Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The last post - to Dr Carl

First, a quote:
Those who look tenderly at the slave-owner and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! Picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children - those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own - being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one's blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty.
Charles Darwin.

These lines can apply equally well, by the way, to the early twentieth century treatment of Australian aborigines and their families.

I don't wish to continue this exchange, because it makes my blood boil that you should continue to insist on a bogus link between Darwin, with his natural empathy for those vulnerable to exploitation and ill-treatment from the ruling class, and the Nazis, with their monstrous rulings upon who was or wasn't fit to live.

It doesn't surprise me that you've unearthed some sociologist who's dedicated years of his life to collecting mountains of evidence connecting Darwin [or 'Darwinism', that endlessly malleable term] and the holocaust. Once a person has decided to lay the blame for something on someone or some group of people, they can always find mountains of evidence to support their arguments. Think of the Malleus Maleficarum, not to mention the hundreds upon hundreds of anti-Jewish tracts blaming the Jews for all and sundry. To quote Mark Cohen [Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages]: 'In size and scope alone, this enormous compilation demonstrates the fundamental, continuous struggle in Christian history to affirm Christianity at the expense of the Jews and Judaism'. The work of your Doctor Wicked, or whoever, would, I strongly suspect, only be another illustration of the delusions that obsessional ideological commitments give rise to.

I've read and seen plenty on the Nazis and their holocaust. They profited from centuries of anti-semitism to single out the Jews for particularly horrifying treatment. Their views on racial purity gained credence, however, from ideas of more recent vintage, ideas promoting racial segregation. The historian Niall Ferguson [The War of the World] puts the case coherently enough:
'In many ways, pseudo-science merely provided sophisticated rationales for those measures. Ideas like 'Social Darwinism', which erroneously inferred from Darwin's theories a struggle for survival between the races, or 'racial hygiene', which argued that physical and mental degeneration would result from miscegenation, came some time after prohibitions [against inter-racial marriages] had been enacted.'

To repeat, I don't find these exchanges useful, and I'm bringing them to an end. It disgusts me that you and your organization will continue to direct people away from exploring Darwin for themselves, and towards your propaganda. I notice that you've ceased to describe Darwin as a racist in these emails, as you know you won't get away with it, but I have no doubt you'll continue to describe him as such to others, whenever you can get away with it. Creationists in general are notorious for making scientific claims, backing down from them when confronted and refuted by real scientists, and then repeating the same refuted claims before a more credulous audience. This has been documented many times over. It's hard to deal with opponents so lacking in integrity.

I will continue to read Darwin, and to recommend him, because he is inspirational, for his inexhaustible curiosity, his ingenious speculations on geography, geology and climate as well as plant and animal species - and of course for his humanity. I can't resist one last quote from him:

'My geological examination of the country generally created a good deal of surprise among the Chilenos: it was long before they could be convinced that I was not hunting for mines. This was sometimes troublesome: I found the most ready way of explaining my employment, was to ask them how it was that they themselves were not curious concerning earthquakes and volcanoes? - why some springs were hot and others cold? - why there were mountains in Chile, and not a hill in La Plata? These bare questions at once satisfied and silenced the greater number; some, however [like a few in England who are a century behindhand], thought that all such inquiries were useless and impious; and that it was quite sufficient that God had thus made the mountains.'

So long live an impiety that gives free rein to curiosity, and produces such results.

I've not read any more of your email. I've had enough. Don't contact me again.

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