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A pack of lies about Darwin. - Comments

darksmiles22's Avatar Comment 1 by darksmiles22

A stirring reminder of why the gnu atheist movement is needed.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 14:53:25 UTC | #640029

DoctorChristian's Avatar Comment 2 by DoctorChristian

My understanding of the article (upon a quick reading) is that it is a call to arms against acceptance of Darwinian evolution not only because it contradicts the Bible, but also because people do supposedly questionable things in society when they are influenced by Darwin and not by god.

It is the usual anti-Darwin propaganda you often hear in the US from Christian fundamentalists. My view of such nonsense is that they obviously distort history by putting too much emphasis on the role that Darwin played, while de-emphasising vastly more important social, economic and political forces which were at work. They make it look as if Darwin was the key influence, when a proper historical study would show that this is laughable.

Things like this are simply a distortion of history to serve theocratic aims. They are scary, though, because the US is such a powerful nation, and it is currently being governed by religious maniacs who largely believe this rubbish.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 14:57:56 UTC | #640031

hitchens_jnr's Avatar Comment 3 by hitchens_jnr

At the bottom of the article, there is a link to email the author. I shall certainly avail myself of that opportunity. I suggest everybody else does, too.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 14:59:18 UTC | #640032

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 4 by Alan4discussion

WORLD TODAY'S NEWS CHRISTIAN VIEWS

This is confused right wing nonsense from rent-a-nut. Anything that he does not like in politics is Darwin's fault! Most of his drivel looks like quote mining, but I can't be bothered to waste time refuting the rantings of an ignoramus!

The influence of evolutionary thinking reaches far beyond biology | Marvin Olasky

Robert Williams, president of the Association of American Physicians, said in 1969 that "the fetus has not been shown to be nearer to the human being than is the unborn ape." He talked of "the recapitulation of phylogeny by ontogeny"—the mistaken theory that an unborn child's development mimics purported evolutionary progress. The most influential pro-abortion legal expert during the 1960s, Cyril Means, argued that babies are sub-human—and the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision played off his mean-hearted briefs.

" He talked of "the recapitulation of phylogeny by ontogeny"—the mistaken theory that an unborn child's development mimics purported evolutionary progress. -

There is no point in discussing the views on science of someone this thick and ignorant. Maybe this ignorant view was expressed in 1969. Maybe he quote minded it" Who cares? It is rubbish!

The evolutionary insights from embryo development are well documented in modern science, even if the ID nuts like dwelling on the minor errors of early investigators.

The study of comparative embryology aims to prove or disprove that vertebrate embryos of different classes (e.g. mammals vs. fish) follow a similar developmental path due to their common ancestry. Such developing vertebrates have similar genes, which determine the basic body plan. However, further development allows for the distinguishing of distinct characteristics as adults. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embryo_drawing

In current biology, fundamental research in developmental biology and evolutionary developmental biology is not driven anymore by morphological comparisons between embryos, but more by molecular biology.

.... Although photographic records illustrate comparisons very clearly to ordinary members of the public.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:24:23 UTC | #640042

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 5 by Helga Vieirch

I know it is rubbish. But I think we do have to bother about it, even if we have to hold our noses to do it. If not called out at every opportunity, rubbish tends to think it doesn't stink.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:37:20 UTC | #640045

keyfeatures's Avatar Comment 6 by keyfeatures

The debate over Darwin v religious explanations for humanity.

Bring it on, I say!

One of the biggest mistakes we atheists can make is to assert our position is correct merely because it is atheist and that alternatives are wrong simply because they form part of a religion. Instead what we need to do is engage the alternative view on a rational basis.

There are plenty of errors in this article - and an absence of any evidence to counter the basis for evolutionary theory. However, if the author can provide some then please step forward with it. I love nothing more than putting ideas up to vigorous scrutiny. Of course, creationism also has to stand up to such vigorous scrutiny.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:44:50 UTC | #640049

Phen's Avatar Comment 7 by Phen

but evolutionary theory plus his musings about superior and inferior races provided a logical justification for anti-Semites and racists.

I know that it's pretty obvious from reading the piece that this is the ramblings of a hate filled IDiot, but still, how could he infer that evolutionary theory provides a logical justification for anti-Semites and racists? I mean, that doesn't make any sense at all.

A quick Wikipedia search reveals that apparently:

Olasky edited the 16-book Turning Point Christian Worldview series funded by Howard Ahmanson, Jr.'s Fieldstead Institute, which champions and funds the cause of "total integration of Biblical law into our lives."

Well that reveals a lot about the man.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:55:59 UTC | #640053

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 8 by Alan4discussion

Comment 5 by Helga Vierich

I know it is rubbish. But I think we do have to bother about it, even if we have to hold our noses to do it. If not called out at every opportunity, rubbish tends to think it doesn't stink.

Well maybe if some apologist turns up, but it is cruel and a bit farcical to debate with the intellectually unarmed. They will only start trolling.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 15:57:07 UTC | #640054

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 9 by Neodarwinian

Who are these wackaloons? Same oft defeated concepts and misunderstandings of evolution and evolutionary theory. What world do these people live in?

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 16:27:51 UTC | #640060

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 10 by Sean_W

If Darwin was right the Bible is wrong, and we are foolish to follow it.

The bible is wrong regardless, but at least some theists recognize the consequences of our being apes.

I don't care too much either about how deep thier recognition goes. For example, I doubt they've given much thought to original sin and apes. But who cares? At least they, unlike their sophisticated fellows, understand that superflous is superflous and evolution renders a creator god just that.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 16:41:46 UTC | #640062

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 11 by Stevehill

If you're going to spend your time reading the output of God's World Publications, featuring "Meet Michelle Bachmann", you're either going to have to accept being furious, or try an anger management course :-)

I just avoid sites like this.

Unless they allow comments and I'm in the mood for a bit of sport...

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 16:49:33 UTC | #640066

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons

It has been suggested above the author should be emailed. I may do this later, though not in the format of the rest of this comment. For now I haven’t the time to contact him, but I’ll put a comment here (it doesn’t look like we can do the same on the original article though).

The influence of evolutionary thinking reaches far beyond biology

You may as well say the influence of gravitational thinking reaches far beyond physics.

page 36 assumes that teaching about creation or evolution is important—but is it?

Well, is teaching scientific facts in general important?

the debate will focus on healthcare, government spending, and other hot issues. We don't have time to discuss theories, do we?

Firstly, how important issues are to choosing a POTUS is irrelevant when designing a school syllabus; they’re chalk and cheese matters. Secondly, you don’t know what “theory” means in science. In science, facts and theories don’t differ in that we know the former and we’re not so sure of the latter; they differ in that the former are smaller details about the world and the latter are our best yet account of the former, and indeed “theories” are such good accounts doubting they are broadly correct is laughable.

If Darwin was right the Bible is wrong, and we are foolish to follow it.

What does it even mean to say “if X the Bible is wrong”? Natural selection as an account of the history of the emergence of adaptations in Earth’s life contradicts Genesis 1 & 2, to be sure; but Genesis 1 & 2 also contradict each other. Either you can admit the Bible is at least partially wrong or you can’t, and we needed to do that before Darwin came along.

Ask a fish about water and he's likely to reply, “What's water?”

We know what air is.

theological objections to macroevolution

It’s one thing to object to macroevolution by claiming that evidence contradicts it or doesn’t vindicate it. It’s a wrong position to take, mind. But it’s quite another to say “macroevolution is disagreeable because it is at odds with some other views we like.” This is called appeal to consequences, and it’s logically invalid. If – and this is a big if; it’s not me who’s asserting it – if our modern understanding of evolution means Christianity is wrong then, given that our modern understanding of evolution is built on an enormous body of scientific evidence, it is Christianity, not modern evolutionary biology, that has to be rejected.

they tell us whether the Cross was necessary

There are always Christians who’ll say we need the cross because we sin, not because we’ve inherited original sin from an Adam and Eve who couldn’t have existed on an evolutionary account; just as there are always non–Christians who’ll say the crucifixion could never have been necessary because God could have forgiven us without a scapegoat. Notice that both of these views make the question of evolution irrelevant to theology. Such an irrelevance can be agreed on by people who agree on precious little else regarding either theology or evolution! Of course, there are also both Christians and non–Christians who dismiss these suggestions and feel there is a real conflict to be had. But my observation above as to which of the two has to go in that case aside, if you wish to take an incompatabilist view you must defend the case for it.

Wilson started federal government expansion in 1912 by opposing the "Newtonian" view that the government should have an unchanging constitutional foundation, somewhat like "the law of gravitation." He argued that government should be "accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. . . . Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice." Wilson was the president who started the modern pattern of disregarding the Constitution, and in the 2012 election we will either start a second century of governmental expansion or yell, "Stop!"

The US Constitution has been amended 27 times, although the first 10 were simultaneous. Of these 27, 18 predate Wilson’s 1912 stance. There hasn’t been a clear shift away from either preservation of the Constitution’s brevity or disregarding its existing demands since then. The Constitution has never opposed big or expanding government per se, but has instead told it which specific things it cannot do. Since the 1950s, a disregard for the secularist requirements of the First Amendment have become commonplace; but rather than this being due to those who are fans of evolution, it has been due to a vocal Christian base which is, to say the least, much less accepting of evolution than Americans are as a whole. If anyone isn’t respecting the immutability of the Constitution, it was those who suddenly slapped “In God We Trust” on bank notes and inserted “Under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written by a Baptist minister but lacked such words and was fine in that form for 60 years. Why might it be that the immutability of the Constitution doesn’t come under stronger fire from those who accept evolution than those who do not, contra Wilson’s and your arguments? It’s because there’s a difference between a scientific account of how things are and a moral account of how they should be. While there are those who think science could answer moral questions in the future, it won’t answer them with “The best way for things is how they are”. After all, it is not suggested we should fall ill because the germ theory accurately explains how we do so.

Evolutionary thinking influenced not only Social Darwinists

Of course, “Social Darwinism” gets its name precisely from conflating how things are with how things should be. Darwin, for one, had no truck with any anti–philanthropic ideas.

H.G. Wells who thought it was time to advance beyond competitive enterprise

Until c. 1950, scientists had not thoroughly refuted the alternative to Darwin’s account of adaptive evolution known as Lamarckian evolution. Darwin’s mechanism was competitive; Lamarck’s was more about a non–competitive struggle. This did have some genuine political implications in the minds of those who confused how things are with how things should be. I mentioned the appeal to consequences earlier; this is the reverse, deciding what is by thinking about how things should be. This is why Stalin, an opponent of competitiveness, sided with Lamarck instead of Darwin on the technically separate question of how nature really is. He even appointed a Lamarckian agriculturalist named Lysenko to oversee food production in the USSR. Their subsequent drop in crop yields was an inadvertent major cause of Russian deaths. Its scale is not to trivialise the deliberate killings of the Purges, but notice assuming the way of the world is the way of ethics led to false predictions about how to get decent crop yields. It turns out people’s obsession with connecting ethics and reality in this simplistic way leads evolutionary ideas to have serious implications, though not so much yes vs. no as one mechanism vs. another. Given this, a better evolution education seems valuable. We don’t want Lamarckians running our agriculture in the future, as they have proven inept.

Marx in Das Kapital called Darwin's theory "epoch making"

A bizarre claim, consider Das Kapital was written in 1848 whereas On the Origin of Species was written in 1859. There might be some truth in it; Darwin spent 20 years refining his ideas and collecting evidence, and nuggets of his thought would be known to others. But Marx had no way of basing a comment like that on the full details of Darwin’s eventual model, and the scientific account of evolution we have today, known as the modern synthesis, is all the more nuanced, refined by yet more evidence refuting the worst ideas in the old. We cannot assume, even on an “X is true if and only if X being true is good” model, that Marxism is attributable to evolutionary biology in its modern form. In fact, if we were to learn anything from modern biology, it would be that we can most effectively influence our future for the better with new and more sensibly managed antibiotics, population control, genetic engineering etc.

Many books and articles have linked Darwin's thought to Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Hitler

As I explained earlier, Stalin refused to accept Darwin’s ideas, embracing Lamarck’s instead. Hitler, it seems, didn’t accept evolution; a major funded research topic in the Third Reich was “proving” Aryans were sent to Earth by God in the beginning, frozen in ice. These books and articles have quantity on their side, but not quality. Specific, historically parochial, economic and power–mad concerns are what really motivated these men, as all historians who study them agree.

Incidentally, Hitler made clear (however much he may have been lying; Hitler isn’t exactly know for his honesty) his justifications for what he did were rooted in what he thought Jesus wanted of him. Indeed, Mein Kampf mentions Jesus ad nauseum, but Darwin is never once mentioned. A few occasional sporadic references to evolution occur, but they show Hitler thought of “higher” and “lower” life forms, with crossbreeds being intermediate; and this is at odds with everything we’ve learned of evolution from and since Darwin.

his musings about superior and inferior races

To claim Darwin thought of superior and inferior races is wrong, though the mistake has an interesting source. The book’s full title was “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. But “race” did not mean to Victorian biologists what it means to us: rather than referring to ethnicity, it was a generalisation of the botanical concept of a variety to all life. A “race” is the set of organisms in a species which have a shared property; people who have blood group O negative, tailless cats, dogs which cannot make insulin – these are all “races” on this view. How wrong it is to think ethnicity was what “races” referenced can be gauged from the fact that literally the only sentence discussing people in the entire book – “Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history” – doesn’t discuss ethnicity in the slightest.

In fact, Darwin was about as non–racist as Victorians could be. Unlike almost all biologists in his era, he did not think human races were superior or inferior to each other. Indeed, he was one of the first biologists to realise all human races are one species, he used his knowledge of evolution to oppose so–called “scientific racism”, he was an ardent abolitionist, he regularly had nightmares about the pain–ridden screams of whipped slaves he’d heard while travelling on the Beagle, and he was an encouraging penpal of Jamaica’s first Black magistrate. Some biographers of Darwin have even claimed his opposition to racism guided his evolutionary ideas. This view is probably wrong, but that serious biographers can even advance it shows how little racism there was in his body.

When trying to show Darwin as racist, there is a common mistake based on this quotation: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.” (This comes from a later book of his, “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.”) Note Darwin does not approve of such extermination, and he never defines “savage” in such a way as to label, for example, black people as such. What is more, the reason he said what he did is often lost on people because they forget to quote the full paragraph:

“The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridæ—between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

In other words, his point was that the difficulty in understanding our history which those in the future would face as a result of such extermination is analogous to a general problem in how much we can expect to find in the fossil record. Admittedly the last sentence of this paragraph is racist by our modern standards. But it is racist precisely because it’s biologically outdated, and Darwin began the path that has led us to see even his ideas as beneath the pale. We always find when we look at the ideas of even the most “left–wing” people in the past that they are out of touch with our modern moral sensibilities. But while this may lead us to judge people by modern lights, we cannot attribute specific atrocities to those who pushed so hard for lesser bigotry in their own era, however they might compare to us.

For copious further reading on the subjects of Darwin’s views on race and slavery and on the origin of Hitler’s ideas, see http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/darwin_nazism.htm

Kinsey's 1948 and 1953 books on sexuality contended that adultery is normal and homosexual experiences not uncommon

Note these are claims about how much these things go on, not about whether they’re OK. On both counts Kinsey is absolutely right.

the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code, published in 1955, had a major effect in eliminating or reducing penalties for sex crimes: "Virtually a Kinsey document," one biographer called the Code. More recently, John West's Darwin Day in America cites textbook claims that casual sex is an evolutionary adaptation that gives "obvious reproductive advantages"—and we should not raise our standards because "we cannot escape our animal origins."

That there may be reasons natural selection favours greater sexual activity should no more surprise us than it should influence us, since reality and morality may differ in their details as aforesaid. Should we really be worried, in any case, about adultery and homosexuality being decriminalised? If anything, this seems a good thing.

Evolution proponents contributed mightily to [abortion’s] legalization, and in a way more direct than the general teaching that human life has no intrinsic value. Robert Williams, president of the Association of American Physicians, said in 1969 that "the fetus has not been shown to be nearer to the human being than is the unborn ape." He talked of "the recapitulation of phylogeny by ontogeny"—the mistaken theory that an unborn child's development mimics purported evolutionary progress. The most influential pro-abortion legal expert during the 1960s, Cyril Means, argued that babies are sub-human

Firstly, foetuses are quite different from infants, children and adults, and these differences are a fact regardless of what role if any evolution has played in them. Secondly, ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny is one of those “half right” ideas in science’s history; and while we may make mistakes based on such ideas, it can only help us to have science education which makes the next generation better informed on the relation between evolution and embryology than Williams ever was. And while the relation in question is not quite a case of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, it is nonetheless true at certain stages in humans’ embryological development that they are no different from analogous embryos in other species. In any case, whether or not any of the facts of embryology influence our views on which abortions if any should be legal, and whether or not these facts are as was imagined in 1969, and whether or not the fact of evolution has any bearing on these matters, it is simply not true that evolution as currently understood by science is directly informative regarding which foetuses we may abort. It is their nature, not how history has given rise to that nature, which matters here.

[Singer] said, "All we are doing is catching up with Darwin. He showed in the 19th century that we are simply animals"

Singer is well known for not seeing much difference between people and other animals, save for his holding us responsible in a way he does not hold other species. An influential moral philosopher, he still nonetheless does not speak for either science or philosophy as a whole. In any case, Singer is no advocate of infanticide; and, rather than viewing our similarity to other animals as reason for us to be treated as badly as are they, he sees it as a reason to treat other animals better. For one thing, he is a vegetarian. As in the abortion case, however, it is how we and other animals are and not why this is so which is really important here.

Dennett in Darwin's Dangerous Idea hit it right: Darwin created a "universal acid" that eats through any "meaning coming from on high."

But bear in mind what else Dennett said: having deconstructed such trickle–down meaning, the Darwinian account rebuilds all that meaning on a firmer, top–up basis. Dennett is by no means a denier of the meaning in life. Indeed, he describes us as having souls made of tiny robots (a reference to how the brain works).

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 17:19:40 UTC | #640074

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

they tell us whether the Cross was necessary

I'm afraid a cross is necessary in marking all of Marvin Olasky assertions, with a grand total of 0% - unless we allocate negative marking for perverse answers, in which case his score for biology and politics will be significantly lower!

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 17:55:43 UTC | #640081

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 14 by God fearing Atheist

Good old GOP (some would say).

Fascism will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible.

Sinclair Lewis 1935

We should remember that the celestial dictator cedes power only to worthy human tyrants - those who destroy social security, destroy subsidised care of the elderly, destroy subsidised medicine for the poor, make contraception (let along abortion) illegal, cut unemployment insurance and give massive tax cuts to the rich.

Remember if you are a teenage girl from a very poor family, and you get up the duff, you did it to yourself, and god wants you to have a miserable life. The GOP are only there to mete out god's divine justice.

And Darwin is the anti-Christ, along with Obama.

PS. I'm English, and living in England. You can smell the stench of the GOP from here!

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 18:22:42 UTC | #640085

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 15 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 6 by keyfeatures: One of the biggest mistakes we atheists can make is to assert our position is correct merely because it is atheist and that alternatives are wrong simply because they form part of a religion. Instead what we need to do is engage the alternative view on a rational basis.

Ahh yes, such a great idea in theory, but oh so boring in practice. Much easier to gossip and sneer and mock and draw cartoons instead, or agree with everyone else.

Jos Gibbons proves me wrong, and is obviously one of those rational atheists, but I haven't the energy to read through his comment, mainly because Marvin Olasky's article was probably not written in 'good faith' (groan) but with extreme prejudice and stupidity.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 18:32:32 UTC | #640087

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 16 by ccw95005

"If Darwin was right the Bible is wrong, and we are foolish to follow it."

That in a nutshell is why religion hates Darwin. All the other objections are filler.

Darwin's theories didn't prove that there is no God, but it made Him unnecessary. Before his explanations as to how all the incredible complexity of flora and fauna around us came to be (once that first cell came along), it would have been almost illogical to be an atheist. And of course Darwin did show how silly the biblical account of creation is.

In a way, it's almost beneath our dignity to let such poor arguments get under our skin. Water off a duck's back - that's the ticket!

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 19:00:37 UTC | #640093

Alex, adv. diab.'s Avatar Comment 17 by Alex, adv. diab.

Interesting treatment of the matter by Jos Gibbons. I just feel uneasy discussing the merits of Darwin's character, his views on race and philanthropy in this context. I think we should not let the fundamentalists drag us into this discussion at all and fend it off right from the start. CD could have been a cannibalistic raping racist mass murderer with fascist aspirations, and it wouldn't change one thing about the fact that modern evolutionary theory is correct. period. The fact that CD was a pretty agreeable fellow, who loved his wife and kids and was less racist than most of his contemporaries, is a bonus, a nice historical footnote, but nothing more, and we should make that unambiguously clear. Anyone starting a stupid argument like the above article should (and can easily) be shot down immediately on the grounds of willfully distorting history and elevating wishful thinking to the central premise of their thinking. Again, don't get dragged into a discussion of CD's personal virtues with fundamentalists, it's like arguing against the big bang on the grounds that Einstein acted like a jerk towards his wife.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 19:05:18 UTC | #640094

educationsaves's Avatar Comment 18 by educationsaves

I was unaware that the truth could be changed if you did not like the answer. This author seems to be arguing that we should not believe in evolution because he doesn't like it , not that it isn't true. Again when you believe everything on faith because you have not learned how to weigh the evidence impartially it is a choice you can make and not even realize your error. We need to teach our children to question everything, look at the evidence and decide for themselves. This is fundamental to a successful democracy and to a free and just society. America is in trouble because education is failing to teach citizens to think for themselves.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 19:25:47 UTC | #640098

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 19 by Alan4discussion

Comment 6 by keyfeatures

One of the biggest mistakes we atheists can make is to assert our position is correct merely because it is atheist and that alternatives are wrong simply because they form part of a religion. Instead what we need to do is engage the alternative view on a rational basis.

What has atheism got to do with it?. It is a contradiction of extremely well evidenced SCIENCE. They are not wrong because they "are part of religion", they are wrong because they are blabbering ignoramuses, who have not even learned to think,- making up rubbish about history. They have no idea what they are talking about!

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 19:55:44 UTC | #640106

Alex, adv. diab.'s Avatar Comment 20 by Alex, adv. diab.

@keyfeatures

One of the biggest mistakes we atheists can make is to assert our position is correct merely because it is atheist and that alternatives are wrong simply because they form part of a religion.

I really don't feel that "we" are doing that all too often.

Instead what we need to do is engage the alternative view on a rational basis.

Surely you are joking. You are aware of the innumerable hours wasted by many public atheist as well as non-atheist science communicators, and hordes of science-savvy volunteers on forums like this one, or talk.origins etc..., in order to lay out the rational argument? Our side put infinitely more intellectual effort and honest reflection into this than the creationists, who have taken the lazy route of lying, distorting facts and cheap rhetoric at every opportunity. And now you come and say that maybe we should discuss evolution based on its scientific merit? Have you just been unfrozen and for the first time discovered the internet?

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:03:39 UTC | #640158

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 21 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #640094 by Alex, adv. diab.

I just feel uneasy discussing the merits of Darwin's character, his views on race and philanthropy in this context. I think we should not let the fundamentalists drag us into this discussion at all and fend it off right from the start.

I sympathise with your view. One of the hardest parts of arguing with someone is, if they use an argument which is logically invalid AND has false premises, whichever one you address first they' can interrupt you and act as if you've got nothing on the other, or at any rate don't wish to challenge the other. I concede my tackling the "Darwin was a racist" premise made it seem like I agreed with the "Evolution stands or falls by how nice CD was" if I may explain myself: I tend to refute what is in a piece, no more, no less, & technically this article didn't explicitly use the stands-&-falls argument in that context, although it did in others, wherein I addressed it.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:31:41 UTC | #640168

Alex, adv. diab.'s Avatar Comment 22 by Alex, adv. diab.

I concede my tackling the "Darwin was a racist" premise made it seem like I agreed with the "Evolution stands or falls by how nice CD was" if I may explain myself

I didn't really want to criticize you for doing that, I'm just frustrated by how often arguments are carried out in this fashion in the media.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:38:01 UTC | #640172

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 23 by Jos Gibbons

Fair enough. Just to clarify, that was" should have had a full stop after it.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:42:04 UTC | #640175

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 24 by Alan4discussion

Comment 21 by Jos Gibbons

Comment 22 by Alex, adv. diab.

As I do @19, when the discussion wanders off on an irrelevant side track, it should be pulled back on topic. Creationists will often try the cascade of questions requiring long detailed detailed answers which will be lost on the audience watching, (and then claim "science cannot answer") so a casual dismissal of nonsense, or pulling them back on topic is often the best option.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:59:37 UTC | #640183

Quine's Avatar Comment 25 by Quine

Jos:

One of the hardest parts of arguing with someone is, if they use an argument which is logically invalid AND has false premises, whichever one you address first they' can interrupt you and act as if you've got nothing on the other, or at any rate don't wish to challenge the other.

Yes, I find it is best to call them on the structure (form) before going into the content. You should open with, "Wow, that argument is both logically invalid AND reliant on false premises ..."

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 23:12:21 UTC | #640187

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 26 by Border Collie

Nothing new in the article, just the same old, same old ... like a thousand other articles I've read by wingnuts ...

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 23:30:46 UTC | #640193

Scruddy Bleensaver's Avatar Comment 27 by Scruddy Bleensaver

So revealing of the authoritarian mindset that they think attacking Darwin, the man, or making up deathbed conversion stories say anything evolution and is an effective strategy for pushing Biblical creationism. Either they don't understand us at all, or far more likely, such attacks are for the benefit of others swayed by authoritarian belief systems not us. They're for the benefit of either religious people threatening to stray or people who accept the benefits of science from authority, but lack critical judgement themselves.

Sat, 18 Jun 2011 23:56:08 UTC | #640206

Marios.Richards@gmail.com's Avatar Comment 28 by Marios.Richards@gmail.com

Singer is well known for not seeing much difference between people and other animals, save for his holding us responsible in a way he does not hold other species. An influential moral philosopher, he still nonetheless does not speak for either science or philosophy as a whole. In any case, Singer is no advocate of infanticide; and, rather than viewing our similarity to other animals as reason for us to be treated as badly as are they, he sees it as a reason to treat other animals better.

From his wiki article he does actually seem to be an advocate for infanticide (in the limited sense that people who advocate the right to abortion, regardless of whether (i) it's currently legal (ii) they would prefer to be more/less prevalent are abortion advocates).

Funnily enough, this is the one part of his argument I actually think is valuable - he's right that the lines drawn between 'abortion' and 'infanticide' are arbitrary lines drawn in the sand.

For instance, taking 'abortifacts' used (200+ years ago) not to be considered abortion before fairly late on because women weren't viewed as 'pregnant' until they'd 'quickened' (I believe people were aware that a foetus would be present at this point, but it wasn't considered a living organism until it had quickened).

On the flip side, when/where infant mortality is high, it's common to see people not naming children until they are through the high risk period.

Fun history fact - Roman heads of the family not only had to actively vote for a child to be accepted into the family (rather than exposed), but they also had the legal power to abort (male children at least - I'm not sure it extended to women who had effectively left the family through marriage) at any age.

Didn't cause their society to implode (although the rapid expansion of Christianity has been partly pinned on it appealing very much to women since they'd suddenly (i) have options other than marriage and (ii) be free from an unpleasant birth-abortion-birth-abortion cycle).

   Marios

Sun, 19 Jun 2011 00:32:28 UTC | #640217

Marios.Richards@gmail.com's Avatar Comment 29 by Marios.Richards@gmail.com

But “race” did not mean to Victorian biologists what it means to us: rather than referring to ethnicity, it was a generalisation of the botanical concept of a variety to all life.

No, it meant both.

What's different is that (middleclass) people tend to say "ethnicity" rather than "race" because it's a self-chosen identity ('who do you feel you share a common heritage with?') which is vague about the mechanism (it could be purely cultural), while race explicitly implies some sort of categorical biological distinction.

It's true that Darwin was considerably less racist than other Victorians/other Victorian/Edwardian/um contemporary-Elizabethan biologists. Obviously, by today's standards that's still pretty racist - but that's rather irrelevant since he was alive then and not now.

More relevant would be the many unashamed eugenicists who worked in biology. These are the kind of people we'd very much like to forget about - but many of them are simply too important - Francis Galton and Ronald Fisher (pretty much the biggest figure in evolutionary biology the last century):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Fisher

Ronald Fisher was opposed to the UNESCO Statement of Race. He believed that evidence and everyday experience showed that human groups differ profoundly “in their innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development” and concluded that the “practical international problem is that of learning to share the resources of this planet amicably with persons of materially different nature,” and that “this problem is being obscured by entirely well-intentioned efforts to minimize the real differences that exist.” The revised 1951 statement titled "The Race Concept: Results of an Inquiry" was accompanied by Fisher's dissenting commentary.

1951 - not so long ago!

It's perhaps worth noting that eugenics was in practice in America up until at least the 70's.

Then in 2007:

The scientist, who won the Nobel prize for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, was quoted in > an interview in The Sunday Times saying he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.”

If I wanted to sum up dubious attitudes to race in the biological sciences, I'd leave Darwin out of it and take Galton, Fisher and Watson (Watson's a bit of a cheat - not an evolutionary biologist - but better known outside the field than Hamilton, who had some intriguingly apolcalyptic ideas about the degradation of the race).

   Marios

Sun, 19 Jun 2011 01:21:13 UTC | #640228

Prakritismriti's Avatar Comment 30 by Prakritismriti

"Where lies prevail, there is no room for truth"

Sun, 19 Jun 2011 02:29:15 UTC | #640239