Anti-Darwinism

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Overview

The term anti-Darwinism refers to the position or belief that Darwinism (which holds that the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection (EbNS) is the best explanation for the available evidence) is in error, and is held by a number of religious groups who seek to supplant the teaching of EbNS in schools with the Biblically-based doctrine of creationism (often in one disguise or another). Darwinism has been under attack by these groups since it was first elaborated, and the attacks have become especially focused since approximately the early 1980s (although mainly in the United States).

EbNS has mountains of evidence in its support and reflects the overwhelming scientific consensus on the question of species origin, and hence is entirely appropriate for a science class. Creationism has little or no evidence in its support and is in complete disagreement with the scientific consensus, and hence is completely inappropriate for a science class.

When early attempts to introduce creationism into American science classes by packaging it as "creation science" failed in the 1980s due to the clearly religious nature of the teachings and the American legal separation of church and state (Separation) which forbids teaching of religion in public schools, the anti-Darwinists next mounted a two-sided strategy by both attacking the validity of Separation while also stripping the overt religious references out of creationist doctrine and thereby creating intelligent design (ID).

The ID attack failed spectacularly in a 2006(?) court decision in Dover, PA; since then, the anti-Darwinists have continued their attacks on Separation while also promoting efforts to "teach the controversy" in science classes. They have also been trying, often via blatant propaganda such as the 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, to spread the idea that the scientific establishment is unfairly "expelling" and suppressing any alternative theories without a fair hearing, rather than simply finding the alternatives so far proposed (i.e. creationism and intelligent design) ridiculous and nonsensical (as is the case).

In general, anti-Darwinists do not seem to have any qualms about making up convenient details or even blatantly lying in order to advance their cause, which seems to be the universal rule of a particular brand of Christianity whose details are slowly coming to light (possibly Dominionism or something like it).

Attacks

The terms "Darwinism" and "evolutionism" are often used pejoratively by groups opposing Darwinian theory (in the sense of holding that it is untrue) in an attempt to frame the theory of evolution by natural selection – an extremely well-established scientific theory – as just another "ism" or ideology, and thereby weaken its apparent credibility.

To the extent that "Darwinism" is an ideology in the sense of being a set of established beliefs and methodologies, those beliefs and methodologies are nonetheless subject to critical scrutiny and revision in the face of new facts – as is true with any area of science, and generally in sharp contrast with the fixed ideologies of those who most stridently oppose Darwinian ideas.

Darwinism is also often criticized by anti-Darwinian groups for being "immoral". This is based on several misconceptions, which can be cleared up by considering the following facts:

  • Darwinism is not a system of ethics or morals, it is a theory regarding a set of facts; it is neither moral nor immoral. It can be used as a worldview within which a system of morals can be derived, but it says no more about the necessary nature of those morals than does the heliocentric theory of the solar system.
  • Darwinism is not the same as "survival of the fittest", which is a kind of shorthand phrase for any sort of competition in which only the "fittest" survive.
    • Although Darwinian theory argues that the fittest do tend to survive, survival is generally a combination of fitness, circumstance, and chance. Darwinian theory also argues that the relevant "fitness" traits must be heritable, which is not true of all survival-related traits.
    • Even if Darwinian theory claimed that survival was contingent on being the "fittest", this is not the same thing as saying that it is right that this is so – e.g. that humans should allow "unfit" individuals to die, or (even more absurdly) allocate the most resources to those individuals best equipped for survival. Confusion of these two claims is also known as the naturalistic fallacy.
    • Although some have tried to use the "survival of the fittest" misinterpretation of Darwinian theory as justification for eugenics and other pseudoscientific ideas, Darwinian theory does not actually support such ideas, nor did Darwin himself.
    • Anti-Darwinists frequently claim that belief in Darwin's theories has caused many tragedies; see #Appeal to Consequences below for further discussion.
  • Eugenics is derived from ideas which predate Darwin's theories by millennia, i.e. basic animal husbandry (cull the defectives and breed the best) – not any of Darwin's theories. Eugenics makes use of artificial selection, while Darwin's theories center around the idea of natural selection.
  • Social Darwinism is something of a misnomer, for similar reasons; although it does use the idea of competition between individuals as a mechanism for species improvement, it is not a corollary of EbNS and Darwin himself thought it impractical and perhaps inhumane. At worst, Darwinism can be misinterpreted as a prescription for social action; in reality, it alerts us to a potential problem in society, and gives us some of the tools we may need in order to fix it.

Appeal to Consequences

Anti-Darwinists frequently (and bizarrely) like to blame Darwinism for a number of tragedies and horrific events, and use this as justification for the idea that Darwinism is incorrect and belief in Darwinism is morally wrong; this is an example of the appeal to consequences, which is a logical fallacy. To put it metaphorically, blaming Darwin for the consequences of his theories is like blaming Newton for ballistic missiles, and furthermore says nothing about the truth or falsehood of the theories themselves. (Note: it may be worth discussing the idea that true beliefs can be harmful, as this is the only idea so far discovered which might rationally lead to an anti-Darwinist stance.)

In general, the accusations are also factually incorrect or baseless; anti-Darwinists have blamed Darwinism for all of the following:

Related Pages

Anti-Darwinian Advocacy

prominent advocates

media

Links

Filed Links

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