February 14, 2008 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 125 Number 5

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Author critiques Darwin's 'terrible ideas'


WASHINGTON (BP)--In recent years, Feb. 12 has been celebrated not just for Abraham Lincoln's birthday but for Charles Darwin's as well.

Darwin Day, promoted by the Institute for Humanist Studies, is intended to advance celebrations of the evolutionary pioneer and of science in general. Some non-believers in the theory of evolution, however, describe the occasion as an effort to advance biological arguments against God's existence while providing an inside look into Darwinian fundamentalism.

John West, author of "Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science," lectured on his book and the idea of Darwin Day at the Family Research Council Feb. 12.

"Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas and false ideas have terrible consequences," said West, vice president for public policy and legal affairs at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. "If I had to summarize my book in one sentence, that would be it."

To fully understand Darwin and his ideas, reading Darwin's book, "The Descent of Man," is a must, West said. In it, Darwin lays out the implications of his theories.

The denial of human dignity and uniqueness is one of Darwin's theories, in which he "makes the point there is really no difference in man and the higher mammal and their mental faculties," West said, "while, at the same time, there is a significant difference in men of distinct races."

Darwin's implications in this theory have been used to justify racism. For example, Nazi Germany implemented his views in their hatred against the Jews, West said.

Darwin's beliefs in natural selection -— man is where he is because he struggled to get there and society pays the cost for allowing the "feebleminded" or "subnormal" to live -- also fueled Nazi films in the 1930s that said the "feebleminded" were ruining the human race, West said.

"You will also find a type of moral relativism in Darwin's view," West said.

Darwin's moral relativism says actions that leave the human race with more healthy offspring are the "moral rules," West said.

In this definition, "the maternal instinct is biologically justified, but so is infanticide," West said. "Kindness is justified, but so is rape, because that was produced by natural selection. Monogamy is justified, but so is polygamy."

West said all of Darwin's theories have had "enormous consequences for American culture and public policy over the last century."

West gave specific examples from his book of how Darwin's theories have been used negatively in society.

The 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case, which involved two Chicago college students who killed a 14-year-old boy, was argued by lawyer Clarence Darrow, who had said prior to the trial that those in jail were there because they cannot avoid it. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were victims of circumstances they could not avoid, Darrow contended.

West said Darrow's beliefs lined up with Darwin's theory that human beings are a result of a natural process that did not have mankind in mind and, therefore, people have no free will.

Another example of Darwin's theories applied destructively came in the case of Carrie Buck. Soon after her birth in Virginia, she was placed in foster care and her mother was sent to a hospital for the "feebleminded." Carrie became pregnant at age 17 after being raped by her foster parents' nephew but was labeled "feebleminded" herself and shunned for passing her "mental illness" on to another generation. She was sterilized in 1927 and placed in the same hospital as her mother, even though she could read, write and use all her faculties.

West presented numerous illustrations of how Darwinian advocates, such as former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., have taken Darwin's theories and applied them over the years to situations they did not necessarily relate to. For example, Holmes was serving as a justice when Buck's case made it to the Supreme Court, and he voted for her sterilization.

In order to avoid relying on Darwinian theories, society needs to defend elected officials in deciding issues on science and public policy, West said.

"Today, we increasingly hear the claim that policy makers should simply rubber stamp what the majority of scientific experts claim, ranging from embryonic stem cell research to global warming," West said. "An expert can be wrong and can be just as wrong about their prejudices [as] anyone else."

West also noted that society needs to defend free speech and dissent within science itself.

"Scientists who dissent from the majority, whether it be from global warming or Darwinian evolution, find themselves discriminated against," West said. "Darwinism has undermined our western way of thinking in this universe."

The 200th anniversary of the births of Lincoln and Darwin will be observed next year. Both were born on Feb. 12, 1809.

Katherine Kipp is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press. The Discovery Institute includes Intelligent Design among its subjects for research and promotion. The organization's website may be accessed at http://www.discovery.org.