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Darwin and the Irish … again

Apparently, one of the Thumbsmen has claimed that Bill Dembski overstated/misstated (or whatever) Darwin’s contempt for the feckless* Irish, with their endless stream of brats (combined, of course, with his approval of the thrifty and allegedly cautiously procreative Scot).

Which is hilarious, because contempt for the Irish was part and parcel of Darwin’s Brit toffery – a social code everyone in those days understood. The Potato Famine, when so many thousands starved to death within easy reach of abundant food exported from Ireland, would be incomprehensible apart from it. Indeed, I heard its fell echoes a century later, as a child in a far distant land.

No, Dembski did not misquote Darwin. Darwin meant exactly what he said. The problem is that what Darwin meant is incompatible with the theory he is famed for advancing.

Either natural selection produces survival of the fittest (Spencer’s term, quoted with approval by Darwin as a suitable description of the main point of his theory) or it does not. But Darwin believed – irrationally – that the Irish were both most likely to breed and succeed and less fit, and therefore a menace.

The most reasonable explanation for such a view is that Darwin only believed in the awesome power of natural selection in the distant past where we cannot actually view it at work directly. And therefore his theory appeared safe from disconfirmation.

The moment he was confronted with an apparent example of selection in real time, he jumped the good ship Beagle and hopped genteelly aboard the eugenics bandwagon instead. Nature – which had got on so well for billions of years – turned out to need human legislation sponsored by Darwin’s friends, relatives, and groupies, just to do the mundane job of keeping the human race from going downhill. Huh?

That’s the part about early Darwinists and eugenics that baffled me at first. If natural selection is as creative as Darwin’s followers claimed, they should have been the last people in the world to get involved with schemes for tipping nature’s hand. But wait! what if they never really wanted to subject their pet theory to a true test?

Well, then, the feckless* Irish must have been a truly distressing sight …

Feckless* – The Irish had kids when, according to experts, they couldn’t afford it.

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32 Responses to Darwin and the Irish … again

  1. Except that a Darwinist could easily argue that humans evolved the ability to conceive eugenics programs. Thus, the race most successfully implementing eugenics to exterminate other races and proliferate its own kind is indeed more “fit” and wins the natural selection game.

  2. I think the above is mis-informed for 2 reasons:

    1. Selection acts on wild populations where ‘unfit’ individuals do not have the protection of social services, etc. Such individuals are entirely at the mercy of predators, hunger, etc. A civilised state intervenes to protect (albeit imperfectly) precisely those who are least able to protect themselves.
    This is no comment whatever on biological Evolution.

    2. Darwins personal views have no bearing on the correctness of Evolution. Its like saying some piece of Physics is invalid because the author is Jewish. Darwins views appear to us to be of the white/supremacist variety, but thats the culture he was immersed in.

  3. Darwin’s personal views do serve to highlight just how evolution as a concept is both used and abused. And it puts people who have effectively declared the man a secular saint in an interesting position – do they come down on Darwin for having a warped and incorrect view of applied evolutionary theory?

    I don’t check the man’s blog, but I’d still enjoy hearing PZ Myers say ‘Darwin wrong on evolution’, even with all the reasonable caveats. But I think he’d feel far more comfortable pretending that any criticism of Darwin is ill-motivated, and therefore incorrect by default.

  4. Darwin’s views have no bearing on his own theory that is based on his own views? I’d say his views about his own theory have all the bearing in the world on this matter.

    Afterall, Darwinists base their basic ideas on Darwin’s own ideas, no?

  5. By the way- if EVERYTHING is the result of Darwinian events- aka “a trillion happy accidents”, then wouldn’t social services and the state itself also be the result of the same mindless/accidental events?

  6. To: JasonTheGreek
    I think Evolution has pretty much outgrown Darwin, so fretting about the political correctness of his personal views is a bit academic.

  7. Josh, you are assuming that the Irish whose numbers so distressed Darwin enjoyed lavish social services. Huh? Read up on the Potato Famine and the horrendous living conditions for the Irish generally.

    While watching the Irish explosion, famine, et cetera, Darwin had a good opportunity, as a scientist to observe natural selection at work (a fact that should have occurred to him). Instead, so far as i can see, he explicitly worried that its outcome would be degenerative to society and he supported eugenic steps to forestall it. (And the fact that he mainly had society in view, and not the welfare of individuals is quite clear.)

    Darwin’s personal views have a good deal of bearing: If the man wouldn’t back his own theory, why should anyone else?

    Josh, I see your point, but eugenics programs do not “evolve,” in a Darwinian sense. They are originated and planned.

    (One could argue, with Dawkins, that the eugenicist is only a puppet of his selfish genes, but (1) no clear link exists between the genes and the actions that does not involve planning and carrying out an idea. That is not what Darwin meant by natural selection in the broader living world.

    (2) Plus, taking this tack does not help us understand why Darwin did not want to test his theory by letting nature take its course.

    (3) Yes, it may be that Darwin did not think nature would ever really just take its course in the human world, and I agree. But that makes the purpose of eugenics, the Descent of Man (and of evolutionary psychology in general) rather less than clear.

    For what it is worth, the Irish had lots of children because, while under occupation by the English, most retained their loyalty to the Catholic Church, which encouraged the practice. Luckily for the Irish, emigration took the pressure off local resources while also providing populations abroad to send money back home. Today, I suspect, the Philippine culture is broadly similar in its practices. In my neighbourhood, one need not go far to find a remittance* shoppe that offers services in Tagalog (a Philippine language).

    *safe transfer of funds from Canada to relatives and friends in a developing country

  8. But Darwin believed – irrationally – that the Irish were both most likely to breed and succeed and less fit, and therefore a menace.

    John Wilkins explains this apparent paradox here. The summary is that Darwin pointed out that the survival rate is less for the poorer classes, so fitness may not be higher.

    Bob

  9. “Luckily for the Irish, emigration took the pressure off local resources while also providing populations abroad to send money back home. Today, I suspect, the Philippine culture is broadly similar in its practices. In my neighbourhood, one need not go far to find a remittance* shoppe that offers services in Tagalog (a Philippine language).”

    Such shops are common in Southern California where they serve local Central Americans.

    My own grandparents escaped the early 20th century chaos of communist Russia with the help of North American Mennonites, who sent money and paid for the passage of their fellow German-speaking co-religionists to Canada.

    As a result, my family hasn’t evolved much. But at least Lenin/Stalin didn’t naturally deselect us with a famine, purge, or world war.

  10. P.S.: Let’s go back to the beginning here:

    Darwin believed that the Irish were inferior to the Scots and the Anglo-Saxons, but also that, left to themselves, they would predominate in the population.

    In other words, he believed that natural selection would select the less developed group. That is not a good advertisment for the creative power of his theory. And it was natural selection’s supposed creative power that made the theory important. No one has ever doubted that natural selection would pick off the unfit.

    Now, if Darwin did not really believe that natural selection (which he understood as the main engine of evolution) worked in human beings, then he could not do what he most wanted to do – account for the evolution of human beings. Whey then, bother with the Descent of Man?

    My own view is that once human beings developed consciousness, natural selection would play only a very limited role in subsequent developments. Almost anything else might prevail, based on ideas conceived in the human mind.

    Pharaohs married their sisters for religious reasons, Irish had large families for religious reasons, and the Dalai Lama was celibate for religious reasons. None of it had anything to do with natural selection. All these states of affairs have demographic outcomes, but they don’t originate in natural selection and would only accidentally cooperate with it.

    But that state of affairs makes eugenics projects immoral and pointless. Why force others to cooperate with one’s own idea of excellence instead of their own?

  11. The most reasonable explanation for such a view is that Darwin only believed in the awesome power of natural selection in the distant past where we cannot actually view it at work directly. And therefore his theory appeared safe from disconfirmation.

    This pretty much sums up evolutionary nonsense: the things that are exclusive of Darwinism are not testable/falsifiable. The things that Darwinists claim is evidence for their religious myth, are not exclusive to evolution. So evolutionism is “safe”.

  12. OK- this guy staggers in to the store and staggers up to the counter. He looks at the clerk and slurs-”A pound of corn beef, please.”

    The clerk looks up and says, “You must be Irish!”

    “What do you mean by that?” the customer slurs back. “If I asked for a pound of rice would you say I was Japanese? If I asked for a pound of spaghetti would that make me Italian?”

    “No”, responded the clerk. “But this is a hardware store.”

  13. Off topic,

    Joseph,

    Last week on my favorite TV show (“Good Eats” with Alton Brown) a nutritional anthropologist came on and explained that corned beef is not a traditional Irish food. In Ireland most people were too poor to have meat in their diet, and beef of any variety was usually reserved for the rich. Corned beef is associated with the Irish only in the United States. This is so because Irish immigrants to New York City began eating it regularly, probably learning the practice from New York Jews. Back me up here O’Leary.

  14. The hardware store was in Chicago and the clerk knew people from the southside. ;) And I the only tradition the customer understood was to pour alcohol down the toilet by first passing it through his system.:)

    I was under the impression that the populations of Ireland and Great Britain were genetically related, ie shared a recent common ancestor.

    It is also “funny” that the most likely cause of the potato famine was a parasite that went back from the “New World” and that is where they went- “you invade our land and we’ll invade yours”.

  15. Backing up Barry: I’m no expert, but I suppose that most traditional Irish ate little meat, consistent with their subsistence agrarian lifestyle.

    Re common ancestor of English and Irish: The original Britanni were Celts, as were the Scots, Irish, and Welsh, but many British people treasured their descent from the Anglo-Saxons and/or Normans. In one of his poems (Recessional?), British poet laureate Tennyson talks about the “hysteric Celt” (= Irish) who needs the firm hand of British government. One would think that, after the Potato Famine, the Celt would have a lot to be hysteric about.

  16. Oops. I can’t find the “hysteric Celt” reference in Tennyson, but searching for it, I came across quite a few references to the basic idea. The Celts’ freakout over imperialism was put down to their basic instability, not to the problems created by imperialism.- d.

  17. Found it now: The exact phrase is “The blind hysterics of the Celt”, abbreviated in our long-ago Lit class to “hysteric Celt”. Line 16 of CIX (109) of Tennyson’s In Memoriam, published 1850, in the midst of the famine. Tennyson was tryng to accommodate ideas about evolution current at the time with some sort of churchianity, and he probably was not even thinking about what was going on across the channel.

  18. It really sounds like Darwin was simply making an unprincipled exception to his own theory. That is, he allows for something that doesn’t work according to his principle / theory, in order to keep his own life livable. Thus, the fear of a burgeoning Irish population trumps his own theory.

  19. “Except that a Darwinist could easily argue that humans evolved the ability to conceive eugenics programs. Thus, the race most successfully implementing eugenics to exterminate other races and proliferate its own kind is indeed more “fit” and wins the natural selection game.”
    I think this is probably an acurate potrayal of the evolutionist’s response. Except considering O’Leary’s response, the easily bit should be left out.

  20. To: Crash,
    I think this would be an extremely inacurate portrayal.

  21. OB:

    Re: I think this would be an extremely inacurate portrayal.

    I am not so sure, given this in ch 6 of Darwin’s 1871 Descent of Man:

    The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies- between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae- between the elephant, a in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidn and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked,* will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.
    ________

    * Anthropological Review, April, 1867, p. 236

    Darwin then coolly continues, not pausing at all to morally correct such a predicted project of not just eugenics but genocide, which also takes on added force in light of remarks in Ch 5, and of course the history that so sadly followed. Note, therefore, how telling it is to see how – having written the above for public consumption – he then simply goes on to his next point:

    With respect to the absence of fossil remains, serving to connect man with his ape-like progenitors, no one will lay much stress on this fact who reads Sir C. Lyell’s discussion,* where he shews that in all the vertebrate classes the discovery of fossil remains has been
    a very slow and fortuitous process . . .[and yes, that plea to “explain” gaps has been made ever since Darwin, never mind just how embarrassingly rich the record has become since then . . .]

    In short, OB, Crash clearly has a point.

    GEM of TKI

  22. 22

    First, please correctly represent what is said in these passages. Darwin summarizes the views of two other people that if evolution were true, the supposedly undesirable Irish should prevail over the more civilized Scots. Darwin’s response is not–as has been suggested here–to arbitrarily suspend the mechanism of natural selection to fit the data. The theory of evolution by natural selection is not some set of ad hoc assertions made by Darwin that biologists now embrace as some sort of Bible. Any such suspension of a core principle of a theory to accommodate an anomaly would be correctly rejected by scientists.
    What he argues is that other factors, such as high mortality, offset the apparent out-breeding of the one group by the other.
    But ultimately he goes on to conclude that if these effects don’t remain in balance, then yes, “the nation will retrograde.”
    In other words, he acknowledges that if the Irish are more likely to breed and survive to reproduce, then they are in fact more fit according to his own theory.
    Darwin was unfortunately comfortable with an archaic vocabulary that ranked human beings, in terms of value, in rough categories ranging from savage to civilized. But it is not true that in these paragraphs he fudged his theory to accommodate the view that evolution would support only the “civilized” end of this spectrum.
    Regardless of the magnitude of Darwin’s own racism, in general, evolution by natural selection cannot be said to support racial or cultural eugenics because (1) Culture and individual behavior, are not directly and exclusively determined by genetics. (2) It is impossible to know the fitness of a genetic endowment, because it depends on future events. Those who are arguably most fit today may not be tomorrow if a drought, plague, or asteroid hits. (3) Fitness is not a moral category. Even if we have reason to believe that some particular group of people are genetically more likely to successfully reproduce than another, the theory of evolution by natural selection does not contain ANYTHING to suggest that we are therefore supposed to promote that tendency.

  23. W:

    I will point you to the discussion in the Mar 20 thread, “It’s a happy Darwinian world after all . . . ,” which extensively discusses the parsing of the remarks on the Irish in Darwin’s Ch 5 of His 1871 Descent of Man.

    I excerpt and remark, as Narrator speaks, i.e. Darwin:
    ____________

    In regard to the moral qualities, some elimination of the worst dispositions is always in progress even in the most civilised nations. Malefactors are executed, or imprisoned for long periods, so that they cannot freely transmit their bad qualities . . . .

    With civilised nations, as far as an advanced standard of morality, and an increased number of fairly good men are concerned, natural selection apparently effects but little; though the fundamental social instincts were originally thus gained. But I have already said enough, whilst treating of the lower races, on the causes which lead to the advance of morality, namely, the approbation of our fellow-men- the strengthening of our sympathies by habit- example and imitation- reason- experience, and even self-interest- instruction during youth, and religious feelings.

    A most important obstacle in civilised countries to an increase in the number of men of a superior class has been strongly insisted on by Mr. Greg and Mr. Galton . . . . [infamous cited remark on the Irish vs Scottish, and on Celts vs Saxons -- and NB English are "Anglo-Saxons" follows]

    There are, however, some checks to this downward tendency. We have seen that the intemperate suffer from a high rate of mortality, and the extremely profligate leave few offspring . . . .[which he lists, then continues . . .] If the various checks . . . do not prevent the reckless, the vicious and otherwise inferior members of society from increasing at a quicker rate than the better class of men, the nation will retrograde, as has too often occurred in the history of the world. We must remember that progress is no invariable rule . . .
    ___________

    Worse, a glance at where Darwin goes in the very next chapter, as I cited in 21, and his sentiments in the infamous 1881 letter, show that his own sensitivity to the moral implications of his thought were utterly worn down.

    Only such can explain his cool prediction of mass genocide without stricture as he calmly goes on to his next point.

    Nor, did his prediction fail insofar as attempts were concerned — over 100 millions died under secularist tyrannies in the name of “progress” over C20. Indeed, the British, in S Africa were the first to invent the concentration camp, used against the Boers. Not to mention the sad fate of Ota Benga, the black man exhibited in a cage in a zoo as though he had been but one step up from the apes.

    So, it is fair coment to note that:

    1] Darwin was not at all confident that NATURAL selection suffices to keep humanity ascending,

    2] He MODERATES rather than outright rejects the language of those he cited, Galton and Greg

    3] He resorts to racist language and to discussing/predicting genocide of inferior races without expressing compunctions and rebuke to such as would go down that path. (Remember the context of the Potato famine of the Irish, and even the callous response of Governor Eyre, one of those who presided there, when Jamaican peasants petitioned Queen Victoria for help in a famine in Jamaica in 1865. The rebuff issued by some incompetent Colonial secretary on the advice of the Governor helped trigger the Morant Bay uprising.]

    4] Such “artificial selection” to was set in the context of a close link to the effects of natural selection.

    The results of that pursuit of “artificial selection” in the interests of “improving” the human race, in ruthless hands over the past 100 years, are too notorious to review.

    GEM of TKI

  24. 24

    kairosfocus:
    Thanks for your reply.
    As I acknowledged, Darwin’s cavalier cultural chauvinism is jarring when read today, but again, he did not arbitrarily declare natural selection moot in some dishonest attempt to avoid a falsification of his theory. If he felt that the Scots ought to eventually replace the Irish through some sort of “artificial selection,” then he was a jerk, but no such position can be derived from his theory, whether he recognized as much or not. If that seems like picking and choosing what we take from Darwin, it is. But as I’ve said, Darwin was not some flawless High-Priest who should now be defended at all costs, he was just a writer and scientist who brilliantly formulated the first clear statement of what has become the dominant unifying theory of biology. The theory can be stated and defended without any reference to him.

  25. W:

    I observe your: no such position [i.e in favour of artificial selection as applied to human populations, including eugenics ] can be derived from his theory, whether he recognized as much or not.

    Sadly, there is 100 years of evidence that runs just the opposite, and The Descent of Man gives the reason why, in part as excerpted.

    No fair view on Mr Darwin can be had that does not reckon with this, and with its results across time. For the issue is not dead, just refocussed — cf Ms Sanger’s motivations re Planned Parenthood, for instance, and that of some of her heirs.

    Secondly, I see you make a most telling substitution: cavalier cultural chauvinism.

    In fact, he plainly and explicitly conceived the distinctions between people groups as that between RACES linked to what we would today call genetic deposits. Further, within a given people group his elitism was linked to the idea that the eminent, better educated, high profile people were the better stock in effect. (Of course the Marxist-Leninists viewed more or less the same people as degenerated parasites to be eliminated by the studdy, hardy proletariat and the vanguard party in the class struggle . . .]

    I grant you this: I am not at all sure that Darwin conceived of a resort to artificial selection as a refutation of his theory, as so often he used the observed AS as a proxy for NS. My problem is that he AS he has in mind — without even a pause to see and try to stop the horror he is opening the door to — is horrendous and reveals the underlying erosion of morality that leads so many to view NDT and the broader evolutionary materialism with deepest distrust. They — indeed, we — have a lot of history on their/our side, W, a lot of history.

    I am aware that one can formulate NDT without reference to Darwin per se, but the weight of that history and that philosophical-ethical association does not go away so easily. And, once we are addressing worldviews, such issues are not irrelevant.

    Then, I am not at all convinced that NDT has EARNED — much less, WARRANTS retention in — its status as “the dominant unifying theory of biology.” (You can look at my always linked through my handle to see why in detail. Here, I just note that redefining science on origins as only being able to infer to chance and/or necessity begs serious methodological and historical questions, and the NDT has major evidentiary gaps. Nor am I impressed with a paradigm whose principal spokesmen are reduced to misrepresenting the claims of those who advocate alternatie paradigms.)

    I guess, too, part of why I am steamed up on this one is that on one side my ancestry is Irish-Scottish, on the other African, with a dash of Indian for good measure. And, according to family tradition, one of my relatives was among those unjustly hanged at Morant Bay in 1865. I KNOW what such “artificial selection” looks like, from the viewpoint of the victims.

    GEM of TKI

  26. kairosfocus:

    Again, thanks for your reply.

    Racism and eliminationism have existed since long before the science of genetics or Darwin’s theory.

    The appalling incidents of genocide and eugenics since his time may have even invoked his name, but anyone who claimed then or now that the theory of evolution by natural selection justifies these events is mistaken, or lying.

    Even if one accepts, as I suspect you do, that the methodological materialism behind the theory implies an anything-goes nihilism, the theory still dictates no course of action regarding eugenics. I can’t state this strongly enough: Even if one happily relinquishes all moral restraint, the theory doesn’t dictate any particular goal or course of action–not even survival. It is not a theory about the “value” of survival or anything else. It is a theory about the effects of differential survival rates on populations of organisms over time.

    As for the more general issue of whether the truth of materialism would mean that we can’t morally rule out anything, that’s another matter, and I guess you would see the materialism of science in general as a problem, not just Darwin.

    On another point, you said:

    “I grant you this: I am not at all sure that Darwin conceived of a resort to artificial selection as a refutation of his theory, as so often he used the observed AS as a proxy for NS.”

    The point I meant to convey was that Darwin *didn’t* resort to artificial selection. He quoted a suggestion that the greater “fitness” of Scots in spite of the more rapid reproduction of the Irish ran counter to his theory. His reply was to argue that greater mortality made the apparent reproductive superiority of the Irish an illusion. This response neither suspends natural selection, nor substitutes artificial selection for natural selection.

    His response *should have been* only that his opponents had misunderstood his theory when they suggested that anything besides numbers of fertile offspring would ever make the Scots more “fit” than the Irish. He gets to this eventually, as we’ve both quoted above (“the nation will retrograde…”), but he first searches for a way to salvage the assumption that the Scots are more fit both according to sophisticated tastes and the theory of selection. *I’ll* grant *you* that this is his racism showing through, but nonetheless, I think Oleary’s original statement in the article above doesn’t hold water:

    “Darwin believed – irrationally – that the Irish were both most likely to breed and succeed and less fit”

    Darwin never tries to assert that both of these could be true.

    Thanks for the discussion. I have to go back to work tomorrow, so I’ll have to give you the last word. Our discussion has been civil and not at all as some claimed I would find here. I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks.

    P.S. I will read the material at your link. Maybe we can have some back and forth again some time.

  27. Hi again W:

    Hope all goes well at work.

    I note on points:

    1] Racism and eliminationism have existed since long before the science of genetics or Darwin’s theory.

    True, but irrelevant to the point that Darwinism, for 100 years or so, provided a “scientific” justification for it. We live in a scientific era, in which the lable “scientific” has enormous persuasive power, so we must learn the lesson of how science can be abused and where it can lead. That brings us to . . .

    2] anyone who claimed then or now that the theory of evolution by natural selection justifies these events is mistaken, or lying.

    Let us take this in two bites. For, “justifies” is a very slippery term: it can mean “entails” and it can mean “morally warrants or exculpates.” On the first, my point is that Darwin himself saw the predicted genocide of “inferior races” by the so-called “civilised” [Descent of Man ch 6 as cited, 21 above] was an illustration of his theory in action. The “anyone” by direct implication of predictive statement without repudiation or rebuttal, therefore includes him. Sadly, Galton, etc are in fact Darwin’s legitimate intellectual heirs, and it is far harder to justify relative to fact and logic, that their inferences are unwarranted relative to what the foundational thought on darwinism teaches, than it is to dismiss such an observation.

    For in such a context, “races” approximates to “sub-species” or “breeds,” and if the fittest are the only ones evolutionarily worth reproducing, culling out the throwbacks makes “sense”: nb in 18 above, how Darwin so tellingly and casually dismisses the negro and the australian aborigine as the closest humans to the apes, in a context implying that we are ripe for culling by the more advanced breeds. His remarks on the Irish are similarly ominous – just substitute “Jew” and the implications become plain. Similarly, on his race-class elitism within a society, just invert the view of which classes should prevail and see where that leads.

    The further point on morality is that Darwinism has for 150 years, under various names, consistently been held to be the warranting “scientific” framework for new amoralities of power, typically linked to evolutionary materialism (or to “scientific” mystical evolutionism as a worldview) – cf Nietzsche’s will to power, Marxism-Leninism’s dialectical materialism, and Blavatsky’s Aryan Man myth, etc. Such a worldview undermines morality, as the issue of right is subsumed under the point of power. Or, in the terms I have used several times, why should the British lion heed the bleat of the tasty african gazelle? Or, again, the groans of the temptingly close Irish sheep?

    Pausing . . .

  28. Continuing . . .

    The second main point follows from that. Namely, darwinism and its predominant underlying worldview, evolutionary materialism, undermine the basis for morality in general. And, for that matter, for mind. As I have sometimes put it:

    a] the evo mat view argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    b] But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

    c] Therefore, if evolutionary materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity.

    d] Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    e] Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    f] As a further consequence, materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community, for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead.

    In short, we end up at the conclusion that “nature red in tooth and claw” entails that “might makes right,” which in turn makes nonsense of the point of morality – contrast Christian historian Lord Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    3] Darwin *didn’t* resort to artificial selection. He quoted a suggestion that the greater “fitness” of Scots in spite of the more rapid reproduction of the Irish ran counter to his theory. His reply was to argue that greater mortality made the apparent reproductive superiority of the Irish an illusion.

    I am afraid, not so. My primary reference to resort to artificial selection was on the “culling” he predicted in Ch 6, as cited in 21 above. Further references are in the context of his remarks in Origin, in which he adduces AS as a proxy for NS, then asks the reader to infer the capacity of NS cromt he fact of AS.

    Then, on the Irish/Scottish question, his point was actually not at all so simple, as can be seen in the parallel thread already pointed out. [Or, go to ch 5 and read the whole context.] My above excerpts show that his point was that there are balancing forces and the outcome is not so cut and dry as Galton etc put it, but the forces they point to are real. That is, he moderated but did not repudiate the eugenics thesis.

    Pausing . . .

  29. Continuing . . .

    4] His response *should have been* only that his opponents had misunderstood his theory

    It wasn’t, and on the evidence of Ch 6 as cited above, there was a reason for this: the implications of “nature, red in tooth and claw.” In short, the discussion in Ch 5 sets up the discussion in Ch 6, which shows how his framework of thought [broader than his theory proper, but all “scientific” theories, models and observations they explain inherently have such broader, worldview core elements] implies just how the more civilised nations will “control” the higher “natural “ level of reproduction of those closer to the apes: through war, conquest, disease and genocide.

    In short, the underlying Malthusian “checks” on excess populations, leading to “the survival of the fittest” are being alluded to. Eugenics typically substitutes for these, more subtle restraints on reproduction, by updating Malthus’ “restraint.” So, looking though Malthusian spectacles, the restrained Scot beats the feckless Irish in the end, showing himself the more fit – he avoids disease and famine. The European beats the Turk all hollow, and will go on to eliminate inferior races and also the more advanced, low-population apes, and so the gap between man and the apes etc will widen over the centuries to follow.

    5] I think Oleary’s original statement in the article above doesn’t hold water: “Darwin believed – irrationally – that the Irish were both most likely to breed and succeed and less fit” Darwin never tries to assert that both of these could be true.

    The Malthusian look clarifies the matter: the allegedly feckless Irish in the short term reproduce at higher rates [and so threaten the success of “more fit” races, e.g the Scots and a fortiori the Anglo-Saxons], but then – lo and behold — they outstripped the long-term carrying capacity of their land, and died off in the potato famine.

    But she also says something else that is highly significant: The Potato Famine, when so many thousands starved to death within easy reach of abundant food exported from Ireland, would be incomprehensible apart from it In short, there is an issue of artificiality in the die-off and associated forced emigration.

    Similarly, in the 1865 Morant Bay, Jamaica, rebellion – six years before publication of Descent of Man [and NB Governor Eyre was burned in effigy in London in protest . . . so this did not happen in a corner], unresponsiveness to famine among negro peasants was met with by dismissive advice to in effect emulate the stern, frugal, productive Scots.

    We clearly see the social biases, but also that the theory was shaped in that matrix and so in many ways it subtly hints at and reflects it. Is it any surprise to further note that it was the British who invented the Concentration Camp, for use in the Boer War? Or, that far more Boers died in those camps than on the battlefield?

    Some pretty serious soul-searching is in order.

    6] Our discussion has been civil and not at all as some claimed I would find here. I’ve enjoyed it. Thanks.

    I am happy to see that UD, through strong moderation ["artificial selection" . . .], does in fact provide a generally civil forum that focuses on fact and logic, instead of invective. [Note my inference that survival of the fittest can be by design . . . individual and emergent in a context of interacting agents.]

    My experience has been that there is a lot of uncivil conduct out there, and a lot of the worst of it in my long observation comes from evolutionary materialism advocates using attacks to the man, distortions and atmosphere poisoning.

    E.g. I have personally been called a lazy bum, an ignoramus, a liar [a favourite accusation], a Christofacscist, a Nazi, or worse, utterly without warrant. Note in this context the implications of Dawkins’ “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked” attempted quadrilemma, multiplied by an ethic of survival by force.

    [Having said that, I am VERY uncomfortable on the appearance of vulgar language here, including in main posts, as that sets a tone that is anything but civil. To say the least.]

    Let’s all try to do better.

    Cheerio

    GEM of TKI

  30. H’mm:

    I should add. The Malthusian view boils down to a pessimistic view that population tends to grow exponentially, but resources only arithmetically and/or are limited. Thus, population tends to outstrip the carrying capacity of the land, leading to competion for limited resources and “survival of the fittest.”

    As the case of Palestine under the British Mandate shows, this omits the resource-transforming power of mind. The very same land that the British sought to cut off Jewish immigration to in the 1930s on the declared grounds of the Jewish immigrants exceeding carrying capacity, now supports 6 – 7 millions.

    In short, we should never underestimate the power of intelligent design. [E.g. 100 years ago, silicon was only useful as low-value sand or at most an additive to steel. Now, it is the physical basis of the C21 economy!]

    GEM of TKI

  31. A United Kingdom?:

    Britain and Ireland are so thoroughly divided in their histories that there is no single word to refer to the inhabitants of both islands. Historians teach that they are mostly descended from different peoples: the Irish from the Celts and the English from the Anglo-Saxons who invaded from northern Europe and drove the Celts to the country’s western and northern fringes.

    But geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles are edging toward a different conclusion. Many are struck by the overall genetic similarities, leading some to claim that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. The implication that the Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh have a great deal in common with each other, at least from the geneticist’s point of view, seems likely to please no one. The genetic evidence is still under development, however, and because only very rough dates can be derived from it, it is hard to weave evidence from DNA, archaeology, history and linguistics into a coherent picture of British and Irish origins.

    See also Myths of British ancestry

  32. Joseph:

    So, even the “facts” of human racial inheritance and their claimed consequences in differetnial fitness to survive in the British Isles [which I beleive includes Ireland too] are open to dispute!

    GEM of TKI

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