Friday, August 12, 2005

Zimmer on Weisberg

Meanwhile, Carl Zimmer offers some comments on Jacob Weisberg's Slate essay on evolution and religion. He writes:


It's bad enough to see basic scientific misinformation about evolution getting tossed around these days. USA Today apparently has no qualms about publishing an op-ed by a state senator from Utah (who wants to have students be taught about something called "divine design") claiming there is no empirical evidence in the fossil evidence that humans evolved from apes. I'm not sure what we're supposed to do with the twenty or so species of hominids that existed over the past six million years. Perhaps just file them away under "divine false starts."

But history takes a hit as well as science. Creationists try whenever they can to claim that Darwin was directly responsible for Hitler. The reality is that Hitler and some other like-minded thinkers in the early twentieth century had a warped view of evolution that bore little resemblance to what Darwin wrote, and even less to what biologists today understand about evolution. The fact that someone claims that a scientific theory justifies a political ideology does not support or weaken the scientific theory. It's irrelevant. Nazis also embraced Newton's theory of gravity, which they used to rain V-2 rockets on England. Does that mean Newton was a Nazi, or that his theory is therefore wrong?

Creationists are by no means the only people who are getting history wrong these days. Yesterday in Slate, Jacob Weisberg wrote an essay in which he claimed that evolution and religion are incompatible. He claims to find support for his argument in Darwin's own life.


See the original for links.

Zimmer goes on to describe, in fascinating detail, how Darwin's religious faith changed as a result of his scientific work and personal tragedies. It's difficult to pick a representative paragraph out of this, but the ending sums things up perfectly:


It is a disservice to Darwin, and to history, to turn his tortured, complex life into a talking point in a culture war.


Exactly right. Now go read the whole thing.

8 Comments:

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an atheist, so i'd like to believe that science affirms my position. But it doesn't. Now, I do think that science and atheism have a common ancestor in the Enlightenment, a kind of philosophical Common Descent, but it's true one doesn't lead to the other. There are lots of evolution blogs where people argue about whether or not atheist biologists should promote both at the same time, but it seems like they're at cross purposes. Theistic evolutionists want atheists to shut up about evolution, because it'll hinder acceptance among theists. Atheistic evolutionists just want to promote both at the same time. Unreconcilable.

 
At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that should be, "theistic evolutionists want atheists to shut up about atheism...."

mibad.

 
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