttons, some more carelessly than others, and wades straight into the major controversies of this Democratic primary, but it also says some very important things. . . .

    Like

  41. Dan S. says:

    I’d like some examples of creationists who describe the processes of evolution as having happened over more than three billion years,

    Mike Behe, at least the Behe of Darwin’s Black Box“. Sortakinda.

    and who makes a definitive argument against “intelligent design” ever being taught in a science classroom

    The Discovery Institute. – At least, an argument.

    The other two, I’ll certainly grant you.

    One of the occupational hazards of constantly dealing with institutionalized dishonesty is that is really undermines trust (interestingly, Roy Rapport has argued that “aspects of religion, particularly as generated in ritual, ameliorate problems of falsehood intrinsic to language to a degree sufficient to allow human sociability to have developed and to be maintained“). Blech. Now, I certainly never thought you were a creationist, and indeed said as much over at Echidne’s. It’s more along the lines of some lax pro-choicer who in pursuing some other cause
    throws out lines and themes about “pro-abortion”, “abortion on demand/of convenience,” “contraceptive mentality”, “selfishness”, “unborn children” “genocide!” and so on, while making genuinely important points about racism, eugenics, power, etc. (I think I’ve already mentioned Killing the Black Body, right? (Not that it did this, I mean – as a reference to those real issues). . . .

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  42. If you want my views, read my post. Ignore the tags — that’s for cataloging purposes.

    Ed, I used to work in a library, back in the card catalog days, only an idiot would assign tracings that didn’t demonstrate the theme of an article to be cataloged. As you wrote the thing, I’d imagine it’s not irrelevant.

    As it happens I did read the post you referred to and also looked around your blog. Certainly you remember writing this recently.

    Dawkins fans take on Campolo
    January 24, 2008

    Richard Dawkins’ blog reposted Campolo’s opinion piece. Comments are rather brutal, on both sides — I think it’s all semi-safe for work, not safe for classrooms.

    Creationists get nasty when they can’t find evidence to support their claim that Darwin was racist, or to make any kind of signficance argument.

    Since only a complete idiot could have read what I wrote and thought it supported creationism, why would you have made the comparison between me and someone you believe to be a creationist.

    I’d like some examples of creationists who describe the processes of evolution as having happened over more than three billion years, who says that people who don’t accept Evolution happend can’t be taken seriously, condemns the Republican party, the party of creationism for their moral hypocrisy and who makes a definitive argument against “intelligent design” ever being taught in a science classroom.

    Find me such a creationist and I’ll modify my belief that you’re not just trying to wriggle out of acknowledging that you misrepresented what I wrote by comparing it to what you believe to be covert creationism.

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  43. “Darwinism”

    You’re not still going on about that, are you? If you don’t like the word take it up with Dawkins. As I proved to you he uses it to describe his rather irrationally expansive ideology – which I’ve got a feeling would have shocked old Darwin quite badly. As I’ve never used the word in a Best Seller, I’d imagine more people would have read his use of it than mine by a factor of hundreds of thousands.

    What I’d really like to know, since you, unlike Ed, seem to have read what I wrote, what was it that I said that bothered you and why. I’m not going to address the easy marks that seem to be the target of Ed, Mike, you and the rest since I never expressed approval for those ideas. I would rather do it by e-mail. You can find my address, it’s not a secret.

    What other ideas have been declared off-limits by you guys? Not that I’m going to observe those boundaries, just I’d like a more inclusive list of what to write about in the future?

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  44. Dan S. says:

    Dan S. didn’t you get the message earlier, that kind of Christian baiting is so far off the mark as to be laughable.

    I’m not (intentionally, at least) Christian-baiting (one can only catch Jesus Fish with them anyway . . .) If anything, you’re ‘Darwinist’-baiting (although perhaps also not intentionally). I was just struck at the language you were using here: first about “idol worshippers”, and then the ‘well, then you’re saying he was ga-ga!’ that echoes – to my ear – C. S. Lewis’ classic trilemma (which I not only misspelled, but forgetfully misstated: it’s ‘Liar, Lunatic, or Lord’ – I though the incomplete alliteration sounded off!)

    But was that last purposeful? I don’t know – if anything, I’d guess no, certainly not at that level of specificity, although it may well be rhetorically bouncing off your ‘darwinists, darwinists, darwinists! idol worship!’ thing. Perthaps this sort of hothouse-intense derivation of entire sensibilities and ideologies from isolated statements can be tricky at times?

    Anyway, given that – as you presumably know – the anti-evolution folks have been constantly trying to frame “Darwinism” as merely a twisted secular religion – even arguing that teaching modern evolutionary bio in public schools is a 1st amendment violation that must be balanced by presenting creationism (in fact, our host here has a recent post about a law review article eviscerating one such attempt (although said article’s a little bit less nuanced than I’d like . . .). It would be nice if you didn’t idly reinforce their attempts. Now, if you feel this represents a really important insight, ok, that’s different – but if you’ve made such a case, it must have gone over my head. (All too likely . . .).

    Like

  45. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony, you really do need to reduce your caffeine or other cause of paranoia a notch or three. Your claim that my tags for a post constitute an argument against you is bizarre, twisted and silly. That it takes you three or four posts to get it out is just a testament to your rhetorical constipation, and no reflection on my arguments, or my many imprecations to you to just come out and say what you want to say.

    Rereading your essays today I was struck by how well your arguments are buried beneath your phrasing. Were you arguing against determinism? Since Darwin was not a determinist, he’s an odd object to pick to shoot at. The more you write, the more it becomes clear that you not only don’t know what Darwin said, you’re not sure what you were trying to say.

    If you want my views, read my post. Ignore the tags — that’s for cataloging purposes. Since you quoted the creationist essay from Robinson, since you made the same creationist-friendly errors Tony Campolo made which I had recently posted about, noting the creationist connection in the tags was an easy way for me to keep track of the post.

    You thought the tag an accusation against you? You’re wound tighter than I ever imagined.

    When you posted the tag, I wondered if your gripe didn’t have something to do with the date. Since you made zero explanation, I didn’t know what your gripe was.

    Now I see, that’s your modus operandus.

    Like

  46. Dan S. didn’t you get the message earlier, that kind of Christian baiting is so far off the mark as to be laughable. If you read the archive at Echidne’s you’ll find why. Look in Septembers and Februaries, if memory serves. Oh, and, Dan S. E-mail me, I think we should talk.

    Ed, I’m beginning to find this fascinating. “I didn’t say what your piece was about” “what problem doyou see with the tag information” Are you capable of not contradicting yourself in two subsequent comments? I will say that I’ve learned a lot about people who think its their job to enforce limits in what can be discussed on the blogs, though I’d learned that in past conflicts with folks like you who lied about other things I’d written.

    Like

  47. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony, what problem do you see with the tag information? What a bizarre thing to pick nits from.

    Like

  48. Dan S. says:

    To think he didn’t mean what he wrote is the kind of double-talk you get from idol worshipers, ironically, it is tantamount to saying he was ga-ga when he wrote it

    No, no, that’s Jesus that the ‘madman, liar, or Lord’ trilema applies to (or not). Nobody thinks Darwin was an infalliable prophet/deity – just a imperfect human being who did some pretty neat science.

    Anyway, I prefer idle worshippers, myself . . .

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  49. Ed, how in the world do you expect anyone who can read at a fourth grade level to take you seriously.

    Look above, Readers.

    This entry was posted on January 30, 2008 at 11:16 pm and is filed under Accuracy, Charles Darwin, Creationism, Darwin, Racism, Science. Tagged: Creationism, Darwin, Evolution, Weblogs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  50. Ed Darrell says:

    I didn’t say what your piece was about, Anthony, only that you had completely misunderstood and distorted Darwin’s words. THEN you protested that you are not creationist. Okay, you’re not creationist. You’re a creationist dupe.

    Your reading of Darwin is in error. To use Darwin as a foil for a rant against or for determinism is evidentiary error.

    Did you cite Darwin to support any point you made? Yes. Did you say Darwin was sad that poor people and people of color survived? Yes. Were you wrong in your interpretation? Yes, overwhelmingly so.

    Do you know what racism is?

    You’re almost right, very little of what you said about Darwin was true.

    I don’t know why you think gross errors of fact should be allowed even had I just skimmed your article. If you want a more thorough thrashing, I suppose it could be arranged, but it would be tedious. Did you bother to read the Tony Campolo piece and my response to it? He used the same essay you used as a jumping off point, and made the same errors. He’s not a creationist, either, he claims. That doesn’t excuse the error. Campolo’s piece was a mess, but much shorter than yours — he had a better editor, I presume. In any case, I’m sure someone could be found to dissect all of the errors in your essay if you’re that anxious. As I said, it would be tedious.

    I simply picked one place where your essay ran completely off the rails. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t intend it to run off the rails. What matters is that on issues of fact, your essay got the stuff wrong. Dead wrong. Wrong though there are volumes written about it you could check. Wrong even though the same chapter you claim to have read has the real stuff from Darwin himself. Viciously wrong in your bulldog determination to cling to scurrilous and unsupportable calumny against a great man. I can think of no defense of such error that makes failure to correct it reasonable.

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  51. ???? I think accusing me of holding with creationism was a lot more vicious than anything I said to Ed or Mike.

    If Ed wanted to put it to rest he could have said that he’d gotten it wrong that the piece I wrote wasn’t about Darwin’s racism and it was not some kind of covert support of creationism. Instead he repeatedly said it was and then tried to change the subject, absurdly accusing me of a third thing which was the opposite of what I’d said.

    I think that, as he demonstrated on the comment threads where the parts of the essay were posted, he skimmed a fairly long piece, picked out a few words and thought he could get an easy post that would reinforce the habitual thinking of his readers. Mike and the rest of Ed’s fans seem to show that kind of nonthinking is virulent at this site.

    Only trouble is, none of it was true. I thought I should let him know that it wasn’t going to be that easy to get away with it.

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  52. Ed Darrell says:

    Catty, indeed. Or funny as hell.

    After claiming Darwin advocated killing poor people, Anthony said:

    Just don’t ever lie about something I write again.

    If I ever wanted to tell a lie about your writing, Anthony, I couldn’t invent stuff as funny and bizarre as what you actually write. Why would anyone lie about it? How could they?

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  53. びっくり says:

    Wow, this thread is very vicious and catty. I made the mistake of posting a comment and now the “My Comments” tracker reminds me every time someone adds to the pain. On the positive side, it has made me think of improvements to suggest to the programmers. I should be able to remove threads from the tracker.

    Anyhow, I hope you all find a way to put this to rest before someone is threatened or something. (Mike is almost there with his veiled threat or wish.)

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  54. Do you know what quote mining is?
    – Yes, and if I hadn’t your leaving off the rest of that paragraph would certainly be a good example of it.

    As it happens I addressed the paragraph in my essay, pointing out that Darwin undermined his rather irrational demurral as he was making it, only I quoted the entire paragraph that you cut off.

    I’ll give you a definition, because it seems you don’t – selectively quoting someone in order to give a misleading impression of his/her views, especially when that person supports a view you don’t agree with.

    – You agree that it’s too bad that in civilized countries it’s unfortunate that the ‘weaker members’ of society live long enough to produce offspring, because that’s what Darwin said. Nothing that he subsequently said erased that he had predicted allowing that to happen would almost certainly lead to bad results for the entire species:

    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.

    If you don’t agree with that, and as I point out Darwin didn’t provide any real scientific data to back up his contention that things like vaccination would degrade the species, why shouldn’t it be pointed out?

    I wish you or one of the other brilliant people here would engage me on the actual points I tried to make, that people who advocated biological determinism never apply their thinking to themselves and their families and that biological determinism of any kind requires a rejection of equality and the efficacy of reason to over ride it to produce something like a common good. Darwin really wasn’t the point of it, though I figured I might as well go to the source of most modern biological determinism and get it said.

    If you have some problem with what I said instead of making easy points about things I never said, I’d be glad to consider them.

    But lies and cover-up in service to science? No wonder the creationists have two-thirds of the public hoodwinked.

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  55. Mike says:

    Ah, Mike. Just popped in to see if you would show up.

    I mean that much to you? Wow… How flattering!

    Your calling for the Ministry of Truth is more than ironic, considering your charge of “quote mining”, of which anyone who had read what Ed misrepresented would know was false, and being guilty of it yourself within the same comment.

    Not by a long shot, chief. Do you even get the Ministry reference? Do you know what quote mining is? I’ll give you a definition, because it seems you don’t – selectively quoting someone in order to give a misleading impression of his/her views, especially when that person supports a view you don’t agree with.

    What’s your next trick, anyway? Is it this quotation?

    To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.

    You may not believe in Creationism, but you’re certainly playing by their strategy book, right down to the accusations of “idol worship”.

    Just don’t ever lie about something I write again.

    Except, of course, for when you’re dead and can’t defend yourself against the distortions. In fact, I will keep the following “quotations” from you handy, just in case:

    I’m […] an advocate of creationism.

    I’m going to […] lie about something[…]

    That OK with you?

    Like

  56. By the time Darwin wrote The Descent of Man, where the passage comes from, he was a very experienced writer who was used to having his language dissected by both those hostile to science and by scientists. To think he didn’t mean what he wrote is the kind of double-talk you get from idol worshipers, ironically, it is tantamount to saying he was ga-ga when he wrote it. I think he knew what he was writing and that it is clear he knew what happens to animals on the farm…..

    Ed, I’m going to let you get on with your idol worship. Just don’t ever lie about something I write again.

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  57. Ed Darrell says:

    I didn’t think this was complicated, Anthony, but let me try to make it simple for you. You write (Darwin doesn’t):

    Darwin regretted that the lower orders will be saved from necessary pruning by our sentimentality.

    That’s false. The claim that Darwin regretted anyone was saved for any reason is a crank claim, false. It is, in your terms, a lie. That’s not what Darwin said.

    Oh, Darwin mused about the effects of humans stopping the effects of natural selection. You’re in that section of the book where he ponders the issue. But you miss his point entirely (he said natural selection is still at work), and you unfairly and inaccurately impugn the motives and claims of Darwin — he said humans must act altruistically to save the poor, weak, and handicapped since that is a part of our instincts, part of our inherited genetic fiber, and it’s the sort of instinct that helps our species survive.

    You say:

    That is as clear as the words he wrote. He was afraid that the level of charity current in mid 19th century, the time of Dickens’ England, was too much charity due to its impeding natural selection.

    More incorrect statements. It’s not clear to anyone who reads the entire chapter, and it’s contrary to Darwin’s character for anyone familiar with his life and other writings. You do not appear to be among those familiar with Darwin’s life or writings.

    Darwin was writing in the late 1860s (the book was published in 1872). You invoke Dickens, but Dickens’ work was generally much earlier, about the Poor Law of 1834. I noted the quick history out of Wikipedia, but you sniffed that you don’t stoop to such sources (accuracy being something you’re allergic to, I imagine the real reason); but you cannot deny that the poor laws had been modified by 1862 as Wikipedia notes, so that the goal was not to force people to die, but rather to aid those who genuinely needed help. Were you familiar with Darwin’s other work, you’d see how bizarre your claim is. You invoke Herbert Spencer’s “social Darwinism” here, unknowingly. You make no reconciliation for the fact that Darwin despised Spencer’s views on social customs and laws. In short, you claim Darwin felt exactly the opposite of what he wrote he felt; when I give you a graceful exit chance, by pointing out the change in the laws, you insult me rather than deal with the argument. With such antisocial behaviors and so much animosity, it’s no wonder you gravitate to Spencer rather than Darwin.

    Pragmatically, this was more than three decades after the Dickensian England you refer to. Had the Poor Law of 1834 done what you claim Darwin feared, it would have already been evident. Darwin was a voracious consumer of scientific papers and social commentary — you’ll note that he does not make any reference to support your version of events. That was not his aim, and there was no science to support the conclusion you erroneously draw.

    Then you blame Darwin for what you claim. Bizarre. You seem to be unclear on this issue. Those are your words, not Darwin’s. You claim Darwin drew a conclusion, but there is no evidence Darwin did that, and much evidence to the contrary.

    Darwin never, never, never wrote that it was “too much charity.
    ” I’ve challenged you a half dozen times to produce words to that effect. You know blessed well those words do not exist.

    Not that Darwin means to subject himself to natural selection.

    You really act the cur on this issue. Darwin flagellated himself for years over the death of Annie, his daughter, because he feared that by marrying his cousin, he might have contributed in some way to genetic weaknesses that caused her suffering. It’s likely that she died of a strep infection, and that genetics played no role whatever. Your complete disregard for the love of a father for his daughter, for his anguish at her suffering and death, and for words he expended saying exactly the opposite of your claim, demonstrate a sort of depravity that I hope would shock even you, were you aware of what you write.

    It’s not a case of my misquoting you at all. It’s that your writings are wrong on the facts. Darwin didn’t write what you claim he did.

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  58. Ed Darrell, every time you address what the essay you mischarecterize, you show that you didn’t read it. I said this in the two sentences after introducing the specimen of Darwin’s writitng for political analysis,

    Darwin regretted that the lower orders will be saved from necessary pruning by our sentimentality. That is as clear as the words he wrote. He was afraid that the level of charity current in mid 19th century, the time of Dickens’ England, was too much charity due to its impeding natural selection. Not that Darwin means to subject himself to natural selection.

    If it is too complicated for you to realize that this included the ‘poor laws’ mentioned in the quote immediately above it and which it references, you have no business passing yourself off as a scholar. You are the one who said that I claimed Darwin approved of the New Poor Law and the pathetic ‘reform’ of that ‘reform’ you care clinging to for dear life. As you can see, once I saw you had added that characterization to the rest you made of what I wrote, I tried to correct you. You need remedial reading practice more than you do practice using word search of online documents.

    I hope you have learned that I don’t take too kindly to people lying about something I wrote, trying to associate me with creationism and pseudo-christian fundamentalism in order to get a quick blog post for the edification of like minded ‘scholars’.

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  59. Ed Darrell says:

    Astounding. You bring up the poor laws, and then accuse me of using it as a smokescreen!

    Next: An essay about misjournalistic determinism.

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  60. In the unlikelihood that anyone here reads the excerpts I provided earlier today and compares it to your original post which entirely misrepresents it and the refutation of your smokescreen issue about the poor laws Darwin clearly regrets as being too generous to the underclass, I think they have enough evidence to see that you have misrepresented what I wrote. Though I’d suggest you go read the whole essay at my website linked through my name to see for yourself. I’m hard on Darwin but haven’t lied about him.

    Since my essay is a political analysis of biological determinism and the impossibility to sustain democracy if it is believed, it’s clear you aren’t going to get a fair representation of it from Ed Darrell, whose “striving for accuracy” seems to be conditioned by what he likes and what he doesn’t.

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  61. Ed Darrell says:

    Darwin was a man with a great social conscience.
    – Who regretted that, among others, the degenerate Irish were bringing down the species through over breeding, not that most of his idols ever read that chapter in Descent of Man.

    Balderdash. You failed to read the chapter. Darwin held out no more love for any people other than the British than did any Victorian — but this claim is pure balderdash. “Bringing down the species through overbreeding” — your words, not Darwin’s. You have not a shred of evidence that Darwin shared that view, whether it is yours or not. It is scurrilous and foul for you to claim it is Darwin’s.

    He was a loving father, a loving husband, and a great humanitarian.
    – Who regretted that vaccination was letting too many of the underbred in ‘civilised’ countries survive long enough to have children of their own. Ibid

    “Ibid” to what? You still offer no citations. Your claims are false. Darwin didn’t say that. You don’t contest in any fashion that Darwin was a loving father — couldn’t. Had he “regretted” vaccination, the point stands that you slander a man every acknowledges as a loving father and doting husband. That your slams are so out of character with Darwin’s life doesn’t seem to phase you.

    Gee, Anthony: Have you found the line in Desmond and Moore about Emma calling Darwin a “regular bigot?” Will you trot that out next?

    You never have responded to the facts: In Descent of Man Darwin noted that the Tasmanians were superior to Europeans, and yet would likely succumb to the brutal genocide waged against them. Why haven’t you responded? It directly refutes all of your claims against Darwin. You hope you can repeat the false claims often enough anyone will forget? Shame on you.

    Darwin did not say, anywhere, any time, that he “regretted” vaccinations let anyone survive to bear children. Didn’t happen.

    If you wish to assault the character of a life-long, tithing Christian
    – You want to watch that kind of talk, Ed. I’ve got a strong feeling that it might upset a good part of your audience. Oh, yes, who was actually an agnostic.

    Accuracy, Anthony. Darwin never left the church. He tithed to his death. He was active in parish affairs, supporting several Sunday school classes and missionaries in addition. He raised his children in the church. Odd agnostic.

    I suspect you may have found that one letter, a private one, in which he expressed doubts about God, and complained at how the “faithful” had distorted the words of his father and brother, and slandered them. But I wager you didn’t read it through, and that you can’t tell us when it was written, or support your claim with any other evidence. It’s not there.

    Darwin was no creationist at the end, of course. He couldn’t lie well enough to get into that club. Nor did he want to.

    If you want to make the case that Darwin showed different faces, I’m powerless to stop you.

    I won’t make such a false argument. If you care to try, you might want to hit the books first. There’s no evidence.

    There are no different faces of Darwin. Your claims are simply false. You fail to document any part of your claim beyond the one paragraph you ripped untimely from the womb of the chapter.

    You’re only powerless because you lack the facts. The only strength I have in this argument is the strength of the truth. History is well recorded in these issues. History doesn’t support your position.

    You should read chapter 5 of Descent of Man sometime. Darwin notes that virtue is necessary for humans. He says we cannot commit genocide against the weak without losing our humanity. He explains how reverence for the Golden Rule could evolve, ingraining itself into our very instincts.

    It’s a Darwin anyone could admire. And it’s 180 degrees at odds with the false picture you try to paint.

    Like

  62. Darwin was a man with a great social conscience.
    – Who regretted that, among others, the degenerate Irish were bringing down the species through over breeding, not that most of his idols ever read that chapter in Descent of Man.

    He was a loving father, a loving husband, and a great humanitarian.
    – Who regretted that vaccination was letting too many of the underbred in ‘civilised’ countries survive long enough to have children of their own. Ibid

    If you wish to assault the character of a life-long, tithing Christian
    – You want to watch that kind of talk, Ed. I’ve got a strong feeling that it might upset a good part of your audience. Oh, yes, who was actually an agnostic.

    If you want to make the case that Darwin showed different faces, I’m powerless to stop you.

    Like

  63. And you think this greater-than-accused character assassination is excusable . . . how?

    I read him.

    You’d better watch those pearls, dear. They’ll never stand the strain.

    Like

  64. Ed Darrell says:

    I see: You didn’t accuse Darwin of being just ogrely like Scrooge — you accused him of being genuinely evil like Idi Amin!

    And you think this greater-than-accused character assassination is excusable . . . how?

    Anthony, what is your point about Darwin? If you’re not accusing him of racism, bigotry, sexism and social Darwinism, why do you even mention him and his work?

    If you weren’t trying to obscure your error on the poor laws, why don’t you just explain what in the hell your point about them is? Now your claim is that Darwin liked the earlier poor laws because of their draconian qualities? My point still stands: You’ve offered not a shred of evidence to support such a scurrilous and bizarre claim, nor will you ever be able to find any since it is so out of character for Darwin.

    Darwin was a man with a great social conscience. He was a loving father, a loving husband, and a great humanitarian. If you wish to assault the character of a life-long, tithing Christian who threw his support to the abolition of slavery and other forms of sanctioned social injustice, you need to pick on someone who actually did the things you claim they did, and who actually wrote the things you claim they wrote.

    Darwin is not that person. Darwin was far from an evil man. Darwin did not advocate any of the evil things you claim. When you pick silly nits with rebuttals, you adopt the anti-intellect air of the creationist. Then when you adopt creationist claims wholesale (that Darwin did the evil things you claim), excuse us when we note, accurately, that you act like a creationist. If you don’t want to be labeled as such, stop digging the blessed hole you’re in, stop using creationist tactics, and stop making stuff up about Darwin.

    If you wish to be known as a person familiar with Darwin, you should read his work.

    And then, quote him accurately.

    Like

  65. And as you can see from this, Ed doesn’t even read his own blog carefully.

    Now he’s claiming Darwin favored the draconian poor laws of the first half of the 19th century rather than the later, more humane poor laws passed a few years before

    Anthony McCarthy Says:
    February 2, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    There is no indication that Darwin approved of them in any fashion.

    I didn’t say he did, in fact the passage I analyzed showed that he didn’t approve of them because they kept too many of the “weaker members” alive till child bearing age.

    Like

  66. Readers: Here is how the essay your host is characterizing as a creationist tract begins:

    EVOLUTION is long. Really, really long. It encompasses the entire duration of life on the planet Earth. Most commonly that is thought today to be a period of more than three billion years. That’s a number we are all familiar with hearing but getting your mind around what even one billion – 1,000,000,000 – years really consists of is impossible. What could a billion years mean to a person? What would the first, the last and all of the varied unknown and unrecorded days, seasons, years and ages in between years one and one billion mean. They are incomprehensible in their vast duration and compass of possible experience in terms of even the longest human life span. We have no frame of reference.

    And not only is EVOLUTION (upper case) long, it is also large in numbers, encompassing, literally, all of the lives of all of the organisms that have ever existed. All of the organisms which have reproduced or been produced. That number is of many magnitudes larger than even the incomprehensible billions of years already mentioned. Consider, just as a sample of the complications, the known time periods between generations of living species of rodents, and of one-celled organisms. Consider the number of fertile eggs some species of plants, insects and mollusks produce in one reproductive cycle. Each of the surviving, reproducing individuals was and is a variation, many have the possibility of having an effect on future generations. Leaving the entirely relevant question of individuals aside, imagining even the number of what we might classify as species, each comprising subspecies, varieties, and other sub groupings is incomprehensible.

    Here are three other excerpts from the same essay:

    Robinson points out ironies in her essay, none greater than the fact that the Darwinists and those who agitate for creationism effectively share the same economic morality. Looking at Republican social policy of the past thirty years, you see a practical attempt to remove any barriers to brutal selection forces. Only it’s called ‘competition’.

    Yet he condemned it as a too charitable hindrance to natural selection. Like the present “reforms” in the United States, forcing “competition” onto the weakest members of society, producing cohersive misery was its intended result. It is a bitter irony that the party embracing creationism and opposing EVOLUTION, has made this feature of Darwinian-Malthusian morality the dogma and law of the United States.

    Science absolutely depends on the observation of the physical universe, the physical universe is what it was made to study, it can’t study anything else. That is why assertions of intelligent design, even if it was true, have absolutely no place in a science classroom. You would think that religious believers would take it as an act of desecration to assert that science could perceive God who we are told you cannot see and live. If it is an act of blasphemy to put God to the test of statistical analysis, though, isn’t my subject here.

    So what are you going to believe, what the essay says or what Ed says it says?

    Like

  67. Ed Darrell says:

    Readers: Claiming he’s no creationist, Anthony McCarthy follows the creationist habit of digging a hole into misinformation, and then when he realizes he’s in a hole, he digs harder in a vain hope to get out.

    Take a look here at his blog.

    Now he’s claiming Darwin favored the draconian poor laws of the first half of the 19th century rather than the later, more humane poor laws passed a few years before Darwin mentioned them off-handedly in a phrase, and he’s claiming Darwin’s views can be determined by Anthony much better than by the actual history; and he doesn’t like Wikipedia as a source (argument from authority by implication?), though he has no other source to rebut (Wikipedia is right about this one, as usual). Plus he’s claiming that several people in biology think he was on to something with the original essay, which Anthony still can’t summarize — direct argument from authority.

    He knows words; it’s facts that elude his grasp, history and science.

    How many times must we suffer through someone’s bad arguments made worse by their trying to kick the reputation of a dead, great scientist?

    Like

  68. Note To New Readers by Anthony McCarthy

    These are words.

    To know what they mean you have to read all of them.

    Yes, this can be hard but it is how they work. They do not work if you won’t.

    Like

  69. Ed Darrell says:

    Well, I coulda guessed you didn’t come back to discuss or list your citations.

    Like

  70. Excuse me, but I’m offended.

    Poor baby. I should have dedicated one of my posts yesterday, to you. You inspired it.

    I just came to copy the links you have above.

    Like

  71. Ed Darrell says:

    Here, Anthony. This is from your essay:

    Darwin clearly didn’t think they would in this case. After Malthus, he warned of dire consequences that were practically certain to result if what he identifies as the “weak members” of the human species happened to leave descendants. He all but guarantees that if they live to reproduce, disaster for the entire population will result. Inequality is assumed as a given, it is assumed to be an intrinsic part of the operation of natural selection, even in its assumed govenance of the political lives of reasoning humans

    1. Darwin never warned of “dire consequences” that would result if the handicapped were allowed to survive. Quite the contrary, he warned that if we did not help out those people who need help, our species is doomed. You get this exactly backwards.

    2. Darwin never suggests any legal means be used to cement biological differences. Darwin was more careful than that — but your entire thesis rests on the incorrect premise that Darwin, and most scientists in biology since, urge that laws be used to enforce some odd, distorted view of natural selection.

    Anthony, let me say first you misunderstand democracy, and especially the democratic republic we live in. If I had to guess, I’d guess you’ve never seriously read James Madison, perhaps never even read any of the Federalist Papers. Our democratic republic is not premised on the idea that in a democracy, the people are always right; our government is structured assuming, as Madison said, that people are NOT angels — therefore, policy is formed in a crucible heated by the debates of interests from many different views. Our system of democratic government is premised on the idea that most people will be wrong, much of the time, but that a contest of interests will usually yield better policies.

    Your description of how democracies work is wrong.

    But you also misunderstand natural selection, and the science around it, badly. You assume Darwin and other scientists wish to advocate natural selection as the best way to run things, when the reality is that is the opposite of what they wrote, and nearly the opposite of what they urged. Darwin was an observer of nature, not a political philosopher. His observations were historic, not prognostications. He was talking about what is, not what ought to be. And Darwin was generally very careful to avoid political discussions in his writing — he was writing science.

    So when you assume Darwin was doing what he did not do, you start out from one incorrect premise. When you assume democracy should work the opposite of the way our government was designed to work, you make another wrong assumption. When you assume Darwin was not writing about nature, and was not writing about observations of what happened, you just compound the errors.

    Why not back up now, and either show where Darwin, and Madison, said what you claim, or change your premises to reflect reality.

    There are very few good ideas which cannot be summarized in a concise, 30-second statement. There are a lot of really bad ideas that get papered over and glued to the wall with a lot of words and extreme, if sometimes sincere, bloviation. Now you threaten to write more.

    Oy.

    Like

  72. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony, let me ask again: What is your point? What is your thesis?

    You quote Darwin, you say he calls for “letting the weaker ones die;” then you back off, saying you didn’t say that; then you spend a week saying that’s clearly what Darwin meant, though he didn’t say it. You allege, without any evidence, that Darwin approved of the Poor Act because it allowed people to die, and when I ask for a citation, you accuse me of being unfamiliar with the laws, as if that would change what Darwin said about them.

    Scholarship without reading? Yes, you’ve demonstrated that in abundance. How many times have I asked whether you’ve read Darwin? Five? Six? You’ve never responded. You don’t provide any citations to anything other than one paragraph you borrowed from another misguided essayist.

    You now feel no obligation to back up anything you said, but you accuse me of lying about what you wrote.

    Excuse me, but I’m offended. Plus I’m angry at your scurrilous charges.

    There’s an old saw that you can’t reason a man out of a position that he didn’t get to by reason.

    Darwin never said that anything “kept too many of the ‘weaker members’ alive till child bearing age.” That’s a crock. Every claim you make in this exchange is a step away from the facts.

    Am I wrong? Show us where Darwin said too many “weaker” people were kept alive. Quote the passage. Tell us where it is. Don’t put your words in place of Darwin’s — show us.

    One of us is due an apology. At this juncture, it doesn’t appear to me that you are that one.

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  73. There is no indication that Darwin approved of them in any fashion.

    I didn’t say he did, in fact the passage I analyzed showed that he didn’t approve of them because they kept too many of the “weaker members” alive till child bearing age.

    I’ve copied this and the rest of our interchanges, Ed. I’m writing a new piece tentatively entitled Scholarship Without Reading, Accuracy Without Truth. If you had not lied about what I wrote and refused to correct when that was pointed out I’d ask permission to use what you and your fans had written. As it is, I don’t feel under any obligation to ask for that.

    Like

  74. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony said:

    There was every reason to believe that there were those who would overcome their sentimentality in order to let the “weaker members” die, it was done all the time in England as well as around the world.

    I’m really impressed with the thorough scholarship done here.

    You done what I suggested you do at my blog, Ed, and look up those English poor laws you were so baffled about?

    1. There is no reason to think that Darwin ever urged letting “weaker” members of the population die. I challenged Anthony to produce any writing of Darwin’s in which he said such a thing. Anthony has failed to back his claim. Darwin never urged letting anyone die.

    2. I looked up the poor laws again, and discovered my memory was correct: There is no indication that Darwin approved of them in any fashion. The Poor Act of 1834 was passed while Darwin was out of the country. Herbert Spencer appears to have had some approving words to say about it, but I can find nothing from Darwin approving it.

    Anthony, I ask for at least the second time (third, I think): What is your claim about Darwin and the poor laws? Yes, the laws were brutal. No, Darwin didn’t approve them.

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  75. Ed Darrell says:

    What have I said that you claim is false, Anthony? For more than 15 days now I have challenged you to offer citations showing Darwin actually said what you claim. You have not provided anything other than the one paragraph you originally cited. Bad and others provided extensive links and quotes from that same writing which directly refute your claims. You keep saying I am wrong, but you refuse to show where.

    I think fair readers can see the facts. I’ve linked to, and now provided the entire chapter 5 of Descent of Man, from which you quote. Particularly in the context of that chapter, where Darwin inveighs against genocide and says humans would give up their humanity to do what you claim, and particularly in the light of Darwin’s life, which included his and his family’s campaigns against racism and campaigns to abolish slavery, your comments are just bizarre.

    Darwin never called for murder, and he wrote against it. Darwin was not a racist, including people of all races and creeds among his friends, and writing and campaigning against racism. Darwin did not call for “culling” of the human race or genocide, but instead wrote that it would damage our genetic heritage (though he didn’t call it genetics), would be contrary to our evolutionarily-developed and religious morals, and would simply be wrong.

    What in the hell was your point? I can’t tell, and you apparently can’t summarize it either.

    In that case, your sticking to erroneous claims about Darwin makes your actions denial of history and science. Shame on you. Still.

    Like

  76. Bad says:

    All of these excerpts are in that same chapter from which you quote; how in the world did you miss them the first time?

    The answer to this question is almost always because the person in question has never read the chapter: they culled the list of carefully edited quotes from somewhere else.

    Like

  77. Mike Says:
    February 1, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Would now be an appropriate time for a Ministry of Truth reference, or would it be too obvious?

    Ah, Mike. Just popped in to see if you would show up. Your calling for the Ministry of Truth is more than ironic, considering your charge of “quote mining”, of which anyone who had read what Ed misrepresented would know was false, and being guilty of it yourself within the same comment.

    But it’s not as ironic as Ed’s false advertisment:

    Striving for accuracy in history, economics, geography, education, and a little science

    Lies Are Truth, would be a more accurate slogan.

    Like

  78. びっくり says:

    Really, it doesn’t matter if Darwin was racist… he’s dead! What does matter is the flawed logic behind his theories and how we latch onto them in spite of the paucity of quantifiable evidence.

    Like

  79. Ed Darrell says:

    Depends, Mike: Which one of us gets slapped with it? ;-)

    Like

  80. Mike says:

    Would now be an appropriate time for a Ministry of Truth reference, or would it be too obvious?

    Like

  81. Ed Darrell says:

    I prefer to think of it as a groove. I demand that you be accurate. If you refuse, that’s your problem, not mine.

    Virtue is not a rut. Accuracy is not lying.

    Like

  82. Ed, I’ve got a rule. I give habitual liars one chance then I stop trying to reason with them. You are invincibly stuck in a mental rut.

    Like

  83. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony, perhaps you could tell me what I’ve accused you of that you have not done — with a reference to your essay? I think your essay speaks for itself, but for the life of me I cannot figure out what your gripe is.

    You’re the guy who misquotes Darwin, claiming Darwin urged death to people. Darwin didn’t do that, ever. What else have you said?

    Like

  84. So on Ed Darrell’s blog he can accuse someone of saying something they never did, have it pointed out that they never said it and yet Ed Darrell, continuing to make the charge isn’t lying. Yeah, I’ve got it. Mighty convenient for Ed and his fan club.

    I guess that the people who come to eat at this tree don’t mind that kind of fruit.

    As to my misreading Darwin and coming up with the wrong analysis, I’ll depend on the opinion of people who first read what they comment to instruct me, not people who have no interest in getting it right themselves.

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  85. Ed Darrell says:

    Then what is missing is evidence of biological determinism. You’re assuming an anti-democratic argument where there is no argument at all.

    I’ve told no lie. I only note that you unfairly and inaccurately claim Darwin argued for things Darwin did not argue for. In fact, you claim he made arguments for things he argued against. When challenged, you claim I’m the one telling falsehoods, though were you accurate, it should be easy for you to point to any writing of Darwin’s that supports your claim.

    You’ve got one paragraph from Darwin which you misread with gusto. From that misreading you claim scientific, cultural and political views which are the opposite of what Darwin held.

    No good fruit from poisoned trees, generally.

    Like

  86. Will you stop lying about the premise of my essay? The word “racist” doesn’t appear in it, nor does “racism” or any of the other synonyms that I could think to check for. The accusation of Darwin’s racism isn’t raised in it. Seeing that your readers clearly have no intention of seeing if you are telling the truth by reading it, your lying about it really is rather important. If integrity means anything here.

    I clearly state the purpose of the essay in it:

    Here: The subject wasn’t specifically Darwinism or the dialectic but political theories which do not start with the assumptions necessary for democracy, but in various forms of determinism, biological, historical, and others. All of these theories begin by aspiring to the objective reliability and prestige of science. Some are more scientific, others take the prestige but make do without the objective reliability. The social sciences are replete with examples.

    And here:

    Part Two, analyzed a specimen of thinking which became influential in the general culture. I think any honest observer of evolutionary science and the enormously varied cultural descendants of it would admit that is true. While quotes from other people could have been used, this one encompasses enormous political implications. Since the political implications of this kind of idea are the subject of this essay, that one is entirely fit for the purpose. An idea of science that steps into the mechanics of politics has made itself the proper subject of political analysis. I will finish the analysis begun in Part Two.

    I don’t think that my criticism of the anti-democratic content of biological determinism is one that would serve creationism’s purpose, and apparently it doesn’t suit yours which is to cover up for a series of lies you’ve told about me and about what I’ve written.

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  87. Ed Darrell says:

    I’ve read it all, Anthony. I can’t figure out what your point is, but you misquote Darwin and suggest there is some evil in his work that simply isn’t there. Perhaps if you had a valid point, or a point at all, the misquote wouldn’t stand out so.

    I suppose if you correct the misquotes, you don’t have anything to say at all. Correct the misquotes, start over.

    If you addressed Darwin’s actual writings anywhere I can find, it’s only to dismiss what he actually wrote as “pretending” (as you do above), or to dismiss Darwin’s actual thoughts and statements as somehow not real.

    The quotes from Darwin you offer, with the criticisms you offer of them, are exactly the same criticisms offered by creationists; they are exactly the same criticisms offered by the misguided Tony Campolo (see the link to my criticism of his essay above), and you cite exactly the same paragraphs, from exactly the same 1998 essay.

    What’s to read — for the umpteenth time? I kept going back hoping I’d missed something in your essay and you pulled it out. But I didn’t, and you didn’t.

    Your premise is in error. Darwin was not a racist. Darwin did not advocate genocide. Darwin did not advocate murder. Your claims are bizarre, scurrilous and false. They remain so after I’ve read them several times — they don’t improve with age.

    Can you tell us what your point actually was supposed to be? Do you know? Is there any evidence other than false claims against Darwin that might support your point? Is there any way to distinguish your essay from any creationist screed? I can’t find it.

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  88. Un, Ed. I know he was pretending he hadn’t just bemoaned that a lot of people would die off before they could have children, my point is that he continued to bemoan it even as he pretended he didn’t really mean it.

    You told me you had read the entire essay, Ed. Why didn’t you correct Mike’s assertion that I’d left out the second paragraph when you would have known I addressed it in the essay in stead of leaving him with the impression that his charge of ‘quote mining’ was valid?

    You didn’t read it before you wrote this post, did you. Just as you hadn’t read the second part before you started pretending you had. You still haven’t produced anything I said that what I wrote had the same theme as the creationist screed you compared it to.

    Like

  89. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony quotes Darwin, with emphasis:

    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. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

    What Anthony should read instead:

    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. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

    We could let the weak die, but only if we turn overwhelmingly evil, Darwin said.

    What was your point, Anthony?

    Like

  90. Ed Darrell says:

    Anthony, you’re reading stuff into Darwin’s words. Darwin didn’t say anything about anyone letting people die. He noted that such things didn’t occur as often in “civilized” nations because of altruistic intervention — but there is no way a fair reader would read his words as “lamenting” that such deaths did not happen — especially when he said, as I noted in the last post, that “letting” such deaths occur would run counter to our human nature, and could not happen.

    Yeah, there’s a lot of work on hero worship. You’re obviously unaware of it, as well as unaware of what Darwin wrote.

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  91. Was he talking about death “at the hands of savages?”

    He was talking about the wonderful habit of “savages” letting the “weaker members” among them die before reaching child bearing age. Lamenting that the ‘civilised’ countries wouldn’t allow the same to happen to “imbecile, the maimed, and the sick” , only as so often happens, he underestimated the savagery possible in Europe.

    By the way, Ed, you haven’t happened to remember the passage where I point out he didn’t produce any data to support his contention that vaccination would bring down the species, did you? I wonder how many of you folk would like to stop inoculating your family so as to bring up the quality of the surviving stock.

    I wonder if anyone has ever done any research on the deleterious effects of hero worship on the reasoning ability of scholars. Seems to effect the eyesight and reading abilities as well.

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  92. Mike, apparently you are another of Ed’s readers who didn’t bother to go read the essay he lied about.

    If you had you would have seen that I dealt with this very strange piece of writing, Darwin’s demurral.

    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. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

    And, talking of quote mining, Mike, why did you leave the rest of the paragraph off?
    Note the part I put in bold. He constantly undermines it as he goes.

    We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind*; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage*, though this is more to be hoped for than expected

    There was every reason to believe that there were those who would overcome their sentimentality in order to let the “weaker members” die, it was done all the time in England as well as around the world.

    I’m really impressed with the thorough scholarship done here.

    You done what I suggested you do at my blog, Ed, and look up those English poor laws you were so baffled about?

    Like

  93. Ed Darrell says:

    Ooh, Mike did it much more briefly, and quicker, than I did.

    Like

  94. Ed Darrell says:

    Darwin was talking history, what he had observed among the Tierra del Fuegians, among the aboriginals of the islands of the South Pacific, among the aboriginals of continental South America, and what he had read in treatises from others. Was he talking any one person? No. But it doesn’t take a racist to notice that aboriginal tribes didn’t have wheel chairs. I’m not sure why you think that observation is so astounding.

    Was he talking about death “at the hands of savages?” No. You clearly don’t understand how handicapped children live, or die, in aboriginal groups. For many kids we keep alive today, such as spina bifida victims, death was certain then, and still, in savage groups. Of course, you keep putting the scare quotes around the word “savage,” in an apparent misunderstanding of the term. The term simply meant “uncivilized” in Darwin’s day. The word only got a connotation of brutality after Darwin’s death, and into the 20th century. So if you think Darwin meant “brutal and cruel” when he simply meant “uncivilized,” you could be excused for a small part of your misunderstanding. We’ve discussed this already, as I recall, and you simply refuse to take things in the context they were written in.

    In any case, Darwin never suggests that people kill the weak in body or mind. In the course of natural selection, weak individuals die of starvation, or exposure, when the weather turns, or when they fail to be able to feed themselves. Had you bothered to read the entire chapter, you’d have encountered Darwin’s explanation that humans had to evolve altruism in order to keep such people alive, as he had witnessed, wherever possible.

    So, we can be rather certain Darwin was not talking about anyone dying “at the hands of” anyone else. Those are your words, and your ideas, not Darwin’s.

    Why do you say Darwin is relieved anyone is not around to breed? Darwin didn’t say he was relieved. Those are your words, not Darwin’s. Your criticism of Darwin, therefore, is misdirected again.

    If, as you note, Darwin thinks civilized men superior to uncivilized men, then where do you get the unwarranted claim that Darwin dislikes the idea of preserving those of “weak constitution?” You fail to adhere to the values of even the small selections you cite. You could, were you a more charitable person, read that paragraph to understand Darwin’s ringing endorsement of altruism that preserves the “weak in body or mind” in “civilized” nations. There is no reason from the text to fail to read it that way. You choose to read it contrary. That is your choice, not Darwin’s, unsupported by the rest of the chapter in Darwin’s book. It’s unjust for you to criticize Darwin for your spin on his words.

    I still fail to understand why you simply don’t acknowledge what Darwin wrote in that chapter, which I quoted extensively in comments at Echidne of the Snakes, and which is available in several forms all over the internet

    In the opening paragraphs of the chapter, for example, Darwin notes that humans survive on use of their brains, not by murder. How you missed this, I cannot imagine:

    Of the high importance of the intellectual faculties there can be no doubt, for man mainly owes to them his predominant position in the world. We can see, that in the rudest state of society, the individuals who were the most sagacious, who invented and used the best weapons or traps, and who were best able to defend themselves, would rear the greatest number of offspring. The tribes, which included the largest number of men thus endowed, would increase in number and supplant other tribes. Numbers depend primarily on the means of subsistence, and this depends partly on the physical nature of the country, but in a much higher degree on the arts which are there practised. As a tribe increases and is victorious, it is often still further increased by the absorption of other tribes. (2. After a time the members or tribes which are absorbed into another tribe assume, as Sir Henry Maine remarks (’Ancient Law,’ 1861, p. 131), that they are the co-descendants of the same ancestors.) The stature and strength of the men of a tribe are likewise of some importance for its success, and these depend in part on the nature and amount of the food which can be obtained. In Europe the men of the Bronze period were supplanted by a race more powerful, and, judging from their sword-handles, with larger hands (3. Morlot, ‘Soc. Vaud. Sc. Nat.’ 1860, p. 294.); but their success was probably still more due to their superiority in the arts.

    He’s talking about savages here. If you refuse to read it as Darwin wrote it, I suppose you’d have to ignore this paragraph completely (as you do) — but that’s distorting the text, and Darwin’s meaning. It’s inaccurate, and unfair if you’re failing to cite the evidence Darwin offers of the need for altruism, creativity, and instead claim that Darwin argues for brutality, as you do.

    Does Darwin advocate genocide? Not here:

    At the present day civilised nations are everywhere supplanting barbarous nations, excepting where the climate opposes a deadly barrier; and they succeed mainly, though not exclusively, through their arts, which are the products of the intellect. It is, therefore, highly probable that with mankind the intellectual faculties have been mainly and gradually perfected through natural selection; and this conclusion is sufficient for our purpose. Undoubtedly it would be interesting to trace the development of each separate faculty from the state in which it exists in the lower animals to that in which it exists in man; but neither my ability nor knowledge permits the attempt.

    Someone familiar with the way in which the British colonists in Tasmania used “arts” to supplant the Tasmanian natives might object, but Darwin addresses that genocide in other places, and laments it. I’ve pointed that out to you, but you failed to even acknowledge it. So, to the specific and clear evidence that Darwin argued against the behaviors you claim he endorsed, you’ve simply ignored the contrary evidence and you fail to acknowledge our pointing it out to you. That’s unfair of you to do so.

    You allege Darwin argued for culling humans, for genocide and murder. Quite to the contrary, Darwin worried about preserving good benefits of those who did not breed for one reason or another. He argued that the evolution of humans showed such influences in the advancement of arts, not the advancement of brutality:

    Now, if some one man in a tribe, more sagacious than the others, invented a new snare or weapon, or other means of attack or defence, the plainest self- interest, without the assistance of much reasoning power, would prompt the other members to imitate him; and all would thus profit. The habitual practice of each new art must likewise in some slight degree strengthen the intellect. If the new invention were an important one, the tribe would increase in number, spread, and supplant other tribes. In a tribe thus rendered more numerous there would always be a rather greater chance of the birth of other superior and inventive members. If such men left children to inherit their mental superiority, the chance of the birth of still more ingenious members would be somewhat better, and in a very small tribe decidedly better. Even if they left no children, the tribe would still include their blood-relations; and it has been ascertained by agriculturists (4. I have given instances in my Variation of Animals under Domestication, vol. ii. p. 196.) that by preserving and breeding from the family of an animal, which when slaughtered was found to be valuable, the desired character has been obtained.

    I cannot understand how or why you keep ignoring Darwin’s explanation in that chapter for the rise of altruism and noble action. This one excerpt should put all of your claims to run. I’ve pointed it out before, but you ignore it. Here is the concept, and I wish you’d explain why you ignore Darwin’s actual words in favor of words you invent for him:

    Turning now to the social and moral faculties. In order that primeval men, or the ape-like progenitors of man, should become social, they must have acquired the same instinctive feelings, which impel other animals to live in a body; and they no doubt exhibited the same general disposition. They would have felt uneasy when separated from their comrades, for whom they would have felt some degree of love; they would have warned each other of danger, and have given mutual aid in attack or defence. All this implies some degree of sympathy, fidelity, and courage. Such social qualities, the paramount importance of which to the lower animals is disputed by no one, were no doubt acquired by the progenitors of man in a similar manner, namely, through natural selection, aided by inherited habit. When two tribes of primeval man, living in the same country, came into competition, if (other circumstances being equal) the one tribe included a great number of courageous, sympathetic and faithful members, who were always ready to warn each other of danger, to aid and defend each other, this tribe would succeed better and conquer the other. Let it be borne in mind how all- important in the never-ceasing wars of savages, fidelity and courage must be. The advantage which disciplined soldiers have over undisciplined hordes follows chiefly from the confidence which each man feels in his comrades.

    As Darwin notes, these altruistic behaviors of camraderie would clearly provide survival benefits to the people who exhibit these behaviors:

    Obedience, as Mr. Bagehot has well shewn (5. See a remarkable series of articles on ‘Physics and Politics,’ in the ‘Fortnightly Review,’ Nov. 1867; April 1, 1868; July 1, 1869, since separately published.), is of the highest value, for any form of government is better than none. Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected. A tribe rich in the above qualities would spread and be victorious over other tribes: but in the course of time it would, judging from all past history, be in its turn overcome by some other tribe still more highly endowed. Thus the social and moral qualities would tend slowly to advance and be diffused throughout the world.

    All of these excerpts are in that same chapter from which you quote; how in the world did you miss them the first time? Why do you refuse to acknowledge their existence? Why don’t they rebut and refute all of your claims?

    Virtue? Darwin argued for the necessity of virtue? Absolutely! Moreover, he explained how and why such things would provide survival benefits, how they could be selected for by natural selection:

    Therefore, it hardly seems probable, that the number of men gifted with such virtues, or that the standard of their excellence, could be increased through natural selection, that is, by the survival of the fittest; for we are not here speaking of one tribe being victorious over another.

    Although the circumstances, leading to an increase in the number of those thus endowed within the same tribe, are too complex to be clearly followed out, we can trace some of the probable steps. In the first place, as the reasoning powers and foresight of the members became improved, each man would soon learn that if he aided his fellow-men, he would commonly receive aid in return. From this low motive he might acquire the habit of aiding his fellows; and the habit of performing benevolent actions certainly strengthens the feeling of sympathy which gives the first impulse to benevolent actions. Habits, moreover, followed during many generations probably tend to be inherited.

    But another and much more powerful stimulus to the development of the social virtues, is afforded by the praise and the blame of our fellow-men. To the instinct of sympathy, as we have already seen, it is primarily due, that we habitually bestow both praise and blame on others, whilst we love the former and dread the latter when applied to ourselves; and this instinct no doubt was originally acquired, like all the other social instincts, through natural selection. At how early a period the progenitors of man in the course of their development, became capable of feeling and being impelled by, the praise or blame of their fellow- creatures, we cannot of course say. But it appears that even dogs appreciate encouragement, praise, and blame. The rudest savages feel the sentiment of glory, as they clearly shew by preserving the trophies of their prowess, by their habit of excessive boasting, and even by the extreme care which they take of their personal appearance and decorations; for unless they regarded the opinion of their comrades, such habits would be senseless.

    Darwin argued that a rule much like the Golden Rule espoused by Jesus was inevitable in the evolution of humans:

    We may therefore conclude that primeval man, at a very remote period, was influenced by the praise and blame of his fellows. It is obvious, that the members of the same tribe would approve of conduct which appeared to them to be for the general good, and would reprobate that which appeared evil. To do good unto others–to do unto others as ye would they should do unto you–is the foundation-stone of morality. It is, therefore, hardly possible to exaggerate the importance during rude times of the love of praise and the dread of blame. A man who was not impelled by any deep, instinctive feeling, to sacrifice his life for the good of others, yet was roused to such actions by a sense of glory, would by his example excite the same wish for glory in other men, and would strengthen by exercise the noble feeling of admiration. He might thus do far more good to his tribe than by begetting offspring with a tendency to inherit his own high character.

    The serious question is, Anthony, why do you ignore such statements? How do you square your crabbed reading of Darwin with someone who directly, clearly and forcefully, argues for the Golden Rule in human behavior? All of these quotes I’ve offered here come from the same chapter.

    Can you give me a political analysis of why you refuse to use all of what Darwin wrote?

    Darwin wrote, and you ignore:

    It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection. At all times throughout the world tribes have supplanted other tribes; and as morality is one important element in their success, the standard of morality and the number of well-endowed men will thus everywhere tend to rise and increase.

    Darwin wrote, in direct rebuttal to the reading you strain to give, just a few lines below the paragraph you quote:

    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. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil. We must therefore bear the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind;

    And continuing, Darwin argues that natural conditions check the spread of any really evil or detrimental weaknesses that our sympathy and altruism fail to check:

    [continuing from previous quote] . . . but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely that the weaker and inferior members of society do not marry so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage, though this is more to be hoped for than expected.

    Darwin specifically argues against the “culling” you say he advocates.

    I must ask again: Have you ever actually read Darwin? You show no evidence of ever having done so, beyond the one paragraph you continually quote and distort in extrapolation well beyond anything Darwin said or wrote, and contrary to what he said and wrote.

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  95. Mike says:

    Which is followed immediately by:

    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. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

    Darwin argues the opposite of what you seem to be claiming.

    Quote mining is naughty. No supper for you!

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  96. Darwin did not call for “culling” of humans, ever. Darwin was anti-racist, anti-murder, anti-genocide.

    Perhaps Ed, you could explain what he meant

    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.

    Was he talking about not one single person? Not even those “weaker members” whose alleged early deaths at the hands of “savages” he is so relieved aren’t around to “breed” more of their kind? Why compare the ones in “civilised” countries who wouldn’t be killed off by the tacit savages to livestock? Please, give your alternative interpretation of THIS passage which I used in my essay for the purposes of giving it a POLITICAL analysis. Sorry to have to resort to caps but I do want what I actually wrote to be noticed and not what you misrepresented as the theme of my essay.

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  97. Ed Darrell says:

    If I didn’t think anyone would want to read your post, Anthony, I wouldn’t have included links to it.

    I can’t imagine why you’d use the false claims about Darwin you used to make any point. That your false claims are exactly the same as the false claims of creationists is pure coincidence? Imagine that. What are the odds?

    But, why would anyone use a false claim to illustrate anything? Why not use a valid claim?

    What I’m troubled about, Anthony, is your failure to read Darwin, and especially your failure to accurately represent what he said, or his overall views on the issues you choose to discuss.

    Darwin did not call for “culling” of humans, ever. Darwin was anti-racist, anti-murder, anti-genocide.

    If you say that, of course, you have to find some other example to illustrate your essay. It may be there are no other examples, and your essay is false in general as well as to the specific.

    Doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t misrepresent Darwin’s work that way.

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  98. Rebecca, if I thought no one would read the essay, which is what Ed Darrell misrepresents here, I wouldn’t have bothered to come here to point it out. As to the mortal sin of not coming up to someones idea of punctuation, I can live with that.

    I gather you think I should have let people who read this blog think I wrote something about Darwin’s racism in support of creationism when it has nothing to do with what I did write and what Ed Darrell claims to have read before he posted this. I don’t see the logic in assuming I’m under any obligation to allow people to lie about what I wrote.

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  99. Rebecca says:

    I have no proper evidence for this, but have you noticed that people who use very idiosyncratic punctuation often also have trouble with logic? I think this is worth study.
    And Mr. McCarthy is correct in saying that he does not argue against evolution, though he is incorrect in his assumption that we won’t go read his post.

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  100. On the off chance that someone reading this will also go to the bother of reading the 8,000 word essay – which is posted in its intended sequence at my blog – please notice that the essay itself doesn’t mention racism since that wasn’t he purpose of the essay. It was about the political consequences of applying determinism to politics and the incompatibility of any kind of determinism with democracy. The issues of racism and ethnic bigotry were addressed at Ed Darrell’s and others instance in the discussion that followed.

    Needless to say, to anyone who reads what I wrote, I’m not an advocate of creationism or putting religion into science classrooms. It would be a very odd creationist who begins with a very long description of the billions of years encompassed by evolution and an even stranger ID advocate who twice goes out of his way to point out that it has no place in science. If Ed had read the essay he would have seen I give a reason that even if “a designer” was there it still couldn’t enter into science since science deals only with physical evidence. I’m sorry if such a difficult concept is too much for some to handle but it happens to be the truth.

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