I got two calls last night about Dr. John West’s presentation at the University of Minnesota on Darwinism’s fathership of eugenics. It appears that the scholarly and well-delivered lecture, derived from the new West book, Darwin Day in America, was successful in influencing the thinking of a largely skeptical audience. (The dyspeptic and ad hominem blogger/biologist Dr. P.Z. Myers was there and brought a Darwinist claque. West generously introduced him and acknowledged him as Minnesota’s Richard Dawkins, which is about right.)
It was not a very “scholarly” lecture. As Mark Borrello discussed in his too-brief rebuttal, there’s more to history than just listing the facts, which is the bare minimum expected of the historian. West got the facts right, and then twisted them all into a distorted and unconvincing argument for a Darwinian source for eugenics. It was poorly done; perhaps the Disco Institute thinks that interspersing animal sounds in a presentation is good cover for a bad argument?
It is simply not true that he succeeded in influencing his skeptical audience. I talked to quite a few people afterwards; I found none who thought he was at all persuasive, and we had a good time poking holes in his argument…which hole-poking we would have more gladly done in the Q&A, if the organizer hadn’t tried to run down the clock.
Now here’s something revealing. At a couple of points, West would quote some scientist who’d said something about humans as animals, and call that “dehumanizing”. It was peculiar; is it the DI’s position that humans aren’t animals? It seems that maybe it is.
The Darwinists also want you to think that eugenics was all a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But eugenics has been revived in our time and the New Eugenics Movement is also product of Darwinism and Darwinists. You only have to read Dawkins, Singer, Pinker and the rest to see the same disdain for human exceptionalism that fueled the original eugenics movement. Therefore, West’s history is not just “academic”, it’s urgent.
Ah, so humans are supposed to be exceptional, and any scientist who tries to claim that we’re also animals, evolved from animals is going to get slapped with the label “eugenicist”. Charming.
And let’s see what kind of dishonest nonsense Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute chooses to close his screed…
The Darwinists hate hearing about the history of eugenics because it is true and there really isn’t much they can do to spin it or control it. I like it for the same reasons.
We do? In my last post on this subject, I mentioned Stephen Jay Gould’s essay on Carrie Buck, and I could also suggest his book, The Mismeasure of Man(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll) — in case the Discovery Institute is unfamiliar with Gould, I’ll explain that he was not a creationist. I’ll also refer you to John Wilkins (again, not a creationist), who has written a whole series on this topic, and has also berated the DI for their appalling distortions. As I said to West on Friday, the overwhelming majority of modern biologists, who are also in the DI’s parlance “Darwinists”, deplore and reject eugenics. We do not try to “spin it” at all — I think we’re reasonably unambiguous in damning it all as an ugly episode in our social history, and one we should not try to repeat.
Chapman likes it because it allows him to parrot a false syllogism: people who accept the scientific evidence for evolution and see Homo sapiens as a species of animal are all eugenicists who want to forcibly sterilize ‘undesirables’ and march the people they don’t like off to the death camps. This is their contemptible strategy: lie about their opponents and impute the vilest, most Nazi-like motives to them. It makes his opening insult, that I’m the “ad hominem blogger/biologist”, painfully ironic.