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Proving my point at the Panda’s Thumb

At the Panda’s Thumb (go here), PvM suggests that I quoted Darwin’s remarks about the Irish out of context in a recent blog entry (go here for the quote). Darwin, quoting a certain Mr. Greg with approval, refers to “the careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman.” Mr. Greg goes on to say that the Irish multiply like rabbits whereas the more civilized Scot doesn’t. What I didn’t quote is Darwin’s subsequent qualifications, in which he sees factors as lowering Irish birthrates and raising Scottish birthrates. Thus, in my quote, I didn’t provide the proper nuance to Darwin’s theory as it applies to Irish and Scottish birthrates.

Hello, Everyone. Have you had your morning coffee? The point of the quote was not to characterize Darwin’s theory as it applies to human populations, but to highlight Darwin’s attitude toward the Irish and underscore the invidious distinctions of race and ethnicity that his theory engenders. “The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman.” Try applying those adjectives to any ethnicity, and see if it doesn’t get you branded a bigot and racist.

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20 Responses to Proving my point at the Panda’s Thumb

  1. Maybe PvM doesn’t have any problem with Darwin’s comments about the Irish and is endorsing them.

    Or else he is simply desperate to spin this in such a way as to avoid the obvious conclusion you put forward.

    Maybe both. After all the racist implications as Darwin himself espoused are not a difficult conclusion to draw from his concept of natural selection. Did anybody over at PT actually follow what you were trying to say or should we conclude that they are a collection of bigoted racists who endorse what Darwin actually said here.

  2. 2

    Vacuity
    Vacuity
    Vacuity
    Vacuity
    Vacuity

    Does anyone laugh everytime PvM posts and uses that word? He has, in my mind, become a major joke for this alone.

    Anyhow- don’t you guys get it? Darwin was a saint. He’s a mini-deity to some of these people. To see him approvingly quoting racist nonsense isn’t okay. You have to pretend this could never be true. It’s clear to me from the ENTIRE text in question that he was, indeed, approving of the quote.

  3. Dr. Dembski, I’ve been in a commenting fervor this afternoon over the passage you quoted from Decent of Man. I think you definitely understand the spirit with which Darwin was writing. Those at Red State Rabble and Panda’s Thumb are misstating Darwin’s position by conveniently leaving off their reading after two paragraphs following the cited passage rather than three.

    I would encourage you, though, in the future, to be more careful to explain the context of passages you cite (even if, as in this case, Darwin agrees with the quote more than not). It’s better to leave people without reasons to attack you. I understand, however, that you’re a busy man and at times oversights will happen.

  4. motthew: I was well aware of the context. But if I make the context clear, PvM and his fellows will find something else to attack. Better to give them what appears a minor slip-up, let them attack that, and then show how they’re acting in bad faith because they have ignored the gist.

    Believe it or not, it really helps that the other side thinks we’re such morons.

  5. To Bill:
    “it really helps that the other side thinks we’re such morons.”

    Eh? Are you serious ?

  6. Dr. Dembski,

    I respect your work, I believe in ID, and I believed in creative evolution long before there was anything called ID. I sincerely hope you succeed in your efforts.

    But for heaven’s sake, who cares if Darwin made some racist remarks. As they correctly pointed out at Panda’s Thumb, even Abraham Lincoln made racist remarks. We can’t hold historical figures to our current standards of political correctness!

    Why demonize Darwin? He was probably a decent well-meaning person, and he certainly contributed to science. Sure his theories have been misused, but isn’t that just the way life goes?

    I mean, can’t you see that Christianity has been horribly misused? Do you blame Jesus for the violence and intolerance that has been inspired by Christianity?

    I am very much opposed to neo-Darwinism, for scientific and philosophical reasons. Bashing Darwin as a person is not scientific and does not contribute in any way to the noble cause of ID.

  7. “To Bill:
    ‘it really helps that the other side thinks we’re such morons.’

    Eh? Are you serious?” – OilBoy

    Of course he is. Having your opponent underestimate you is invaluable because it causes carelessness and complacency. Politicians and generals exploit this miscalculation all the time to gain advantage.

  8. To: russ

    Perhaps, but I think there may be a simpler explanation.

  9. I think Bill was referring to the tactic of having your opponents “misunderestimate” you (as Bush made the statement famous), which allows you to raise above their expectations constantly. If they have no expectations of you, you can always rise to the challenge. :)

  10. RealPC:

    for heaven’s sake, who cares if Darwin made some racist remarks.

    Ask the ghosts of 100+ million victims of genocides and the like over the past 100 years or so, on the worldview motivations of their tormentors, and to what sources they looked for inspiration. Start here.

    Now, too, you are right to speak on how the Christian faith has been abused to support serious wrongdoing, including racist abuse. (I note, though thathis may often serve simply to distract attention ftom the material force of a key matter at stake so “you’re another” should be used with caution.)

    But, the point must be addressed. So, let me spesak inthe voice of an African Gazelle for a moment, bleating before the British Lion 200 years ago. Hear him, then put the matter in context, in light of Olaudah Equiano’s rebuke to the “nominal Christians” of his day — as an evangelical Christian, former slave and advocate against first the trade then the institution:

    . . . I remember in the vessel in which I was brought over, in the men’s apartment, there were several brothers, who, in the sale, were sold in different lots; and it was very moving on this occasion to see and hear their cries at parting. O, ye nominal Christians! might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you? Is it not enough that we are torn from our country and friends to toil for your luxury and lust of gain? Must every tender feeling be likewise sacrificed to your avarice? Are the dearest friends and relations, now rendered more dear by their separation from their kindred, still to be parted from each other, and thus prevented from cheering the gloom of slavery with the small comfort of being together and mingling their sufferings and sorrows? Why are parents to lose their children, brothers their sisters, or husbands their wives? Surely this is a new refinement in cruelty, which, while it has no advantage to atone for it, thus aggravates distress, and adds fresh horrors even to the wretchedness of slavery. [Interestign Narrative, ch 2]

    Then look at the famous Mars Hill Speech of Paul, in Ac 17, as he speaks to the common brotherhood of man amidst the diversity of nations. Multiply by the Pauline form of the Golden Rule in Rom 13, in the context of just government and good citizenship.

    Contrast the several excerpted remarks by Darwin in the Happy Darwinian World thread of March 20 in this blog.

    So, whilst there is indeed a mix of the glory, the pain and the shame in any society of finite, fallible, fallen humans, we must note the key diffrerence between what is explicitly taught by foundational leaders of intellectual and cultual movements, and what is not.

    In this context, that implies serious questions over the moral implications of the evolutionary materialism that is so often tightly coupled to NDT macroevolutionary theories. Not to mention, the wider research programme that seeks to naturalistically explain origins from hydrogen to humans.

    Further to this, if we refuse to learn from history we are doomed to relive it.

    GEM of TKI

  11. I should add too:

    Let’s take Equiano as a model of “intolerance” in the name of the Christian faith.

    That is, one man’s reformation is another man’s rebuke.

    So let us balance the cry “tolerance” with the point that some behaviours that may be both popular and backed up by powerful interests — behaviours that even protesters and would-be reformers may be tainted by [read Equiano's biography to see . . .] — are objectivley wrong, and for good reason.

    We must know where to draw lines, and how to do so with a tear, not with the pounce of a scavenging vulture or of a predatory raging lion. And that is a challenge.

    Jesus gave a good start: look for and address the plank in one’s own eye, AND help one’s brother with sawdust in his eye. BOTH-AND, not EITHER-OR.

    God, help us!

    GEM of TKI

  12. Believe it or not, it really helps that the other side thinks we’re such morons.

    This strategy has been especially successful in court cases and recent school board elections.

  13. The original context of the Darwin quote should have been made clear. What is the use of fuzzy communication?

    Best regards,
    apollo230

  14. 14

    US courts have also ruled that public libraries don’t have the right to filter hardcore porn from kids, that women somehow have a “constitutional” right to kill their unwanted babies in the womb, that the pledge of allegiance is illegal, that it’s unconstitutional to use the name “jesus” in a public setting, etc. Courts have ruled, in the past, that blacks aren’t full people, that segregation was constitutional, and that men could be held as slaves.

    Successful court cases mean very little with all of that in mind.

  15. PvM *always* accuses ‘a-Darwinists’ of misquoting, or “quote-mining,” whenever they use the very words of various “Darwinsts” in making arguments against Darwinistic ideas and assertions.

    It’s like a Law of Nature: the Buzzards return to Hinckley, OH and PvM accuses you of “quote-mining.”

  16. HodorH: It’s not a strategy. It’s a fact, one that can be exploited.

  17. that it’s unconstitutional to use the name “jesus” in a public setting

    Source? You did after all, just use the name “Jesus” in a public setting. I don’t think the cops are at your door.

  18. I think Jason is referring to governmental use of the name “Jesus”.

  19. Prof Dembski:

    I think it is important to follow up on a hint or two above. Pardon . . .

    For, unfortunately, if you are in a Courtroom with a certain Mr Jones presiding, and he thinks your side are “ignorant, stupid, insane . . . or wicked” then he may simply not bother to listen to the reaearch, material facts and reasoning that you adduce.

    He may then simply take your opponents’ rhetoric at face value, misrepresentations, inaccuracies and all, and change a few words to produce it as his “brilliant” and “landmark” decision.

    Then, that gets headlines, and the power of prejudice to drown out mere facts and proper reasoning therefrom, will assert itself. (Especially given who own too many of the microphones, presses and channels . . .)

    But, in the long haul, deceptive rhetoric loses out to logic and facts. But, there is often a very stiff price for refusing to attend to the true state of the case on the merits. (A price that is often to be seen in history and is also being paid now all across the world.)

    Pardon my latent cynicism . . . or, is it realism?

    GEM of TKI

  20. Darwin’s personal take on things or the fact that (admitedly) some of his present day bulldogs use “darwinian” thinking to undergird some questionable ethics is….beside the point.

    Now, I am fully aware that both he and his modern day myrimadons have used socio-biological arguments to make some point or comment that one can attach to ideology or one’s own political hobby horse. Dawkins and Dennett do this as do William Provine and others. Many Darwinian spear carriers have tried to make some handy, all-encompassing philosophy about the REAL nature of the world and our response to it. No doubt the mighty PZ Myserski (now that he knows his name gets misspelled so often, har har) does the same when he blasts the “thumpers”

    But either Darwinian descent holds water or it does not. In a recent encounter I was reminded that plate tectonics either stand or don’t even if it causes aggrevation for people who live in California. Likewise no one frets about “micro” gravity (say, a soda can rolling off the table) vs. “MACRO” gravity, as in the moon circling the earth.

    I know the implications of such things are vastly different than telling people they are the cumulative result of warm little ponds and time. But we are stuck in 2nd gear in the ID world over Micro vs. Macro evolution. Dawkins claims this is because as creatures who commonly don’t outlive a full century, we don’t see the big picture. We acknowledge insects can change to adapt to flower color and that finches change beak shape, but recoil in horror when 98% DNA comparability is found among chimps and humans and the fact that lions have similar bacteria in their stomachs as humans (indicating that far from the Garden of Eden idealism, lions dined frequently on human meat).

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