All posts by Jon

Ventriloquists for Darwin

(Here is an occasional piece by Jon Marks at UNCC -R)

An international survey a couple of years ago found that only about half of Americans believe in evolution, placing us 33d in the world, on a list of the nations that believe in evolution the most. I find this troubling, but not because it is another demonstration that Americans are morons. That was known to H. L. Mencken in the 1920s, who referred to the American masses as the “booboisie,” and had even worse things to say about creationists. My problem with these data involves the idea of scientists being interested in what I believe.

I would be apprehensive at the State Department taking an interest in my beliefs, and I am just as apprehensive at the scientific community’s interest in them.

When did science come to be about your beliefs, anyway? I always thought it was about method.

If science is indeed about your beliefs, then I have a bone to pick with evolution. It just seems to attract the weirdest ideologues. Consider the post-Darwinian generations: in the 1890s there were the Social Darwinists. A couple of decades later there were the eugenicists. They were Darwinists too: Charles Darwin’s cousin (Francis Galton) was the movement’s founder, and his son Leonard led the British eugenics society after Galton. It’s hard to miss that connection!

In America, paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn and geneticist Charles Davenport led the movement – no conflict of molecules and morphology there! Davenport’s ideas fell into eclipse in America with the accession of the Nazis, and he died in 1944 – as the sitting President of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
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