Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Chuck D!

Today, we mark the birthday of Charles Darwin, the naturalist who, simultaneously with Alfred Russel Wallace articulated the Theory of Evolution by Means of Natural Selection. Darwin had been quietly formulating his thoughts on evolution, but being a careful, sober man, he put off publishing them for fear of upsetting the establishment until Wallace wrote him to describe his own observations about evolution. Darwin gets most of the credit, and blame, for his Theory of Evolution, but Wallace's role should not be forgotten.

Charles Darwin has been demonized and slandered by those who feel threatened by his theory- he has been falsely portrayed as a racist and mendacious shitbags have tried to link Nazism to Darwin's theory (I would observe that Martin Luther had more of a role in German antisemitism than Darwin ever did). Creationists have also tried to like Darwin with Stalin, which is particularly egregious, because the Stalinist party line embraced Lysenkoism. In reality, Darwin was a staunch foe of slavery and racist violence, and could be counted among the most enlightened individuals of his time.

The Scala Naturae, the idea of a "hierarchy of being", with white males at the top, preceded Darwin, and Darwin's theory played a large role in dismantling it. Darwin's observation that all organisms shared a common descent is a celebration of the interconnectedness of life, and actually makes racism and even cruelty to animals less morally tenable. We are all related, descendents of a primordial microorganism, and we are more closely related to mushrooms than Escherichia coli bacteria and Clostridium sp. bacteria are to each other. The "Darwinian" framework also led to the discovery that there is no genetic basis for race, so laying the blame for racism on Darwin is a monstrous distortion and a base calumny.

Darwin's observation is dangerous precisely because it undermines the positions of racists and authoritarians, which is why they accuse him of their own sins, a classic case of psychological projection. Evolution is real, it can be observed in action with the rise of antibiotic resistance. Stripped down to the simplest level, evolution by means of natural selection merely means that organisms which have more descendents pass along more of their traits than those which do not... it's a process that works on populations over time, and the idea that an individual can evolve is a gross distortion, or a Pokémon rule. Evolution is real, and Creationist arguments against it invariable rely on arguments against a house of straw of their own, er, creation.

Darwin was good, Darwin was right, I celebrate his birth tonight.


M. Bouffant said...

And Abe Lincoln. They're both 206 yrs. old.

Sirius Lunacy said...

I thought Darwin was just a theoretical person.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I agree with all of this post in theory.

mikey said...

The problem is the most honest kind of faith in any give religious mythology is the fundamenalist reading, where faith requires a literal interpretation of scriptures, which are accepted as the inerrant word of god.

The more we come to understand about the world, the universe and our place in it, the more we come into tension and even conflict with those whose entire worldview is dependent on a belief that everything in their given holy book is literally true and to believe otherwise is blasphemy.

With the tribal structures hard-wired into human culture, this represents a gigantic problem that will increasingly lead to conflict, bloodshed and suffering. In a global society, there just isn't room for both outlooks anymore...