User:AmesG/social

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An Introductory Word by AmesG

Most point-by-point essays can stand and fall of their own accord. I believe that, like others, this essay also speaks for itself. However, the importance of the topic deserves a quick note with which to begin. While no less of a hack-job than any of his other articles, Ken DeMeyer's arguments here deserve greater attention because they are unfortunately common, and damning in their implications. So here is something to keep in mind, plain and simple.

Ken's argument, here, boils down to this:

  1. Evolution suggests man is a base, stupid animal.
  2. Evil people interpret this to mean that man sometimes deserves to be killed, like a base, stupid animal.
  3. Evil people act on these instincts due, in greater than 50% part, to evolutionary ideas.
  4. Evolution is somehow responsible for these people's interpretations.

NONE of the above steps in this "logical" reasoning are valid. The weakest link is (4), which suggests that evolution, as a theory, is responsible for the absurd extremists that it somehow generates. However, I suggest that no theory is responsible for its extremists. These extremists alone feel the blood on their hands, and the guilt on their souls. If theories could be held responsible for the unforeseeable results generated, and abandoned as such, most every theory - scientific, religious, or otherwise - would have been abandoned today as "morally bankrupt."

Christianity, especially, would be gone. Christianity has led men, throughout the ages, to assume the role of jihadist (no different than the Muslim terrorist) and kill in the name of Christ. Ken's reasoning would suggest that all of Christianity bears this blood, just as much as the actual murderers, and that the theory deserves abrogation, despite any resonant truth to it, by virtue of this idea-guilt.

The idea is too absurd to even rebut. It is self-evident. This absurd idea, though, underlies Ken's entire hypothesis. Since this essential leg fails, his argument is without merit and collapses wholesale.

Now, onto the quote-mining!

Point by Point to the Companion Article, a masterwork by Ken DeMeyer

Conservative's Original Essay

This article originates as not an essay, but actually as a full article! Clearly, Ken DeMeyer thinks that the "facts" of his case are so far beyond reproach as to take them out of the scope of opinion. Ken DeMeyer writes, or rather, copies with sparse analysis:

AmesG's Response

However, what we're looking at here is little more than your average quote-dump, a typical strategy of Ken DeMeyer and other Conservapedia "writers." The quotes can be attacked on their own force, and for the conclusions drawn from them. This hit job falls apart thusly:

1

There have been great social ramifications of the acceptance of the Theory of evolution. H.G. Wells, who was an evolutionist, wrote in his work the Outline of History the following:


The new biological science was bringing nothing constructive as yet to replace the old moral stand-bys. A real de-moralization ensued....

Man, they decided, is a social animal like the Indian hunting dog. He is much more than a dog but this they did not see. And just as in a pack it, is necessary to bully and subdue the younger and weaker for the general good, so it seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue. Hence a new scorn for the ideas of democracy that had ruled the earlier nineteenth century, find a revived admiration for the overbearing and the cruel. [1]

1

Selective quoting is triumphant in this misunderstanding of Wells' argument about the actual effects of evolution. Rather than blaming any moral corruption following Darwin's revelation on Darwin, or on evolution, in fact Wells places the blame squarely on orthodoxy. He notes (correctly, I would argue) that theologians, rather than realizing that evolution and religion were wholly reconcilable, instead declared the two to be in opposition, said that morals were therefore dead, and by naming it, themselves incited the whole moral race-to-the-bottom of social Darwinism.[2] In brief, according to Wells, orthodox fundamentalists created the false religion/science dichotomy, and in so doing, compromised morality, science, and religion, all at the same time! He places the blame for the creation of social Darwinists squarely on fundamentalists, whom he argues created the entire controversy because they were not "mentally nimble enough" to see that there was no controversy.

Wells has the utmost respect for both religion and Darwinism, and seeks to explain in this section that the evaporation of morals was both imagined, and short-lived, and in fact describes social Darwinism as "the first crude popular misconception of Darwinism," which society quickly moved beyond. Thus dispelling Ken's misquotation, we should bear in mind Wells' argument about how religion and evolution are reconcilable.[3]

2

In regards to a demoralization ensuing in a specific portion of history, many works have been written demonstrating that evolutionary ideas were an integral part of Adolph Hitler's Nazism.

In regards to Adolph Hitler and the theory of evolution Richard Hickman wrote in his work Biocreation the following:


It is perhaps no coincidence that Adolf Hitler was a firm believer in and preacher of evolutionism. Whatever the deeper, profound, complexities of his psychosis, it is certain that [the concept of struggle was important for]. . . his book, Mein Kampf clearly set forth a number of evolutionary ideas, particularly those emphasizing struggle, survival of the fittest and extermination of the weak to produce a better society. [4]

2

Ken again suffers from an overgeneralization. Apart from neglecting to give us a citation to a primary work (a popular tactic of his - Ken seems to be more of a quote collector than an actual researcher, a real failing on his part), Ken's argument as a whole suffers from classifying Nazi perversion of Darwinian theories with more general Darwinism, and real science. Ken, and the surely non-biased site "Creationism.Org," both overlook that Nazism and Hitler also depended on concepts like "nationalism," and "pride in country," and "German-ness" to justify their reign of terror. By Ken's logic, Germany is suspect as a concept and a country, and ever shall be. So is nationalism. Never one to think through the implications of his arguments, Ken proves too much with this argument.

As a final point, it's a general truth that trying to argue against your opponent by comparing him to Hitler is an admission of defeat, the loser's last refuge in a debate. This type of hyperbole, in my mind, deprives any viewpoint (liberal or conservative) of any compelling force. Ken's no different.

3

B. Wilder-Smith wrote:


One of the central planks in Nazi theory and doctrine was …evolutionary theory [and] … that all biology had evolved … upward, and that … less evolved types … should be actively eradicated [and] … that natural selection could and should be actively aided, and therefore [the Nazis] instituted political measures to eradicate … Jews, and … blacks, whom they considered as “underdeveloped”.’ [5]

3

I hate to say, "see above," but, well, "see above." Further, Darwin and evolution make no general statement as to a "Great Chain of Being," an otherwise medeival belief that suggests that one form of life is wholly and objectively better than another. Rather, the most that Darwinism can say is that one form of life, having evolved from an earlier form, is more suited to particular circumstances than the previous. Sometimes, sacrifices are made in evolution: the blind fish loses eyesight, in evolving from a sighted fish, to conserve energy and adapt to a different environment. It's not better than a sighted fish; it's just different, and better evolved for the circumstances.

The fact that some zealous morons misinterpret Darwinism to suggest objective "better-ness" through evolution, that organisms at every turn come one step closer to the Form of the Good, is just an overextension of Platonism , misapplied towards genocidal aims. The over-stretch is no more damning of Darwinism than it is of Platonism.

4

George Stein concurs and wrote in the journal American Scientist the following:


Hitler's views are rather straightforward German social Darwinism of a type widely known and accepted throughout Germany and which, more importantly, was considered by most Germans, scientists included, to be scientifically true. More recent scholarship on national socialism and Hitler has begun to realize that... [Darwin's theory] was the specific characteristic of Nazism. National socialist "biopolicy," [was] a policy based on a mystical-biological belief in radical inequality, a monistic, antitranscendent moral nihilism based on the eternal struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest as the law of nature, and the consequent use of state power for a public policy of natural selection. - George Stein, "Biological Science and the Roots of Nazism." American Scientist, Vol. 76, No. 1, Jan-Feb., 1988, pp. 50-58. [6]

4

We must thank Ken for citing, again, an authority that seems to cut against him. As Stein is cited as saying by the same suspicious article,

There is little doubt that the history of ethnocentrism, racism, nationalism, and xenophobia has also been a history of the use of science and the actions of scientists in support of these ideas and social movements. In many cases it is clear that science was used merely as raw material or evidence by ideologically interested political actors as proof of preconceived notions. Most contemporary sociobiologists and students of biopolitics would argue that all attempts to use science in this manner are, in fact, mere pseudoscience.... [but] if the scientists of the day used the science of the day to advance racism, it is simply a form of Kuhnian amnesia or historical whitewash to dismiss concern with a possible contemporary abuse of science by a claim that the past abuse was mere pseudoscience.
[7]

Ken's authority therefore recognizes that the use of science to advance political goals is mere pseudoscience and abuse of the discipline of science... even though it may, unfortunately, be all too commonplace. Stein proves my point: Darwinism as science is distinguishable from Darwinism as political theory. As Stein describes, the element that transforms value-neutral evolutionary science into morally culpable social Darwinism is a moral failing traceable solely to the person misapplying the science - not traceable to the science itself. To write it in a chemical formula...

Evolutionary theory -- (evil humans) --> evil perversion of evolutionary theory.

The evil only comes in through the secondary, non-scientific interpretation. The moral culpability of Hitler's application of evolutionary theory is traceable only to Hitler, not (through some perversion of "logic") to Darwin!

5

Even the staunch evolutionist Stephen Gould admitted the following:


Haeckel was the chief apostle of evolution in Germany.... His evolutionary racism; his call to the German people for racial purity and unflinching devotion to a "just" state; his belief that harsh, inexorable laws of evolution ruled human civilization and nature alike, conferring upon favored races the right to dominate others; the irrational mysticism that had always stood in strange communion with his brave words about objective science - all contributed to the rise of Nazism. - Stephen J. Gould, "Ontogeny and Phylogeny," Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1977, pp.77-78). [8]

5

To sum up, in the words of Imroy:


The fact that Hitler and his Nazi party drew on Evolution is a red herring. Ann Coulter has said that all "liberals" should be killed. She also claims to be "conservative" and a "christian", and that all other conservatives and christians should think like her. But do all conservatives and christians believe that all liberals should be killed? No. Ann is just an extremist nutcase. As was Hitler.

To tar the entire theory of evolution because of one psychopath's exploitation of it is simply intellectually dishonest. Hitler used evolution to explain and somehow legitimise his extreme ideas about eugenics and racial extermination. That didn't make his ideas any less evil, just easier for the crowds to nod along with his rants and carry out the wishes of the Nazi party. And it didn't make evolution somehow to blame for his ideas.

6

In addition to greatly influencing Hitler's Nazism, evolutionary ideas influenced the thinking of the Communists. [9] Karl Marx wrote in a letter the following, ""Darwin's book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history." Darwin's ideas also influenced the thinking of Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and Joseph Stalin. [10]

6

Guilk writes of Social Darwinism, and its link, if any, to real Darwinism:


To a scientist, it's sheer foolishness to try to draw moral lessons from natural phenomena. Most of the so-called "Social Darwinists" were simply looking for justification for their already on-going exploitation of the poor. If they hadn't found it by misreading Darwin, they would have had to go back to misreading the Bible.

He hits the nail on the head. The writer of a text can't be held liable for the creative, even genocidal, misinterpretations of the original text. And to reiterate a main theme of my own writings (see my reply to wunderkind Sam Brownback's 2007 Times op-ed), science offers no moral lessons, just as Gulik says. Most of the objections to evolutionary science from creationists seem to relate to the argument that evolution somehow co-opts the moral role of philosophy & religion. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Evolution offers a how; some people may try to infer a why from the bare facts, but those people are either looking too hard, or too easily offended, or (most likely) both.

7

Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn was asked to account for the great tragedies that occurred under the brutal communist.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn offered the following explanation:


Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

Since then I have spend well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." [11]

7

Except in the word "revolution," this quote never mentions, nor is applicable to, the concept of the theory of evolution. Rather, it seeks to blame all tragedies of the world on godlessness, which is not quite the same as evolution.

Now, I have the utmost respect for Solzhenitsyn, but I have to take issue with him on his argument about the dangers of godlessness. Solzhenitsyn seems to think that atheism (and especially the atheism inherent in communism) renders mankind morally adrift, without any guiding principles whatsoever, and prone to the worst forms of immorality.

Atheism has no such result. While I do not contest the evils of communism under the USSR, and I do not contest that religion has the amazing capacity to (when practiced and taught well, as is unfortunately rare) provide moral guidance to those who otherwise would not be able to find their own morality,[12] religion is hardly the only source of morality. In fact, if religion were the only source of morality, I think it would speak quite poorly for the human race as a whole, and demean the dignity inherent in humanity. Based on my personal knowledge of atheists, secular humanists, agnostics, etc., I have found that the areligious are often more moral than the allegedly quite religious. The precepts of the Ten Commandments are much more basic to human nature than some book, and the abandonment of the book that espouses the rules does not necessitate the abandonment of the morality that the book codifies!

8

Evolutionary ideas also contributed to the scourge of racism. [13][14] Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley contributed greatly to the theory of evolution broadly being accepted in the 1900s. [15] Darwin, Huxley, and the 19th century evolutionists were racist in sentiment and believed the white race was superior. [16]

John C. Burnham wrote in the journal Science the following:


After 1859, the evolutionary schema raised additional questions, particularly whether or not Afro-Americans could survive competition with their white near-relations. The momentous answer was a resounding no.... The African was inferior — he represented the missing link between ape and Teuton." [17]

8

I suspect that this quote from John Burnham is something of a quote-mine, but, since Ken only hands us the quotation from the laudable Institution of Creation Research, and not a primary source citation, I am not presented with the tools to criticize any such selective citation. I think, though, that this article has proven enough to suggest where Ken quotes a study, the idea that it has been unceremoniously altered should be a rebuttable presumption.

That said, I'll take Burnham's quote at face value. A basic assumption to his argument is that the evolutionary schema itself, by its own force, suggests moral and racial conclusions. It does no such thing, at least not of its own accord. Evolutionary theory makes objective, falsifiable, scientific conclusions of fact: science is utterly powerless to make any conclusions of moral value or moral weight, and thus, if the evolutionary "schema" does make racist conclusions, it only does so through the hands of a racist interpreter. This corrupting influence is to blame; not the knowledge itself.

As a conclusory remark, it is self-evident that knowledge is powerful. The power of knowledge, though, is prone to abuse. Anyone with a political or social agenda can take a fact and, with the appropriate amount of spin, leverage it to improper and evil ends. All knowledge is amenable to this corruption. Scientific knowledge, unfortunately, may be particularly prone to it. However, the fact that knowledge is abused, or capable of abuse, should not make the pursuit of knowledge moot, nor should it make any scientific conclusions suspect. To assume otherwise would be to halt all scientific progress and all creative thought in all of western society, for truly, all knowledge and all thought hold potential for abuse by the weak-minded and the evil.

Truly, the strange suspicion of science held by Ken and the Institute of Creation Research would, at its extreme, throw us back to the Stone Age.

9

Australian atheist and philosopher David Stove argues that evolutionary ideas were influential in regards to the sexual revolution. In his work entitled Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution, Stove states that The “new religion of selfish genes” classifies all humans as biological errors. [18] Stove further states that “the great sexual emancipators after 1859” (Ellis, Freud, Lenin, Stopes, Sanger, Mead, Wilhelm Reich]) "were all Darwinians" and that genetics supplied "the new religionists" their gods ... the chromosomes of the sex cells.” [19]

9

Again, I suspect that this quote (in context) would cut against Ken's argument. But his basic argument here - that Darwinism fostered the sexual enlightenment - does not seem to cut against Darwinism, unless one assumes that the sexual enlightenment is per se bad. Since Ken fails to prove this point, he fails to prove how Darwinism is in this case bad. Further, despite Stove's statement[20] that humans are "biological errors," his opinion is hardly conclusory as to the actual meaning of the theory of evolution. While Ken loves arguments from authority, the words of a philosopher are hardly outcome-determinative.

To meet the issue head on, though, as I have explained at length here, evolution does not say that humans are biological errors in the pejorative sense implied in the term, or in the actual science of how evolution works. This value-laden characterization of Darwin's theory is not compelled by the science, but grafted on by zealous anti-science partisans. It's a straw man argument, and this anti-evolutionist tripe can be cursorily dismissed as such.

Conclusion

The foregoing should prove that evolution cannot be held "responsible" for any of the evils of racism, and should also prove that the arguments which attempt to hold evolution as culpable are just the sorts of anti-intellectual, Luddite, backwards-looking, Miniver Cheevy-esque nonsense we've come to expect from creationists, as they seek desperately to fend off scientific truths that don't actually contradict religion, but nonetheless scare them witless.

One final word. Assume all of Ken's "essay" is correct. Assume evolution did cause racism, and the Holocaust, and (why not?) the tragedy of September 11th. That still doesn't make the theory of evolution scientifically false.

And this is one of Ken's best arguments, too! Really makes you think, huh.

References

  1. http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/sherwood/Wells-Outline/Text/Part-II.htm
  2. Ken carefully neglects this quote, from slightly earlier in the work:
    The Christian theologians were neither wise enough nor mentally nimble enough to accept the new truth, modify their formulae, and insist upon the living and undiminished vitality of the religious reality those formulae had hitherto sufficed to express. For the discovery of man's descent from sub-human forms does not even remotely touch the teaching of the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet priests and bishops raged at Darwin; foolish attempts were made to suppress Darwinian literature and to insult and discredit the exponents of the new views. There was much wild talk of the "antagonism" of religion and science....

    It was the orthodox theology that the new scientific advances had compromised, but the angry theologians declared that it was religion.

  3. Ken fails to answer this argument elsewhere. I assume, therefore, that he concedes the error, and I win. Yay for Ames!
  4. http://www.creationism.org/csshs/v08n3p24.htm
  5. http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v13/i2/nazi.asp
  6. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1992/PSCF6-92Bergman.html
  7. Farther down on the previous citation, which Ken cites to in an attempt to prove his "point." Admittedly, Stein comes down hard on modern scientists who would similarly abuse science, and distinguish their abuse from others by labeling previous abuses "mere pseudoscience." But Stein does not say that all science is culpable, rather, he says that the people abusing the science are culpable! Anyone misusing science for political ends is, in Stein's eyes, corrupt and suspect, no matter what the era.
  8. http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/social.html
  9. http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=276
  10. http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=276
  11. http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=276
  12. I would also like to note, I do not believe that the kind of religion practiced by Ken is the kind that has the power to lift up the otherwise morally directionless. Rather, I think it often has the opposite effect! Dogmatic allegiance to the literal meaning of moral precepts (the shallowest examination, truly) fosters neither the kind of independent thought, nor the kind of deep-seated moral compass, which is conducive to the well-reasoned and principled practice of ethics.
  13. http://www.icr.org/article/55/
  14. http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/faq/racism.asp
  15. http://www.icr.org/article/55/
  16. http://www.icr.org/article/55/
  17. http://www.icr.org/article/55/
  18. http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=18094
  19. http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=18094
  20. (I reiterate my opinion that Stove never stated that humans are "biological errors," and again, I suspect quote-mining)