In yesterday’s post I remarked that people seem to lose their minds upon deciding to become anti-evolution advocates. There is no better case in point than William Dembski. Ten years ago he was the star of the ID movement. A well-credentialed scholar with shiny new ideas holding down an actual academic position and publishing books with credible publishers.
Those days are long gone. Nowadays he only seems to find time to post brief missives at one of the most cartoonishly ignorant blogs on the Web: Uncommon Descent. I stopped paying attention to the blog a while back, figuring Dembski was hanging himself quite effectively without my help with his increasingly deranged posts. But his most recent writing simply has to be seen to be believed.
You see, Dembski has discovered that Charles Darwin’s writing contains some decidedly racist remarks.
Here he is breathlessly reporting the happy discovery:
Every now and again when I want to feel good about our shared humanity, I curl up with Darwin’s DESCENT OF MAN and read passages like the following:
The reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: “The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts–and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal ‘struggle for existence,’ it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed–and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults.”
– Charles Robert Darwin, The Descent of Man, Great Minds Edition, 123
What a great mind, indeed. What a wonderful human being. What a marvelous vision of the human family.
Interesting stuff, but not for any insight it provides about Darwin. Rather, it sheds a little more light into the black pit that is Dembski’s soul.
First off, it is a triviality to find quotes from prominent Christians of the nineteenth century not simply endorsing slavery, but doing so explicitly on Biblical grounds. For that matter, the Bible certainly never condemns slavery, and at least arguably endorses it. I suspect Dembski grows peevish when people raise such issues against Christianity.
But that is hardly the point. What I find remarkable is how important creationists think it is to try to discredit Darwin personally. They think they have accomplished something if they can make Darwin look bad. So they endlessly recycle quotes like this or “tell the tale” of how Darwin stole evolution from Wallace or promote countless other little myths that make them feel better about ignoring a century and a half of steady progress in science.
These are the people who lecture us constantly about the great moral insights provided Christianity. Among these insights is said to be the fact that we are all sinners, that we all fall short of God’s glory. Point out to them that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington owned slaves, thereby participating actively in one of the most evil institutions deivsed by man, and they don’t even bat an eyelash. Sure, they partook in many of the sins of their day, but that does not diminish the greatness of their accomplishments.
Indeed it doesn’t. But for some reason Darwin doesn’t get the same level of respect. Dembski feels no shame in finding a few obnoxious sentences from one of Darwin’s books and using that to dismiss the whole man. Never mind that his racism was completely the product of his time, and that his views were utterly commonplace. Never mind that Darwin compares favorably with his contemporaries on issues of racial understanding and tolerance. Never mind that at that time much of the vilest racial rhetoric ever uttered was coming from pulpits on Sunday morning. Apparently when Dembski objects to someone’s scientific ideas, his spirit of Christian charity goes out the window.
You see this all the time in fundamentalist writing. Try to have a conversation with an anti-abortion adovcate and see how long it takes before all of Margaret Sanger’s alledged atrocities come up. In a conversation about atheism you can measure in seconds the amount of time it takes before Madalyn Murray O’Hair comes in for a bashing. There is a reason for this. Anyone capable of clear thought understands that ideas can not be refuted by discrediting the people who make them. For people like Dembski and the people he represents, however, it’s not really about a sober contemplation of ideas. In reality it’s about dividing the world into friends and enemies, and once having placed someone in the enemy column it’s about unloading every conceivable bit of rhetoric and invective in their direction.
Dembski followed this bit of silliness with a plea for England to remove Darwin from their ten pound note. In this post he writes:
A couple of days ago the Bank of England issued a new 20-pound note, using new security features, and took the occasion to change the “famous person.” This is a news-worthy cause for British Darwin-doubters, who should urge that Darwin be dumped from the 10-pound note whenever there is a new security-upgrade version, on grounds that he is the chief prophet of the materialist religion, and his presence on the 10-pound note is an inappropriate endorsement of that materialist religion and its related anti-religious ferment. Now, it’s true that Britain has no 1st Amendment, but still, Britain is trying to be multi-cultural. A part of the effort could include a long list of choice inflammatory quotes from the new anti-religion books currently out in the bookstores (and in Darwin’s own writings — see the previous post here at UD); the effort could point out that the government, by honoring Darwin, implicitly lends its prestige to their venom.
In other words, promote a boycott of the Darwin 10-pound note because it promotes racism. It’s like putting Robert E. Lee on the ten-dollar bill because he was a great general, and ignoring the cause he served. This would work particularly well because the goal of the Fabians and other multiculturalists is to re-define Britain to be racially-inclusive. Thus there is a particular reason to highlight the racism of Darwin and get rid of him.
See, here on planet Earth Darwin is remembered as the person who revolutionized biology and discovered one of the most important theories in modern science. Surely someone of whom Emgland should be proud. But for Dembski he was simply a servant in the cause of racism. No, strike that. He is an enemy whose words can be selectively auoted to create that impression. Charming fellow.
I wish more academics would read these sorts of blog entries. I especially wish that academics who still think that ID is about some honest exchange of ideas and represents a serious attempt at doing science would ponder them. When they go out in public the ID folks put on a mask of sanity and for a short period of time can pass for serious and thoughtful people. But they can’t keep it up for very long. They are just playing a character, and one so foreign to their natures that eventually they expose themselves as the buffoonish hate-mongers they really are. Sad, but all too typical.