Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Darwin's Legacy

CK left a comment on this post and pointed out that debating Creationist Doctrine's Ku Klux Klan roots is all well and good - but Darwin's Theory of Evolution didn't exactly bring out the best in some people, either.

In fact, the idea of 'survival of the fittest' inspired many proponents of Darwin's theories to suggest that the human race itself could be 'improved' by directly manipulating the evolutionary process.

Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, discovered that statistics suggested a congenitally deaf person was more likely to parent a deaf child than somebody with normal hearing. Therefore, theoretically, if the deaf didn't procreate, deafness could be eliminated from the human race. It was thinking like that which was the beginning of Eugenics.

Eugenics was such a popular theory that even Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, advocated it. In 1907, he supported Indiana becoming the first of thirty states to introduce compulsory sterilization of 'inferior' human specimens. Other states, like Connecticut, had already brought in legislation barring the "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded" from marrying.

By 1945, over 60,000 Americans had been forcibly sterilized to avoid 'polluting the gene pool' with their 'inferior' genes.

Although forced sterilizations continued until 1963, for the most part they stopped in 1945. This is when America was forced to come to terms with the legacy of their experimentation into eugenics.

During the Nuremberg trials, when top-ranking Nazi officers were placed on trial for the shocking and inhumane crimes they committed during World War Two, the issue of eugenics was raised. The Nazis had forcibly sterilized over 450,000 people - many for the genetic 'crime' of being Jewish.

Hitler himself had written: "I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock."

That was a bitter pill for the American government to swallow. That realisation pretty much ended the experiment into 'social eugenics.'

And not a moment too soon, because eugenics is a quack science.

Some of the basic theories, like Alexander Graham Bell's observation that deafness could be 'bred out' of the human race, sound convincing, but the theory of 'racial purity' flirted with by early American eugenicists (and embraced by the Nazis) is more likely to produce genetic abnormalities than 'cure' them.

For example, observant Ashkenazi Jews tend to marry within their own community (for social reasons) and as a result, have a much higher rate of certain hereditary diseases (such as Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, Canavan's disease and Goucher's disease.) This illustrates that 'racial purity' promotes a less diverse (and therefore less healthy) gene pool.

Most dog breeders have known this for centuries - it's well established that mongrel dogs tend to be healthier than 'pure breeds' and closely bred types of dogs often suffer problems because of their limited gene pool. The effort to breed the 'perfect' Bulldog, for example, results in many animals who have trouble breathing because their noses are so squished.

Eugenics simply misinterprets the theory of evolution. Darwin suggested that 'natural selection' favoured animals who varied in a 'manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life.' His whole theory celebrates genetic variety, while eugenics itself tries to eliminate it.

But in any event, CK was absolutely right when he pointed out that Darwin's theory of evolution has probably had a far more devastating effect on the United States than proponents of the Doctrine of Creationism. That's because Darwin's theory is based in fact - and fact is always infinitely more dangerous than fantasy.

That's the major difference between Darwin's Theory of Evolution and Creationism.

The modern Doctrine of Creationism was the child of the fundamentalist movement (many of whom were documented members of the Ku Klux Klan.) It was based on nothing more than wishful thinking.

Eugenics, on the other had, was created by manipulating a scientifically sound theory. The reason eugenics was such a popular lie - embraced by governments and people alike - was because it was based in fact.

When it comes to eugenics, I think this quote is appropriate:

"The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted." George Christoph Lichtenberg.

When it comes to the Doctrine of Creationism, the classics are always the best:

"Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what a man wishes, he believes to be true." Demosthenes.


ck said...

If Darwin were right we would have MILLIONS/BILLIONS of 'missing links'. But we don't. We don't see the fossil records show us the transformation from a fish to a bird.

We see huge gaps in the fossil record when compared to Darwins theory.

Which fits directly into intelligent design. No need to see a fish turn to a bird, if a bird was designed as a bird and a fish as a fish.

Animals adapt and evolve... but they don't change what animal they are in the process.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi CK! Excellent point you raised in my previous post and I hope I've done it justice here.

As for the missing links - what do you mean we don't have fossil records? There are thousands of them?

It was during the Carboniferous period when fish left the sea and arrived on land, their fins turning into legs (it's no coincidence that fish have four fins and animals have four limbs.)

Fish evolved into amphibians, who could leave the water and walk on land (although not very well, as their limbs were still much like fins and their skin wasn't watertight.) However, these amphibians later developed into reptiles, mammals and later still, birds.

Pederpes was one of the earliest reptiles and still looked much like a tadpole on short, fish-like legs.

The first creatures to go from fish to amphibian were Carboniferous tetrapods and we have stacks of fossils of those, which clearly show the development from fish to amphibian. All land-based non-insect life evolved from those beasties.

When it comes fish-into-frog, there are no missing links whatsoever. It's all clearly illustrated in thousands of fossils.

ck said...

Its not as evident as you lead it to be.

But had another thought. The reason Darwinism has caused more havoc then creationism is not due to one being based in truth and the other not being.

It has to do with one being based on love and compassion and the other being based on 'we are not special'.

One is based on faith of a higher power that tells us to love each other and take care of our brothers and sisters. So you will naturally see more actions in relation to kindness on the grand scale of things. The other things your a monkeys cousin (again, does make the existence of democrats reasonable), and the fittest must survive.

That is why you see so much more havoc with Darwin's theory vs. Creationism.

Roland Hulme said...

Actually, I think politics proves Darwin's theories are correct! The current Democratic primary lends much support to the theory that Democrats are evolved from monkeys! And surely the entire Republican philosophy is based on the idea of 'survival of the fittest' (or, at least, 'pay for your own damn healthcare.')

My major problem with Christianity as a whole is that God clearly is not a loving God, otherwise he wouldn't have let the Tsunami kill 250,000 people, or wiped out New Orleans with Katrina, or force God-fearing, church attending families to face things like cancer, or lose their house to wildfires.

If God DID exist, he's surely cruel, neglectful and heartless.

Besides, how to do you explain things like people having pre-hensile tails (some people are even born with them showing) and other biological traits that are the same as monkeys?

If man isn't evolved from monkeys, when God was at the assembly like, he clearly used many of the exact same parts.

Ohh! Actually, after I wrote my original response, I even looked up 'missing links' and found the exact path of fossils that illustrate how a fish became a bird. Fish became amphibians first (they have the fossils to show this) then turned into reptiles (again, still have the fossils) and then reptiles became birds (they have the exact 'link' as a fossil) which explains why fish, amphibians and reptiles all lay eggs.