Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Strange days

Sometimes I think that perhaps the USofA is just weird. Times such as today, when I read a New York Times article (having followed a link from New Zealand's Best Business Columnist) about Conservatives debating whether Darwin is alright by them after all.

For a start, the NYT mentions, almost in passing, that three of the ten candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination do not believe in evolution. Those of us outside the asylum could hardly be surprised, given the messianic glee of the present incumbent and the legions of the dead which provide his support base. Nevertheless, it is worth stopping and staring about this fact for a moment: thirty per cent of the candidates are saying that biologists are wrong; not wrong morally (although they quite possibly think that as well) but wrong theoretically. They might as well say that all the universities and research institutions in the United States which do Biology of any kind are not doing it right.

Of course these three candidates are from Kansas, Arkansas and Colorado but that is no excuse. These men are presumptuous enough to doubt the founding theory of modern biology, because it conflicts with their voters' strongly held and erroneous religious convictions.

Also of note is that here the New York Times, supposedly a liberal newspaper and certainly one of the most influential, using the term Darwinism to describe Evolutionary Biology. Darwinism is the word the Creationists prefer to use; it helps suggest that evolution is just a theory and, worse still, just another -ism (by their nature, -isms are bad things: look at Marxism, Socialism, Feminism), that it is a fusty and old 19th Century idea (as opposed to the sleek new theory of Intelligent Design) and that it is simply the opinion of one man. By using the term interchangeably with Evolution and largely in place of it, the Times shows that the Creationists have framed the debate on their terms. They have also managed to create confusion, as this article evinces, between the work of Charles Darwin on the origin of species and the notions of Social Darwinism created in the wake of his discoveries, which have precious little to do with Biology.

We should also note, not just here but whenever the pseudo-issue of Darwinism is discussed, that it is a redundant term. We (and by 'we' I mean the human race) now have the Modern Synthesis between the work started by Darwin and our knowledge of Genetics. Creationists like to refer to this body of knowledge (on occasions when they cannot ignore it entirely) as 'neo-Darwinism,' a term designed to be as appealing as 'neo-Fascism.' On the whole, though, the Creationists would prefer that we don't think about DNA and such stuff, because it disproves everything they believe. Instead they would like us to think that there is a debate going on in Science between boring old Darwinism and their exciting new theory of ID, which in truth is about as scientific as Astrology.

Most remarkable of all is the import of this article: that some Conservatives are warming to their conception of Darwinism, which was the creation of their Creationist brethren, because it serves the very purposes about which the Creationists have been warning us. This neo-Conservative, neo-Social Darwinism is red in tooth and claw.

Yes, the USofA is weird.

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