the creationist quest to slime darwin
Have you ever heard a creationist talk about undeniable evidence of something and wondered if “undeniable” is code for an argument that was refuted by anyone who had even the slightest bit or relevant education and a few minutes to debunk it, but it’s being repeated anyway just because it sounds so irresistibly damning? This is usually the case when purveyors of anti-evolutionary screeds go after Charles Darwin in their disdain for the notion that living things are in constant flux, changing and diversifying on their own. Sliming the naturalist is a right of passage for creationists who eagerly blame his work on everything from eugenics, to the Holocaust, to the food poisoning they got last week after eating at a seedy restaurant infamous for sanitary violations.
Last month, professional spouts of anti-scientific inanity Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron announced their big plan to distribute a grossly vandalized version of the Origin of the Species which has been branded with some fifty pages worth of their ridiculous ramblings. You can get a taste for the kind of nonsense they try to peddle in the promotional video for the project where Cameron plays the victim card and blames evil evolutionists on an imaginary campaign against Christianity. Apparently, unbeknownst to those of us who actually live in the real world, scientists and secularists are throwing people in jail for praying in public and the First Amendment has suddenly been altered to ban any and all expressions of Christianity across the land. Oh and very importantly, there would never be a Second World War without Darwin’s work since he and Hitler were undeniably fused at the ideological hip. And by undeniably, he means because he heard it from Ray and if Ray said it, it just has to be true. Despite the fact that Ray couldn’t find a clue if it bit him on the groin and held on for dear life.
The supposed connection between Darwin and Hitler is essentially the creationist manifestation of Goodwin’s Law which states that the longer a debate drags on, the greater the probability that someone will invoke Hitler or Nazi Germany to tar his opponent. The unspoken addendum to this law states that whoever does so, tends to immediately destroy his own credibility unless the topic at hand is actually Nazi Germany or someone has been spouting quotes from Mein Kampf and the observation is warranted. From a historical point, claims that Darwin’s work had any effect on the superstitious and ritualistic Nazi movement obsessed with symbols and their manglings of esoteric Occult rites are unequivocally wrong as noted by NCSE’s Steve Newton, an expert on the subject. But of course the claims keeps being repeated because calling Darwin a Nazi is just too much of a pleasure to those who hate the man and the scientific investigations he helped start.
Note that the century and a half of work it took to advance the theory to its modern state and move it from a pop science book about natural selection into the halls of academia, is totally lost on those who go after Darwin to disparage evolution. Also forgotten is the fact that he’s not the be all, end all of the theory and even when he’s shown to be wrong about certain things we know today, or doesn’t uphold our modern sensibilities, somehow overcoming the issue of being born two centuries prior in a very different culture than we have today, it doesn’t invalidate the massive body of evidence collected in favor of the theory he helped bring into the public eye. You can’t disprove gravity by arguing that Newton didn’t know what causes it and it took Einstein to realize that it’s a manifestation of a distortion in the fabric of space and time. Gravity will still be there. Things will still fall down when you drop them. Likewise, you can’t disprove evolution by trying to sling every imaginable insult at Darwin because that won’t stop living things from changing and diversifying.