The rugged gentleman on the left is Captain Ahab (as played by actor Gregory Peck), the obsessed whaler who hunts down Moby-Dick, the great white symbolic whale. The individual on the right is Australian-born conservative Christian, Ken Ham, the crazed founder of the infamous, Kentucky creation ‘museum’. Is it just me or is there a slight similarity between the two –in appearance and obsession level? If you don’t see it, then just pretend for the sake of the cartoon.
Tag Archives: Social-Darwinism
A site called KansasCity.com posts a column called Midwest Voices, and a professor emeritus of economics from the University of Notre Dame –Larry Marsh–has written an absurd piece insisting that if one accepts evolution then it follows that one must accept free-market economics, and therefore reject socialism; forget that the former is a science and the latter is a social policy.
Marsh begins with:
Is life fundamentally bottom-up and randomly designed or top-down and intentionally designed? Are you a socialist-creationist or a free-market evolutionist? If you reject this dichotomy and instead view yourself as a socialist-evolutionist, how can you justify arguing for the power of self-organization and unintentional, benevolent design in biology and against it in economics?
The gist of his column is that he thinks living under the umbrella of a free-market economy naturally benefits all individuals, which he sees as analogous to individual ants benefiting from being part of a colony –which is actually organized from bottom up rather from the top down (i.e. government). As Marsh says, “The queen ant is not a commander ant. The colony just consists of individual ants instinctively following their nature”.
I suppose he’s saying it’s our nature to be capitalistic. And by following our nature we all profit. Oh, but what a magnificently lame philosophy it is. Invoking Adam Smith and Charles Darwin, as Marsh does, and setting them up against socialist Karl Marx and creationist William Paley may sound good on paper, while sitting in the comfy chair inside a professor’s air-conditioned office, but reality isn’t so pretty.
Hasn’t Marsh heard the estimate that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct? Or that historically the average rates of extinction and speciation have been about equal? (Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck by David Raup) Or that most offspring in the wild don’t make it to adulthood? The female Clownfish (anemone fish), for example, lays up to 1000 eggs in a clutch, but predation, genetic misfortune, and physical mishaps will likely destroy all but a tiny fraction. Mother Nature may recycle, but she’s a wasteful and inefficient bitch.
Should our economy be run in this fashion? Do we want General Motors using this model? Say for every one car it produces 100 will be junked. Or for every profitable loan Bank Of America makes, 100 will be bad debt. How long would the economy last?
That ‘radical’ Richard Dawkins has often said evolution is not a template for society; he likes to quote Tennyson –“nature, red in tooth and claw”. But through Marsh’s naive non-biologist eyes, evolution is not just an explanation for the origin and diversification of new species, it’s an instructive manual on how to live one’s life.
Marsh sounds like he accepts evolution, and as an academic he may well think he’s performing a double-whammy service by conflating it with capitalism, but he’s only cherry picking the parts of evolution that fit in with his economic views.
I consider Charles Darwin’s The Origin Of Species and The Descent Of Man two of the greatest books never read by creationists. Both are beautiful works celebrating the details of the natural world. But many creationists condemn them without even a glance. They read reviews, they often say, or they rely on the “experts” to judge the value of Darwin’s “theories”. The unwilling creationists don’t know what they’re missing.
Even within Darwin’s dry technical books -as apposed to his personal journals or autobiography- there is the occasional glimpse into his sense of humor. In The Descent of Man, for instance, one can read a hundred pages of qualitative data and then be surprised with a mild joke, an anecdote, or a quip about the French. Here Darwin talks about the quiet female Cicada:
Every one who has wandered in a tropical forest must have been astonished at the din made by the male Cicadæ. The females are mute; as the Grecian poet Xenarchus says, “Happy the Cicadas live, since they all have voiceless wives.”
See, wife jokes were funny in 19th century England and ancient Greece. And it goes to show that a century is not a long period of time at all. The year 1871, when The Descent Of Man was published, was yesterday. In the 18th century, Charles’ grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, once wrote about lending a college friend his class notes. The friend angrily returned them with a scribble across the cover, which accused him of atrocious spelling and being the son of a whore. Charles Darwin, you devil, you’re a human being after all. And you’re “descended from monkeys”.
If you occasionally peruse the New Scientist in book stores or on newsstands, or just enjoy a dose of easy-to-digest science, check out the magazine’s YouTube channel. My favorite of their latest videos is about the deepest living fish ever found. These little buggers, called Snailfish, show all the characteristics of a deep sea existence. For one, their tail musculature is greatly reduced, and their oversized pectoral fins provide most of the locomotion. Living in the deep, these fish don’t have to deal with strong wave action or fast currents. And it’s not surprising that their shallower-water cousins have more powerful tails, and a lot more body pigmentation.
God, the creator, must be a real lazy bastard. He basically took the same fish and pawned it off as two separate creations. I feel cheated.
The Republicans cry “Lincoln” and “let slip the dogs of war” when they are desperate for support. “We are the party of Lincoln“, they say. “We are the party of patriotism“, they say. But I think to call the modern Republican Party the party of Lincoln is like calling McDonald’s fast food authentic Scottish Cuisine.
A political party can be divided into the powerful people who run it and the voters who support it at the polls. When Lincoln was elected President, the Republican Party was considered progressive and the party of the urban elite. America was mostly an agricultural nation at the time, in the process of becoming a major industrial one. In contrast, the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and of the rural poor and the country elite. But political times change.
William Jennings Bryan, the lawyer who helped prosecute in the 1925 Scopes Trial, was a staunch Democrat. (He had served as Secretary of State under President Wilson, a major racist). Bryan supported the common man, prohibition, labor unions, and creationism. He spent the last years of his life fighting against Social-Darwinism and the teaching of evolution.
Modern Republicans pander to rural and suburban America. They court the “soccer moms“, “The Heart Of American“, and “The Bible Belt“. Modern Democrats court everyone else. A demographic map denoting the blue vs. the red states is simplistic, but it does demonstrate where a party is strongest. McCain isn’t in San Francisco, and Obama isn’t in Boise. The maps have shifted since 186o. The Democratic Party, once the party of slavery, racism, and creationism, is now supporting a black “evolutionist” for president.
The Republican Party is now the party of Chuck Norris, and the Democratic Party is the party of science. I don’t know about you, but I’m voting for science.
P.S. McCain is a computer illiterate.