You might remember Dennis Sewell, the pundit who penned a hackneyed article about the evils of evolution in The Sunday Times, heavily relying on worn and tried creationist canards, and quoting Ann Coulter as some sort of authority on the theory of natural selection. If you thought his column was a waste of otherwise perfectly good bandwidth, you haven’t seen anything yet because the man has an entire book about the dire misuse of Darwin’s work by pseudoscientific movements of racists and bigots to capitalize on the manufactroversy of the creationist movement and the naturalist’s bicentennial. In other words, he’s a shameless hack with absolutely zero regard for the actual science, and who’s more than willing to drag a dead luminary through verbal muck if at the end of the day he gets a dollar or two out of it. Or since he’s British, we should probably say quid…
While you might say that I’m probably being a bit harsh, check out his interview with Time Magazine where he opines on Darwin’s legacy and questions why the scientist is even in the history books at all, ascribing it to an intense public relations effort by biologists. The fact that we could pick out hundreds of scientists who’s ideas are celebrated today but have been used for nefarious means or corrupted to justify the ideas of groups which clearly lacked the ability or the desire to actually understand them, bothers him not at all. This issue got about two short paragraphs of lip service in his aforementioned promotional piece and it doesn’t stop him from the nonsensical declaration that school shooters and sociopaths trying to apply natural selection to those around them must be examples of how Darwin’s work promotes “disturbed thinking.” It’s as if Sewell never looked up what the term non sequitur means. But in this lurid display of witlessness, two quotes really stand out…
I think we have to decide what status we are going to give to the human race. Most of the world’s religions hold that human life is sacred in some way. In teaching common descent with animals, we also have to examine what is special about human beings, and why they deserve to be treated differently and granted certain rights.
Anyone care to guess why religions hold human life is special? Because they’re made by humans who want to survive and thrive, controlling the behavior of societies and ensuring that we stay at the top of the food chain so we can propagate our species. Does he think that biology classes are taught by PETA? Does he not know that natural selection would actually dictate that we’d have a vested interest in working with each other for our mutual benefit so we can survive and spread our genes? This is one of those collections of words which are supposed to mean something profound, but end up making vacuous, nonsensical statements.
What has the theory of evolution done for the practical benefit of humanity? It’s helped our [basic] understanding of ourselves, yet compared to, say, the discovery of penicillin or the invention of the World Wide Web, I wonder why Darwin occupies this position at the pinnacle of esteem. I can only imagine he has been put there by a vast public relations exercise.
Right, why do we need to know the theory of evolution? I mean it’s only the driving force behind most of today’s medicine and the fundamental framework for cutting edge inventions and discoveries in biology. In his book, Sewell lets fly with the painfully dimwitted assertion that Darwin’s work hardly holds as great of a place in the scientific hall of fame as the discovery of DNA. You know, the DNA which was found when scientists wanted to reconcile Mendel’s work on heredity and the theory of natural selection and has since been one of the biggest tools for evolutionary research? Did this idjit happen to forget his brain on a dark shelf somewhere before he set off to defile Darwin’s memory some more?
If Sewell tried to be intellectually honest, he could’ve found all that on the web, the invention he considers a lot more important than anything Darwin ever did. And speaking of the web, did you know you could find plenty of sociopaths, bigots, racists and even a homicidal maniac or two congregating on far flung websites? Should his next great expose be on Tim Bernes Lee and the dark legacy of the web he funds to be far more important than one of the seeds for modern biology? Nah. That’s not controversial enough to raise a ruckus and line his pockets so he’ll stick to Darwin. In an era when every airheaded loudmouth gets to publish a screed, it makes sense to go for the manufactroversy and force yourself into the spotlight.