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Friday, December 17, 2010

Darwin and racism: Did Darwin change his mind?

British physicist David Tyler notes this article:
Did Darwin change his mind about the Fuegians?

Gregory Radick

Endeavour, Volume 34, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 50-54 | doi:10.1016/j.endeavour.2010.04.002

Abstract: Shocked by what he considered to be the savagery he encountered in Tierra del Fuego, Charles Darwin ranked the Fuegians lowest among the human races. An enduring story has it, however, that Darwin was later so impressed by the successes of missionaries there, and by the grandeur they discovered in the native tongue, that he changed his mind. This story has served diverse interests, religious and scientific. But Darwin in fact continued to view the Fuegians as he had from the start, as lowly but improvable. And while his case for their unity with the other human races drew on missionary evidence, that evidence concerned emotional expression, not language.
From the Intro: Like the notorious tale of Darwin's deathbed conversion to Christianity, this story of a near-deathbed conversion to a more enlightened view of what his generation called the ‘lower races’ has proved tenacious. And as with the former, the evidence for the latter is, we shall see, uncompelling. But in considering it we have the chance to take up a number of worthwhile questions. There is, most obviously, the question of Darwin's attitude to race, the subject of a major new study from Adrian Desmond and James Moore."

[ ... ]

Does it matter that, in all probability, Darwin never changed his mind about the (improvable) lowness of the Fuegians? One might think that the enterprises of missionaries and scientists stand or fall on their merits, whatever Darwin would have thought. And even the most worshipful of his admirers will admit that, by the light of present-day science, Darwin got lots of things wrong, so the possibility of another mistake should hardly be surprising. The stakes are considerably higher, however, for anyone concerned to understand what Darwin wrought and how science and society have changed since his time. Darwinian biology no longer orders the human races hierarchically, of course. But it once did. Learning to live without the myth of a race-egalitarian Darwin is a long way from learning what brought about the change. But it is a step in the right direction.
News around here, actually, that Darwinists would admit that Darwin got anything wrong. If they did, the posterior would be far too big to cover.

Incidentally, Darwin's co-theorist, the much-neglected and subtly maligned Wallace, was not a racist.

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Darwinian atheist Michael Ruse a "practicing Anglican"?

You thought I was kidding, did you? Nope. A friend advises me that some reviewer or other baptized Darwinist Michael Ruse as a "practicing Anglican" (= Episcoplian):
New Biological Books History, Philosophy, And Ethics of Biology

Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science

By Michael Ruse. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. $30.00. viii + 264 p.; ill.; index. ISBN: 978-0-521-75594-8. 2010.

Elof Axel Carlson

Biochemistry & Cell Biology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York

The author is a philosopher and ardent supporter of evolution by natural selection. He also is a practicing Anglican. His book is an exploration of the conflicts between a scientific worldview (one that excludes supernatural interpretations in matters concerning science) and a religious worldview (one that very much embraces faith, the supernatural, and the central tenets of his Anglican faith). ...
So is Ruse also among the prophets?

Well, Ruse apparently sent his kids to "Anglican tradition" schools when he taught in Canada. But in Canada, that's mainly a way of keeping them from hanging out with Crystal Meth at tax-supported OD High.

In fairness, it doesn't take much belief or effort these days to be a "practicing Anglican", but unless Ruse has a big announcement in store, I'm calling this as just another effort to baptize Darwinism, a la Theodosius Dobzhansky, to gain support among adherents of other religions.

I wonder if the airbrush error will make it onto the 'Net ...

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


Book Santa will keep for himself: The Nature of Nature

You'd better order this one for yourself. It's the long-delayed outcome of the Nature of Nature conference, which got intelligent design theorists Bill Dembski and Bruce Gordon's Polanyi Center at Baptist Baylor University shut down.*

It features top guns on both sides of the controversy:
Unmatched in its breadth and scope, The Nature of Nature brings together some of the most influential scientists, scholars, and public intellectuals—including three Nobel laureates—across a wide spectrum of disciplines and schools of thought.

Here they grapple with a perennial question that has been made all the more pressing by recent advances in the natural sciences: Is the fundamental explanatory principle of the universe, life, and self-conscious awareness to be found in inanimate matter or immaterial mind? The answers found in this book have profound implications for what it means to do science, what it means to be human, and what the future holds for all of us.
I wrote the index for the book, and can testify to its breadth and usefulness. Also, to its absence of conspiracy theorists in mortarboards, with nothing better to offer you than their dark mutterings. And no, I am not paid to say this.

(*The conference wasn't the immediate cause, but was surely the key one. Lord knows, a reliable Baptist science prof can't risk saying that the universe and life forms show evidence of design - evidence that can be debated rationally. For one thing, people might suspect that the prof believes in God in such a clear and effectual way that he cannot just take it back when the cold wind of fascism next blows his way, by muttering something about "faith" being quite different from "science.")


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