Over at Red State Rabble, Pat Hayes has some further thoughts on the Darwin quote I discussed yesterday. Turns out Dembski’s even more vile than I thought. After reproducing the quote in question, Hayes writes:
And Dembski, of course, drives home the point that these sorts of views, while once popular, are now beyond the pale by adding: “What a great mind, indeed. What a wonderful human being. What a marvelous vision of the human family.”
Is this what Darwin really believed? Is it true that Darwin’s theory of evolution, as the comments to Dembski’s post attest, is the basis for racism, eugenics, and the Nazi’s?
If it were true, it would be terrible indeed.
Before we decide, let’s do what Dembski and his readers didn’t. Let’s read the passage in context. Here’s a link to the Project Gutenburg online text of Descent of Man.
As you can see, the first sentence cited by Dembski (The reckless, degraded…) is Darwin summarizing the views of Greg and Galton. The rest of the paragraph is Darwin quoting Greg.
Does Darwin do this because he agrees with Greg and Galton? No. He cites their arguments in order to refute them. They argue that if evolution were true, the Irish would “multiply like rabbits” and the good frugal Scots would, by their habit of marrying late, become extinct. In effect, Greg and Galton are making a powerful argument against evolution in man.
Darwin goes on in succeeding paragraphs to offer a number of arguments against this line of thinking — which after all, challenges the validity of his theory of evolution.
Nothing in the paragraph, not one word, reflects what Darwin believed.
Incredible. I was prepared to grant the basic premise of Dembski’s post (that Darwin wrote some things that would be considered racist by modern standards), and argue that Dembski was being juvenile and sleazy anyway. After all, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone of prominence from that time who would not be regarded as a racist by modern standards. But I forgot the first rule of dealing with creationists: If they tell you it’s sunny outside, you should assume it’s raining.
Over at Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers has this post, based on a comment left there by Ed Darrell, explaining in great detail how, on the subject of race relations, Darwin compares very favorably indeed with most of his contemporaries. Required reading.