Sunday, September 12, 2004

Adams on Evolution, III

Leaving aside the business about micro vs. macroevolution, it was really the first paragraph of Adams' column that caught my eye. Let me remind you that the column begins with this statement:

Recently, a reader wrote to tell me that he had lost all faith in my intelligence because I made a derogatory remark about Charles Darwin in one of my recent editorials.

What was the remark? I mean, c'mon, you just have to be a little curious, right?

So I went pawing through Adams' old columns back to the beginning of June. I found three references to Charles Darwin and - surprise! - all of them are candidates for the one that so irked Adams' reader.

Since two of these columns refer to PETA, let me mention that the reference is to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I have some serious problems with PETA myself, so my comments below should not be construed as a defense of the rather militant tactics they sometimes defend.

In this column from August 6, entitled “Noah Responds to PETA” (yes, that Noah), Adams quotes the opening verses of chapter nine of Genesis, which recount a conversation between God and Noah after the waters of the flood had receded. After quoting these verses, Adams has Noah say:

You should listen carefully to everything Moses says because he was able to list the exact order of the emergence of all major forms of life in the first chapter of Genesis. That was long before science came about. In fact, it was written over 3000 years before the birth of Darwin, the man that is worshipped more than any other in America.

Darwin is worshipped more than any other man in America? Darwin? We are talking about Charles Darwin, the evolution guy, right? Well, I guess my work is done here. Somehow I had gotten the idea that Mr. Darwin wasn't too popular in most parts of American society.

And, by the way, the first chapter of Genesis does not accurately describe the order in which all major forms of life came about. According to Genesis, God created various sorts of plants on day three, various birds and sea creatures on day five, and land animals and people on day six. This is hardly what the fossil record tells us about the first appearances of major groups.

Then comes yet another PETA themed column, this time from July 30. Adams offers a list of questions he wants PETA activists to answer. I reproduce question two here:

2) Do you believe in evolution as described by Darwin? If yes, do you find it at all hypocritical to prefer one life form over another (e. g., mice over alfalfa sprouts), considering that Darwin's theory states that we evolved from a common life form? Doesn’t that mean we are all related and deserving of equal treatment?

I think the suggestion here is that if you are both an evolutionist and a vegetarian, then you are being a hypocrite. The logic behind this escapes me. Believing that humans, mice and alflafa sprouts all share a common ancestor somewhere in the distant past implies that it is morally permissable to eat whatever the heck you want? Huh???

PETA is not the only group of people prompting Adams to make insipid references to Charles Darwin. Gay activists bring it out in him too. Have a look at this column from June 21. In it, Adams offers up a collection of “myths” about gay activism. Here's myth number eight:

Myth #8. Because they are all very rational intellectuals, campus gay activists fully understand the problems associated with espousing a belief in a) the “gay” gene, b) a growing gay population, and c) the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest.”

Oh, brother. I think I just broke both my jaw and my keyboard.
Suffice it to say there is no contradiction between evolutionary theory and the idea that homosexuality has a genetic component.

In many of his columns Adams laments the fact that there aren't more right-wing academics. I think his own columns provide us with ample explanation for why that is so.


At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Myth #8. Because they are all very rational intellectuals, campus gay activists fully understand the problems associated with espousing a belief in a) the “gay” gene, b) a growing gay population, and c) the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest.”

The term "survival of the fittest" was coined bye Herbert Spencer, and is not synonomous with Darwin's theory of natural selection.

Most of Herbert Spencer's work was dismissed in the scientific community about..hmmm... 107 years ago.

Spencer's brand of 'Social Darwinism' was a short-lived divergence of evolutionary theory that attempted (and failed) to apply natural law in the forum of lineal evolution to human culture. It ended being a tool for social conservatives (how ironic, eh?) wishing to justify colonialism, cutting social programs etc. etc.

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