Darwin & Cameron

Kirk Cameron, formerly of the American sitcom Growing Pains, has lent his skills to the defense of creationism against Darwinism. He is currently involved in handing out a version of Darwin’s book with a new introduction. Not surprisingly, the introduction is highly critical of Darwin.

While there are some reasonable criticisms of evolution and it is quite possible to give reasonable arguments in favor of teleology (see, for example, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas), this introduction seems to focus primarily on ad homimen attacks against Darwin. To be specific, the main criticisms seem to be allegations that Darwin’s theory influenced Hitler, that Darwin was a racist and that Darwin was a misogynist.

The logical response to these charges is quite easy: even if these claims were true, they have no bearing whatsoever on the correctness or incorrectness of Darwin’s claims. After all, these are mere ad homimen attacks.

To see that this sort of reasoning is flawed, simply consider this: Adolf Hitler believed that 2+2=4. Obviously the fact that Hitler was a wicked man has no bearing on the truth of that view. Likewise, even racists believe that fire burns and to say that this makes the claim about fire untrue is obviously false.

To use another example, it has been argued that Hitler was influenced by Christianity. However, it would be a logical error to infer that Christianity is flawed because a wicked person was influenced by it (or believed in it).

Interestingly enough, certain atheists attack religions in the same manner that Darwin is being attacked here: by noting that people who did terrible things were Christians/influenced by Christianity (such as the impact of Christian antisemitism on the Holocaust). Obviously, this sort of tactic is based on a fallacy whether it is used against Darwin’s theory or against a religious view.

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  1. I know that you have a correct point in there somewhere, but I fear you are missing that they (both Cameron and atheists) have a correct point their views too.

    2 + 2 being 4 is something universally believed, so it can’t be responsible for no theory in particular.

    Personalizing nazism in the “wickedness” of Hitler is forgetting that it *is*, (wrong as it is), a philosophical doctrine, which make arguments, present facts, conclusions, etc.

    And, somewhere in these arguments and facts, is a darwinian view of the world. Not to say that darwinism necessarily leads to hitlerism, but that without darwinism (or at least what it was believed to be darwinism in those days), the philosophical arguments that constitute Hitler’s philosphy would be weaker (some might argue, non-existent); so there is a stronger connection there than an Ad Hominem (even if it is not strong enough to say that if nazism is wrong, therefore darwinism is too).

    So, their claim is not that darwinism was used by an evil man, but that the premisse “Darwinism” leads necessarily to the conclusion “Hitlerism”.
    So their argument is.
    (1)If D, then H
    (2)Not H
    (3)Therefore not D.

    They are not being fallacious, as there is not a logical problem in the argument, the problem is that their (1) is wrong.

    They can also try
    (1) If not D, then not H
    (2) H
    (3) Therefore D

    But I don’t see how that would serve their purposes as (2) being “not H” and (3) being “therefore not D” would be a fallacy, but it is an argument that can prove that darwinism is a kind of historical evil, even if the theory is right, which is what atheists do in relation to christianism

    So, for example, regarding christianism and inquistion, the claim would not be that christianism is a false doctrine, but that is a historical evil. But, for christianism to be right, it *can’t* be a historical evil, because would be against the argument that their god is good (would at least weaken that argument).
    So the whole thing for the atheist is:

    (1) God is good
    (2) If God is good, then christianism is good
    (3) Christianism is good.
    (4) Therefore god is good
    (5) Inquisition is evil
    (6) If Not christianism, then not Inquisition
    (7) Therefore if not christianism, then not evil
    (8) Therefore Christianism is necessary to evil

    So there is an conflict between (8) and (3), which makes (4) conflict with (1), making it also false, unless (2) is false and hence we are talking about other god, not the christian one (at least not the catholic one).

    Of course, the argument is not perfect; Christianism can be necessary to evil without being evil itself, Schopenhauer does say that if it were possible to know what evil religion prevented to put in the scale and compare to the evils we know it caused, we could make a fair judgement, but this being not possible, no one is making ad hominem arguments, but only collecting data because christianism, unlike darwinism, *needs* to be good in order to be true.

    Anyway, not taking sides, just trying to make sense of the debate.
    It is one thing to say that darwinism is evil because darwin was a racist, this is an ad hominem; but say that darwinism is wrong because a perceived necessary conclusion is also wrong is a legitimate debate.

  2. Mike: As you may have noticed, I enjoy disagreeing with you, but this time, unfortunately, I agree with everything you say. Sorry.

  3. Sblargh,

    Good points. Interestingly, a similar argument could be drawn linking Christianity to antisemitism and thus to Nazism.

  4. Sblargh- But Cameron isn’t making any kind of claim that you’re attributing to him. He’s simply saying that Darwin was the same theory that Hitler believed in. No deeper argument, he’s just associating the two together and letting that association speak for itself.

    Cameron fails to mention that Hitler was also a christian. Now just letting that stew, is as fallacious as what Cameron is doing.

    Worse yet, Hitler’s final solution and theory of Aryan supremacy all come off of a terribly perverted interpretation of Darwinian evolution. Darwin’s theory makes no judgment on better or worse. Better species may not survive out of pure chance. It simply proposes a mechanisim for the change found in different species to occur, natural selection.

  5. Wayne Yuen-
    I agree with you completely. However this statement, “Better species may not survive out of pure chance”, I do not understand. You are wrong in saying this if you meant that a species dies out by ways of chance or luck. They die out non-randomly due to their own expressed genes and their adapted phenotypes.

  6. Andrew- A meteor hits the earth, and species go extinct. This isn’t attributable to their phenotypes, its just bad luck.

  7. RE: Differentiating Darwinism from Spencerism!?

    Wayne Yuen says: “Worse yet, Hitler’s final solution and theory of Aryan supremacy all come off of a terribly perverted interpretation of Darwinian evolution. Darwin’s theory makes no judgment on better or worse. Better species may not survive out of pure chance. It simply proposes a mechanism for the change found in different species to occur, natural selection.”

    I thought that is a very perceptive observation of the difference between Hitlerism and Darwinism (or the renowned 19th-century naturalism of species and organisms).

    In fact, Hitlerism (the 20th-century sociopathology of Aryanism and anti-Semitism) has had its sociopolitical and economic ideologies rooted in the 19th-century Spencerism — As it was Herbert Spencer (the British polymath and a Darwin’s contemporary) who first implied and applied Darwin’s theory of natural selectionism of species into his own socioeconomic and political development of humanities and philosophies as Social Darwinism — or the survival of the fittest and that was unequivocally the 19th-century trademarked British Imperialism!

    Furthermore, as I pointed out in Origin of Species Revisited: Recapitulation and conclusion — RE: Revisiting Darwinism & Spencerism: Somatic ontogeny vs. Intellectual ontogeny!? (NewScientistUK; November 11) before, Darwin absolutely had nothing to do with the ideological development of psychology or sociology of humanism (good and evil) that had had already been founded and based on the then well-recognized Spencerism!?

    Best wishes, Mong 11/24/9usct2:04p; practical science-philosophy critic; author “Decoding Scientism” and “Consciousness & the Subconscious” (works in progress since July 2007), Gods, Genes, Conscience (iUniverse; 2006) and Gods, Genes, Conscience: Global Dialogues Now (blogging avidly since 2006).

  8. As others have already pointed out, though not explicitly, creationists are committing a classic category error when they suggest that Hitler was somehow inspired by the science of evolution. Not only was Hitler entirely ignorant of the science, but he was actually engaging in artificial selection of other members of the human species, and not natural selection, which is an entirely natural process (and I would argue, non-teleological).

    Artificial selection had been used (as selective animal and plant breeding) for thousands of years before Darwin. And to be entirely accurate, no humans, as far as I am aware, have purposely killed all members of a particular breed/species/subset of a species, simply because they weren’t the “right” kind. Selective breeding actually entails allowing a particular animal to mate with others in order to enhance and propagate a particular feature, not the extermination of all of the others (except when they are killed for meat, which would, per the creationist logic, implicate all meat eaters, as well).

    So, it is hard to see how Hitler and evolution could be linked, at all, particularly as the process, while certainly analogous (which is how Darwin used it to argue for natural selection as the mechanism of adaptive change), is different in some important ways. What nature “considers” as well adapted is often not analogous to the reason that we have used artificial selection in animal and plant breeding.

    An example of this is the way in which we have created all of the various breeds of dog from just one species of wolf. I suppose that you could argue that by breeding dogs with temperaments that suit human contact, we have helped them to adapt to their new surroundings, but we have also created numerous problems — some of which are fatal — because of our ignorance of genetics (in other words, they are not well adapted).

    As for atheists attacking religion by pointing to violence. Nobody, as far as I am aware, has made the argument that because religion has been used as an excuse for violence throughout history, therefore (the specific) religion is false. The point that some have made, however, is that religious faith — and particularly if God, as described in a holy book, is seen to be ordering or condoning immoral or violent acts — provides a kind of cognitive short cut for the believer, in which they are sometimes no longer amenable to the normal modes of rational argument.

    In other words, even though it is certainly not exclusive to religious belief (most ideologies are very similar in this regard, including the reaction to challenge from those who passionately believe), it is still the case that there is tremendous power in the belief that God wants you to do something that you would not ordinarily reason yourself in to doing. And this is only amplified by the elevation of faith as a respectable mode of rational inquiry. As the saying goes, if you haven’t reasoned yourself in to a proposition, it is hard to see how you can reason yourself out of it, either.

  9. Not always but often or usualy when atheists mention t evil harmful things that theists do in an attempt to discredit theists we are talking about actions done specificly in t name of or because of their god. I think this is usualy quite different from evil or harmful actions commited by people who happen to be atheists. Hitler and Stalin both had mostaches but that is not considered relevent either.

    Theists, of coarse, maintain that atheist are imoral because they lack guidence, or something, from god. I donot think this is true at all, tho I do think it is a position that we atheists need to respond to better than we generaly do.

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