Wednesday, September 30, 2009

anti-Darwinist agitprop on the net: quelle horreur!

Well I was sitting here minding my own business, reading Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle when I came upon a strikingly sensational passage on the natives of Tierra del Fuego:
From the concurrent, but quite independent evidence of the boy taken by Mr Low, and of Jemmy Button, it is certainly true, that when pressed in winter by hunger, they kill and devour their old women before they kill their dogs: the boy, being asked by Mr Low why they did this, answered, "Doggies catch otters, old women no." This boy described the manner in which they are killed by being held over smoke and thus choked; he imitated their screams as a joke, and described the parts of their bodies which are considered best to eat. Horrid as such a death by the hands of their friends and relatives must be, the fears of the old women, when hunger begins to press, are more painful to think of; we are told that they then often run away into the mountains, but that they are pursued by the men and brought back to the slaughter-house at their own firesides!
I just had to check this out so I googled Darwin and the Fuegians, and came up with this essay, which as you can see starts off okay but gradually transforms itself into an anti-evolution diatribe and a bible-bashing harangue. Now it's probably best to ignore this kind of stuff, but on noting that the article could be commented on, I couldn't resist. This has resulted in an exchange which I reproduce here.
Here's my first comment:
Your article begins well enough but quickly degenerates into godbothering claptrap. What a shame for anyone concerned with the truth! Darwin got it wrong about the Fuegians, but he was never a racist and he would have heartily concurred with Snow's view that their condition was due to their circumstances. He sympathised greatly with those harsh circumstances. You have cherry-picked your quotes because of your typical creationist loathing of the 'arch-enemy', Darwin.
As to the bible as a historical record, it isn't. It's mythology from start to finish. Mountains upon mountains of archaelogical, empirical data have shown the bible to be as unreliable a document as has ever been written, from a historical perspective, but of course you are blind to all that. Go away, and lie no more.

Not I think the most brilliant response ever devised, but hopefully sufficient for the job. But this wasn't to be the end of the matter. I had stirred up the beast. I shortly received this in response:
Dear Mr Henderson/ Dear Stewart
Thanks for your feedback, the comments will be passed on to the author.
You won't be surprised to hear that we respectfully disagree with you. Have you ever read 'The Descent of Man' by Darwin? You could hardly deny his racism, I'm afraid, if you had. That does not mean that you are wrong concerning his general sympathy for the underdog, he was also an abolitionist. If you get the chance to see our Darwin documentary that has been playing at Australian cinemas, or via the DVD version (see the front page of our site for more details) you will see among other things interviews with leading Darwin historians. One of them (very anticreationist) nevertheless makes some very strong statements on the race issue - see also his extended interview on the 'extras' on the DVD.
So, in short, we think you are poorly informed, and also that we do not see "Darwin" as an object to be demonized. The doco treats him with respect and fairness, as even many anticreationists have acknowledged. Of course, the real issue is not what sort of a person Darwin was or was not, but has to do with the validity of, and the evidence for, the notion of microbe-to-man evolution.
Re the Bible and archaeological data - I'm surprised that you would think that. If you search our site, you will find a number of articles on the subject. But then, what one wants to believe definitely influences one's interpretation of the data, and archeologists are not immune from that. Particularly when it comes to assigned dates to archeological sites. It's interesting though that today even such respected secular figures as the archaeologist Sir Colin Renfrew are calling for a revision downwards in the 'standard' Egyptian chronology. When one allows for this (based on such things as coregencies, etc) suddenly all the alleged 'missing evidence' in the appropriate time periods (e.g. the conquest of Canaan, the fall of Jericho, civilizations to match that expected from the accounts of David and Solomon) is there in spades.

Carl W.
Dr Carl Wieland
Managing Director
Creation Ministries International Ltd (Australia)

I'll continue with this interesting exchange in the next post.

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