Posts Tagged ‘Charles Darwin’
At this time we wait for the Darwin Awards 2012 to be awarded, however one nominee was disqualified due to being too young when they passed on. Yet a previous entry under 18 was given the award. Please note if you do not have a dark sense of humour you may want to stop reading. The two I have shown can be considered in very bad taste.
If you are new to the Darwin awards:
“In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.”
One should note that doing this before childbearing age would be even more beneficial from this point of view. However, the idea that the death of a child is funny does beggar belief. Though why mention them if you think that?
2012 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin
(3 October 2012, Serra, Brazil) The merits of this potential Darwin Award winner are solid, yet something stands in the way…
Consider a bus traveling along the streets of a busy modern city such as Serra, Brazil. The bus driver, guided by instinct developed over years of experience, is expertly navigating the narrow streets of the metro area. Suddenly a passenger throws in a new variable: He stands on the seat and hangs his torso out the window, wiggling around and whooping it up. The Darwin Awards editors are honor-bound to divulge that this sounds super-duper fun. Arms extended, hair a’flying, an undeniably W00T activity.
Yet to do so effectively increases the width of a bus by two feet. Head, please meet your nemesis in the form of a utility pole. The streets are narrow. Now you know!
Solid Darwin Award.
“Bus-ted.” But wait! The printing press comes to a screeching halt. Open dialog between Darwin Awards editors and worldwide fans has reached a consensus that we cannot print the story of this passenger pigeon. Why? Because the deceased individual is a female aged 14. Our magical thinking holds that at 18 the deceased is dumb, and not a day before that birthday. The answer to your question, Intrepid News Reporter C. Elias, is that your submission is a Darwin Award in all aspects–except the age of the perp. In our archives females are underrepresented 10:1, yet we must kill this submission. Humans who are 14 years young are denied the solace of a Darwin Award.
However, they still gave the Darwin Award to this young person:
Hotter Copper Whopper
2011 Darwin Award Nominee
Confirmed True by Darwin
(3 July 2011, Leeds, UK.) Thief! How, many, thieves, have, to die, to prove that you shouldn’t steal copper wire? Besides the risk, it’s not right to cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, for hundreds of dollars in profit. HEY YOU IMMORAL IDIOTS, It makes bad environmental sense to destroy more than you recoup. Angry lecture!
Copper Kills! CE Electric UK recently began marking the copper using ‘SmartWater’ technology to deter malicious, costly vandalism. American Electric Power is converting from copper grounding wire to copper-clad steel wire that has little scrap value and is tougher to cut.
Knowing that species evolve, why are we so dumb? Like Darwin’s Finches, humans are filling the ‘new islands’ (evolutionary niches) created by our civilization, and our mutations are being tuned by each self-limiting step we take.
Which brings me to a Leeds teenager, who at 16 became a deceased Darwin Award winner by making one such self-limiting step. Copper theft is a killer, and also a nuisance. CE Electric UK has dealt with 279 incidents in the last year in West Yorkshire. They plead, “We are pleading with thieves to think about the consequences and how much they are risking for such a small return. DANGER OF DEATH signs are posted for a reason!”
Stealing copper? Fast track train to Charles Darwin’s heavenly estate. “Welcome home, Leeds teen. You were old enough to know better!” Sometimes a friend has to cram life into too few years, but we comfort ourselves knowing that his destiny was to serve as a warning to others.
Have to admit not laughing as much at these ones due to their age. I think those old enough to know better, and not just the stupidity of the demise, is key to the joke.
Will send a message at the inconsistency. Let you know if they reply.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
Kind of pointless as an apology; but one way for the C of E to question Young Earth Creationists:
From The Daily Telegraph (Note: spelling mistakes in original article)
Church to make posthumous apology to Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin is to receive an official apology from the Church of England on Monday over its opposition to his theory of evolution 150 years ago.
The bold and unusual step by the Church comes on the 200th anniversary of the naturalist’s birth.
On a website specially set up to honour Darwin and his hypothesis, launched todayMON [sic], the church will admit that its Victorian hierarchy showed too much “anti-evolutionary fervour” when he published the notion in his book, the Origin of Species, in 1858.
The apology has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the church’s director of mission and public affairs.
Howevetr [sic] is has cut little ice with Darwin’s descendants. Andrew Darwin, a great-great grandson of the scientist, said: “Why bother? When an apology is made after 200 years, it’s not so much to right a wrong, but to make the person or organisation making the apology feel better.”
Dr Brown says that the hounding of Darwin was akin to the Roman Catholic church’s treatment of astronomer Galileo in the 17th Century. Galileo was prosecuted for his belief that the Earth orbited the sun and ended his life under house arrest from the Inquisition.
His statement will say: “People, and institutions, make mistakes and Christian people and Churches are no exception. When a big new idea emerges that changes the way people look at the world, it’s easy to feel that every old idea, every certainty, is under attack and then to do battle against the new insights.
“The Church made that mistake with Galileo’s astronomy and has since realised its error. Some Church people did it again in the 1860s with Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
“So it is important to think again about Darwin’s impact on religious thinking, then and now.”
The apology, 126 years after Darwin’s death was yesterday branded “pointless” by the naturalist’s own family.
Tip of the hat to Homo Secular Gaytheist who covers the other article.
I first read The Onion in when staying in Washington DC for the Atheist Alliance International Conference last year. A satirical publication, I remember their story on Pokemon being banned from a school because it promoted evolution caused outrage on the Dawkins site because in the UK people did not realise it was not true.
Enjoy this latest article from The Onion – note latest stories are available in the side bar of this blog:
Evolutionists Flock To Darwin-Shaped Wall Stain
DAYTON, TN—A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin—author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement—made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton.
“I brought my baby to touch the wall, so that the power of Darwin can purify her genetic makeup of undesirable inherited traits,” said Darlene Freiberg, one among a growing crowd assembled here to see the mysterious stain, which appeared last Monday on one side of the Rhea County Courthouse. The building was also the location of the famed “Scopes Monkey Trial” and is widely considered one of Darwinism’s holiest sites. “Forgive me, O Charles, for ever doubting your Divine Evolution. After seeing this miracle of limestone pigmentation with my own eyes, my faith in empirical reasoning will never again be tested.”
Added Freiberg, “Behold the power and glory of the scientific method!”
Since witnesses first reported the unexplained marking—which appears to resemble a 19th-century male figure with a high forehead and large beard—this normally quiet town has become a hotbed of biological zealotry. Thousands of pilgrims from as far away as Berkeley’s paleoanthropology department have flocked to the site to lay wreaths of flowers, light devotional candles, read aloud from Darwin’s works, and otherwise pay homage to the mysterious blue-green stain.
Capitalizing on the influx of empirical believers, street vendors have sprung up across Dayton, selling evolutionary relics and artwork to the thousands of pilgrims waiting to catch a glimpse of the image. Available for sale are everything from small wooden shards alleged to be fragments of the “One True Beagle”—the research vessel on which Darwin made his legendary voyage to the Galapagos Islands—to lecture notes purportedly touched by English evolutionist Alfred Russel Wallace.
“I have never felt closer to Darwin’s ideas,” said zoologist Fred Granger, who waited in line for 16 hours to view the stain. “May his name be praised and his theories on natural selection echo in all the halls of naturalistic observation forever.”
Despite the enthusiasm the so-called “Darwin Smudge” has generated among the evolutionary faithful, disagreement remains as to its origin. Some believe the image is actually closer to the visage of Stephen Jay Gould, longtime columnist for Natural History magazine and originator of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, and is therefore proof of rapid cladogenesis. A smaller minority contend it is the face of Carl Sagan, and should be viewed as a warning to those nonbelievers who have not yet seen his hit PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.
Still others have attempted to discredit the miracle entirely, claiming that there are several alternate explanations for the appearance of the unexplained discoloration.
“It’s a stain on a wall, and nothing more,” said the Rev. Clement McCoy, a professor at Oral Roberts University and prominent opponent of evolutionary theory. “Anything else is the delusional fantasy of a fanatical evolutionist mindset that sees only what it wishes to see in the hopes of validating a baseless, illogical belief system. I only hope these heretics see the error of their ways before our Most Powerful God smites them all in His vengeance.”
But those who have made the long journey to Dayton remain steadfast in their belief that natural selection—a process by which certain genes are favored over others less conducive to survival—is the one and only creator of life as we know it. This stain, they claim, is the proof they have been waiting for.
“To those who would deny that genetic drift is responsible for a branching evolutionary tree of increasing biodiversity amid changing ecosystems, we say, ‘Look upon the face of Darwin!’” said Jeanette Cosgrove, who, along with members of her microbiology class, has maintained a candlelight vigil at the site for the past 72 hours.
“Over millions of successive generations, a specific subvariant of one species of slime mold adapted to this particular concrete wall, in order to one day form this stain, and thus make manifest this vision of Darwin’s glorious countenance,” Cosgrove said, overcome with emotion.
“It’s a miracle,” she added.
Part One can be read about here.
The second part of the Channel Four series covered how people have tried to use Darwinism in politics, society and economics (social Darwinism) and how altruism can be explained in terms of genes. In essence it was a brief summary of “The Selfish Gene” that Dawkins wrote over thirty years ago (and the 30th edition with revised notes and extra chapters is well worth checking out).
As Dawkins mentions he is against eugenics, and that the culmination of the movement in the Nazis was appalling. However, Hitler was no Darwinian – [a case rather shown by the fact that the Nazis banned his book] and the theory of natural selection that supports the fact of evolution does not reflect how human society should be run.
In economics some people attempt to talk about evolutionary economics. There seems an analogy to competition theory and natural selection – but in reality consumer sovereignty and other economic models on how firms operate are not exactly like evolution. It is more that people try to legitimize cut throat capitalism by saying it is a mirror of nature. Dawkins warns against trying to take such lessons from nature when it comes to how we treat one another.
Bishop Bonifes Adoyo is interviewed in Kenya, a stones throw from the place where Dawkins was born. He has ran a campaign to have the National Museum of Kenya not show its exhibit of Homo erectus fossils including the Turkana Boy found by Dr Leakey:
“Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory.”
Bishop Adoyo said all the country’s churches would unite to force the museum to change its focus when it reopens after 18 months of renovations in June next year.
“We will write to them, we will call them, we will make sure our people know about this and we will see what we can do to make our voice known,” he said.
Then there are those that think the selfish gene means that people should be selfish, or inherently are. Which is to take a misleading understanding of Dawkins book title, which explains how altruism is passed on through genes which do this by treating us as vehicles (the gene eye view of evolution) and that in sexual selection this trait in people is chosen for reproductive purposes. Our notions of how society can be should not interfere with what can be observed and explained in nature. They are separate with Dawkins commenting:
“As a scientist I’m thrilled by natural selection, but as a human being I abhor it as a principle for organising society.”
Libby Purves reviewed for “The Times” Dawkins’ first episode on “The Genius of Darwin”. That, and Dawkins’ reply follows. The issue it raises though is whether science ultimately leads to atheism as the only rational choice in the face of the evidence we can assimilate and know anything about.
There are many more pressing issues to contend with; war, disease, hunger. Yet the idea of whether there is a god responsible for everything, if so what plans does this being have, and whether such a being is worth bothering about seems to have a hold on people despite the era of magic and superstition giving way to empirical observation and the scientific method.
Dawkins admits that evolution convinced him that there was no need for a god. His honesty that this personal realisation based on facts of the origin of species has for those that wish to build bridges or at least well codified areas of separation between faith and science roll their eyes. That some people believe that the earth has to be a few thousand years old (Answers in Genesis) and that a species could not over time evolve into a recognisable different one seize, not so much on the facts and what they do reveal, but on that evolution leads to a lack of belief in god. Also, that secularism too leads to a lack of belief in god and so both hand in hand lead to a slide into deprivation and immorality.
When it comes to education children need the tools to analyze the facts, what people are saying, and differentiate between the subjective and the objective. These reasoning skills are essential for children to come to their own realizations about life, the universe and everything. Dawkins was careful not to tell the children not to believe in god. However, what he did do was to explain evolution and what fossils are.
There really are people that literally think there was a talking snake in the Garden of Eden. That god can order genocide as in 1 Samuel 15 against the Amalek (including babies) and get pissed off when the best animals are kept alive but that is alright because by the New Testament god is all loving although the idea of eternal hell as a burning torture gets it’s first airing there. The Church of England allows Christians not to believe in hell – not on pragmatic or theological grounds but by Act of Parliament. The law recognises that just disavowing hell does not stop you being a Christian.
So in the face of these things we may argue that religious indoctrination should be left out of the classroom, and that people should be given the tools to discover the world for themselves. But as those children revealed they were already prejudiced against something they had not yet learned. The reason why we should care about faith and its battle with science? Quite simply because whether overtly or by undertone how war, disease and famine are tackled is effected by those that claim that faith has an impact on issues from overpopulation to sex to just war. We must recognise that people differ in how their religious belief impacts on their politics, philosophy and understanding of the natural world.
For example when I introduced my friend to Dawkins and she mentioned that she read Theology at our university I jokingly mentioned she should have said that she knows the earth is billions of years old. Faith is not a barrier to science and understanding the world. The issue is that some people try to make it a barrier saying that evolution is not compatible with a belief in god – people are using their own dogma to close people to finding out what and how we know things, often resulting to slight of hands which at best are misleading implications of observed events as I discovered at a talk by Ken Ham.
Watching the episode it was clear that Dawkins was opening the kids up to evolution as a scientific fact, only criticising that allowing the faith you happen to be born in stop you investigating what science reveals – not to fear other ideas despite the faith you happen to be born in. That is not about saying it is either god or science. That is about being open to what gets us closer to the truth of how things are.
Richard Dawkins, the naive professor
It’s not a simple choice between God and evolution: none of us can know that there is nothing out there
Firmly I believe and truly that Professor Richard Dawkins is an honest scientist and great communicator. He’s magic on telly: his programmes sending up New Agers were fun, especially when he let a lady “replace his Atlantean cells” by blowing on him. As for his reverence for Darwin and evolutionary theory, I share it. Have done ever since school.
My convent school, to be exact. The chief science-nun, despite her wimple and veil, was dead keen on Darwin. Most educated Christians are. Which is why the first episode of the professor’s Channel 4 series, The Genius of Charles Darwin, had me alternately cheering and cursing. Talking about evolution, he is terrific. But every few minutes he spoils it by announcing that natural selection means there is, categorically, no God. Not needed as wildlife designer – ergo, non-existent.
Professor Dawkins met a class of children, some of them indoctrinated by that crazily literal minority who think the world began 6,000 years ago on a divine drawing board. Instead of explaining natural selection and letting them work out that maybe the Creator works in more mysterious ways than the Genesis myth, he offered them a choice as stark as any bonkers tin-hut preacher from the Quivering Brethren shouting: “Repent or burn!”
Evolution or God – take your choice, kid! The moment one of them found an ammonite on the beach, Professor Dawkins demanded instant atheism. OK, he is provoked, as we all are, by nutters. But most believers are not creationists. Some are scientists. They reckon that an omnipotent being capable of giving humans free will is equally capable of setting a cosmic ball rolling – Big Bang, abiogenesis, all that – and letting it proceed through eons of evolution, selection and struggle. One of the oddest aspects of Dawkins’s TV programme, rich in antelope-mauling and gobbly snakes, was his emotional implication that, gee, Nature is too cruel to have been invented by God! A wet, mawkish, bunny-hugging argument.
Darwin shines; evolution is as marvellous as Dawkins says. But it is not fair to use Darwin’s beautifully evolved brain to bang the drum for your private conviction that there is nothing out there. Nobody knows. Not really. Teaching children real science is one thing, making them choose God or evolution is another.
Stupid, too, in a Professor of the Public Understanding of Science. If you offer a choice between science on one hand and faith and tradition on the other, too many people will reject science. A subtle and well-evolved species like us can accept both ammonites and Alleluias. Live with it, Prof.
Richard Dawkins replies to Libby Purves
Professor Richard Dawkins on his television programme about Charles Darwin, evolution and atheism
Yesterday, Libby Purves wrote about Professor Richard Dawkins’ television series about Charles Darwin. Richard Dawkins writes in reply:
Sir, In her article about episode 1 of my television documentary, The Genius of Charles Darwin, Libby Purves says that I offered the children a choice “as stark as any bonkers tin-hut preacher from the Quivering Brethren shouting: ‘Repent or burn!’ Evolution or God — take your choice, kid! The moment one of them found an ammonite on the beach, Professor Dawkins demanded instant atheism” (Opinion, August 7).
That is unjust, to the point of outright mendacity, and an insult to any professional educator. It was the creation-indoctrinated children themselves who made the leap: “Evolution = atheism”. I was scrupulously careful not to make that connection in the presence of the children, although I have made it elsewhere, spelling out the nuanced argument in The God Delusion.
She goes on to say, “OK, he is provoked, as we all are, by nutters. But most believers are not creationists.” I expect it’s true that the few believers Libby Purves meets over canapés are not creationists. But “most believers”? Most believers in Bradford? The Scottish Highlands? Pakistan? Indonesia? The Arab world? South America? Indeed, North America? Polls suggest that more than 40 per cent of the British population are creationists. For the subset who call themselves believers, the figure must be considerably more than 50 per cent. Please don’t say “most people”, when what you really mean is Islington and Hampstead Garden Suburb.
On Channel 4 (UK), a three part series, starting Monday August 4th – sneak previews available at the below link:
Preview discussion of the series (below re posted from here) below:
Science is like a good friend: sometimes it tells you things you don’t want to hear
Dawkins explains biggest idea ever on The Genius of Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins’s new series tackles a burning issue for us all – but it doesn’t involve Lisa Scott-Lee of Steps
The Genius of Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins tells Andrew Pettie how Charles Darwin went from a man bound for the clergy to the writer of one of the world’s most controversial books – On the Origin of Species
It seems that people want to be able to say that we cannot be moral without God. That even if we disagree with what God says, well we should not because he knows best as he commands it therefore it must be good for he is good QED.
While I have to ask exactly the proof that any god is the God, how we know the mind of God, and why certain scribblings of ancient people should only have a hold on my thinking now in ways that others command?
I have to respond that god is made in the image of the man at the time, it shows in the commands and views of the world. As reason developed and science came to the forefront of thinking dogmatic views of the world sanctioned by scriptural interpretation were challenged by evidence. On the whole reason and science won, and many reactions we see nowadays is not the strength of christian fundamentalism but it’s attempts to start bush fires and cause trouble by latching on to people’s ignorance with a dishonesty in service of their faith based “truth”.
It is not the size of the movement that is troubling, but the lies and distortions that they proclaim.
An example of that is Darwin’s Plantation: Evolution’s Racist Roots by Ken Ham (president and a founder of Answers in Genesis) and Dr A. Charles Ware (president of Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis). Supposedly this “convincing” book demonstrates:
So ignore the fact that evolutionary theory and genetics points to a common ancestry and one human race. That the most ruthless dictators of the twentieth century were not scientists, nor did they became pyscopaths on reading On the Origin of Species.
Then ponder how the bloodthirsty tyrants would have been calmed from reading the Old Testament with its many proclamations for peace and reconciliation between the people of Israel and surrounding communities. Which usually occurred with the sword and the bondage into slavery of the women and children (if they were not killed also) and the obliteration of certain ethnic groups – assuming we take it all literally.
Indeed the slavery connection that the book tries to make is a very dishonest one. The Abolition of Slavery Act happened in the UK in 1833. Origin of Species was written in 1859. Darwin himself made this comment about slavery:
“I have watched how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery. What a proud thing for England, if she is the first European nation which utterly abolish is it. I was told before leaving England, that after living in slave countries: all my options would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negros character.”– Charles Darwin to Catherine Darwin (May 22 – July 14 1833) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 1 1821-1836 (1985), pp. 312-313
[Here Darwin notes the treatment of some Indians in So. America]
“A few days afterwards I saw another troop of these banditti-like soldiers start on an expedition against a tribe of Indians at the small Salinas, who had been betrayed by a prisoner cacique…Two hundred soldiers were sent; and they first discovered the Indians by a cloud of dust from their horses’ feet, as they chanced to be travelling…The Indians, men, women, and children, were about one hundred and ten in number, and they were nearly all taken or killed, for the soldiers sabre every man. The Indians are now so terrified that they offer no resistance in a body, but each flies, neglecting even his wife and children; but when overtaken, like wild animals, they fight against any number to the last moment. One dying Indian seized with his teeth the thumb of his adversary, and allowed his own eye to be forced out sooner than relinquish his hold. Another, who was wounded, feigned death, keeping a knife ready to strike one more fatal blow. My informer said, when he was pursuing an Indian, the man cried out for mercy, at the same time that he was covertly loosing the bolas from his waist, meaning to whirl it round his head and so strike his pursuer. “I however struck him with my sabre to the ground, and then got off my horse, and cut his throat with my knife.” This is a dark picture; but how much more shocking is the unquestionable fact, that all the women who appear above twenty years old are massacred in cold blood! When I exclaimed that this appeared rather inhuman. he answered, “Why, what can be done? they breed so!” Every one here is fully convinced that this is the most just war, because it is against barbarians. Who would believe in this age that such atrocities could be committed in a Christian civilized country?” – Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Chapter V
“While staying at this estate, I was very nearly being an eye-witness to one of those atrocious acts which can only take place in a slave country. Owing to a quarrel and a lawsuit, the owner was on the point of taking all the women and children from the male slaves, and selling them separately at the public auction at Rio. Interest, and not any feeling of compassion, prevented this act. Indeed, I do not believe the inhumanity of separating thirty families, who had lived together for many years, even occurred to the owner. Yet I will pledge myself, that in humanity and good feeling he was superior to the common run of men. It may be said there exists no limit to the blindness of interest and selfish habit. I may mention one very trifling anecdote, which at the time struck me more forcibly than any story of cruelty. I was crossing a ferry with a negro, who was uncommonly stupid. In endeavouring to make him understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing which I passed my hand near his face. He, I suppose, thought I was in a passion, and was going to strike him; for instantly, with a frightened look and half-shut eyes, he dropped his hands. I shall never forget my feelings of surprise, disgust, and shame, at seeing a great powerful man afraid even to ward off a blow, directed, as he thought, at his face. This man had been trained to a degradation lower than the slavery of the most helpless animal.” — Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Chapter II
“I must here commemorate what happened for the first time during our nearly five years’ wandering, namely, having met with a want of politeness. I was refused in a sullen manner at two different houses, and obtained with difficulty from a third, permission to pass through their gardens to an uncultivated hill, for the purpose of viewing the country. I feel glad that this happened in the land of the Brazilians, for I bear them no good will – a land also of slavery, and therefore of moral debasement…On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil, I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country. To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco, I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not but suspect that some poor slave was being tortured, yet knew that I was as powerless as a child even to remonstrate. I suspected that these moans were from a tortured slave, for I was told that this was the case in another instance. Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have stayed in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master’s eye. These latter cruelties were witnessed by me in a Spanish colony, in which it has always been said, that slaves are better treated than by the Portuguese, English, or other European nations. I have seen at Rio de Janeiro a powerful negro afraid to ward off a blow directed, as he thought, at his face. I was present when a kind-hearted man was on the point of separating forever the men, women, and little children of a large number of families who had long lived together. I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of; nor would I have mentioned the above revolting details, had I not met with several people, so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil. Such people have generally visited at the houses of the upper classes, where the domestic slaves are usually well treated; and they have not, like myself, lived amongst the lower classes. Such inquirers will ask slaves about their condition; they forget that the slave must indeed be dull, who does not calculate on the chance of his answer reaching his master’s ears.
It is argued that self-interest will prevent excessive cruelty; as if self-interest protected our domestic animals, which are far less likely than degraded slaves, to stir up the rage of their savage masters. It is an argument long since protested against with noble feeling, and strikingly exemplified, by the ever-illustrious Humboldt. It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease. Those who look tenderly at the slave owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of you wife and your little children – those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own – being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty: but it is a consolation to reflect, that we at least have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin.” — Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (1839), Chapter XXI
[The following story gives the detail for the comment at the end of the first paragraph from Voyage... (immediately above).]
“Fitz-Roy’s temper was a most unfortunate one. …We had several quarrels; for when out of temper he was utterly unreasonable. For instance, early in the voyage at Bahia in Brazil he defended and praised slavery, which I abominated, and told me that he had just visited a great slave-owner, who had called up many of his slaves and asked them whether they were happy, and whether they wished to be free, and all answered “No.” I then asked him, perhaps with a sneer, whether he thought that the answers of slaves in the presence of their master was worth anything. This made him excessively angry, and he said that as I doubted his word, we could not live any longer together. I thought that I should have been compelled to leave the ship; but as soon as the news spread, which it did quickly, as the captain sent for the first lieutenant to assuage his anger by abusing me, I was deeply gratified by receiving an invitation from all the gun-room officers to mess with them. But after a few hours Fitz-Roy showed his usual magnanimity by sending an officer to me with an apology and a request that I would continue to live with him.” — Charles Darwin, Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882 (restored edition)(1958), Nora Barlow editor, pp. 73- 74
[Here Darwin is discussing the then ongoing American Civil War. The letter is to American Asa Gray, a Christian, noted botanist, and one of Darwin's scientific supporters.]
“But I suppose you are all too overwhelmed with the public affairs to care for science. I never knew the newspapers so profoundly interesting. N. America does not do England Justice: I have not seen or heard of a soul who is not with the North. Some few, & I am one, even and wish to God, though at the loss of millions of lives, that the North would proclaim a crusade against Slavery. In the long run, a million horrid deaths would be amply repaid in the cause of humanity. What wonderful times we live in. Massachusetts seems to show noble enthusiasm. Great God how I should like to see the greatest curse on Earth Slavery abolished. “ — Charles Darwin to Asa Gray (June 5, 1861) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 9 1861 (1994), p.163
(The above quotes are taken from this site here which has more examples)
It is easy to counter false views, and there is a certain delight to be had in showing them up. They may only be bush fires, but that does not mean it is not worth putting them out so they do not cause further damage.
Just some of the e cards that people made for the day on richarddawkins.net.
On the Origin of Species was the first science book I read as a child. Having just left the Jehovah’s Witnesses this seemed like the book that I should read. The full significance of what the publication meant only became apparent reading Dawkins’ “The Blind Watchmaker” and Jones’ “Almost Like A Whale” (titled “Darwin’s Ghost” in USA).
For an explanation of why Darwin Day is worth noting, here is a press release from the Institute for Humanist Studies:
Feb. 12 is “Darwin Day”
Americans Celebrate B’day of Evolution Champ
ALBANY, N.Y. – This Feb. 12 is the 199th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.
Hundreds of groups across the United States and the globe will celebrate the date as “Darwin Day” in honor of the discoveries and life of the man who famously described biological evolution via natural selection.
“Darwin Day promotes understanding of evolution and the scientific method,” said Matt Cherry, executive director of the Institute for Humanist Studies. “This celebration expresses gratitude for the enormous benefit that scientific knowledge has contributed to the advancement of humanity.”
The Darwin Day Celebration is a project of the Albany, N.Y.-based Institute for Humanist Studies, an international educational nonprofit that promotes reason and humanity.
Next year will mark both the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the 1859 publication of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species”, which presented the scientific theory that populations evolve over generations through natural selection.
The theory of evolution was controversial in Darwin’s time and remains controversial in the United States today.
Recent Gallup polls show that 43 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution and instead believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” And at least four 2008 presidential candidates have said they do not believe the theory of evolution.
“There is a continuous threat to evolutionary biology and to science in general that has been posed by fundamentalists who reject entirely a Darwinian worldview because they feel it threatens their religious beliefs,” said Massimo Pigliucci, Ph.D., a professor of evolutionary biology at the State University of New York-Stony Brook.
Pigliucci uses Darwin Day to teach the public about how science works “so people aren’t just hearing about science from their local preacher.” His online course “Evolution, Creationism and the Nature of Science” is available for free through the Institute for Humanist Studies.
The Darwin Day Celebration started with one event in 1995. Last year there were more than 850 Darwin Day events world-wide. Darwin Day festivities can include debates, lectures, essay contests, film festivals, museum exhibits, art shows and even an “Evolution Banquet” with “Primordial Soup” followed by a “Darwin Fish Fry.”
This year, hundreds of church congregations will celebrate Darwin Day by hosting an “Evolution Weekend” to explore the compatibility of science and religion.
For information, visit: www.DarwinDay.org
Carl Sagan made the comment: “Natural selection is the theory that explains the fact of evolution”. The predictive explanations of the theory is one that Dawkins explains here.
The ignorance with which people dismiss the theory without looking at the ways in which it has explained the natural world, and can be used in many areas that improves our quality of life. With regards to people that try to claim that morality should be based on evolution theory (no rational person claims that should be the case):
“Evolutionary theory does not say what is right and what is wrong, but merely what has happened.” — Marty Leipzig
Happy Birthday guys!
False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness. Darwin
I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars. Darwin
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Lincoln
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. Lincoln
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species changed the world. Here Richard Dawkins introduces a 34-page celebration of the book and its author, available FREE with today’s edition of The Guardian (UK)
Why Darwin matters
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species changed the world. Here Richard Dawkins introduces a 34-page celebration of the book and its author, available FREE with tomorrow’s edition of the Guardian
Charles Darwin had a big idea, arguably the most powerful idea ever. And like all the best ideas it is beguilingly simple. In fact, it is so staggeringly elementary, so blindingly obvious that although others before him tinkered nearby, nobody thought to look for it in the right place.
Darwin had plenty of other good ideas – for example his ingenious and largely correct theory of how coral reefs form – but it is his big idea of natural selection, published in On the Origin of Species, that gave biology its guiding principle, a governing law that helps the rest make sense. Understanding its cold, beautiful logic is a must.
Natural selection’s explanatory power is not just about life on this planet: it is the only theory so far suggested that could, even in principle, explain life on any planet. If life exists elsewhere in the universe – and my tentative bet is that it does – some version of evolution by natural selection will almost certainly turn out to underlie its existence. Darwin’s theory works equally well no matter how strange and alien and weird that extraterrestrial life may be – and my tentative bet is that it will be weird beyond imagining.
But what makes natural selection so special? A powerful idea assumes little to explain much. It does lots of explanatory “heavy lifting”, while expending little in the way of assumptions or postulations. It gives you plenty of bangs for your explanatory buck. Its Explanation Ratio – what it explains, divided by what it needs to assume in order to do the explaining – is large.
If any reader knows of an idea that has a larger explanation ratio than Darwin’s, let’s hear it. Darwin’s big idea explains all of life and its consequences, and that means everything that possesses more than minimal complexity. That’s the numerator of the explanation ratio, and it is huge.
Yet the denominator in the explanatory equation is spectacularly small and simple: natural selection, the non-random survival of genes in gene pools (to put it in neo-Darwinian terms rather than Darwin’s own).
You can pare Darwin’s big idea down to a single sentence (again, this is a modern way of putting it, not quite Darwin’s): “Given sufficient time, the non-random survival of hereditary entities (which occasionally miscopy) will generate complexity, diversity, beauty, and an illusion of design so persuasive that it is almost impossible to distinguish from deliberate intelligent design.” I have put “which occasionally miscopy” in brackets because mistakes are inevitable in any copying process. We don’t need to add mutation to our assumptions. Mutational “bucks” are provided free. “Given sufficient time” is not a problem either – except for human minds struggling to take on board the terrifying magnitude of geological time.
A certain kind of mind
It is mainly its power to simulate the illusion of design that makes Darwin’s big idea seem threatening to a certain kind of mind. The same power constitutes the most formidable barrier to understanding it. People are naturally incredulous that anything so simple could explain so much. To a naive observer of the wondrous complexity of life, it just must have been intelligently designed.
But intelligent design (ID) is the polar opposite of a powerful theory: its explanation ratio is pathetic. The numerator is the same as Darwin’s: everything we know about life and its prodigious complexity. But the denominator, far from Darwin’s pristine and minimalist simplicity, is at least as big as the numerator itself: an unexplained intelligence big enough to be capable of designing all the complexity we are trying to explain in the first place!
Here may lie the answer to a nagging puzzle in the history of ideas. After Newton’s brilliant synthesis of physics, why did it take nearly 200 years for Darwin to arrive on the scene? Newton’s achievement seems so much harder! Maybe the answer is that Darwin’s eventual solution to the riddle of life is so apparently facile.
Claims to priority were made on behalf of others, and by Patrick Matthew in the appendix to his work On Naval Timber, as was punctiliously acknowledged by Darwin in later editions of the Origin. However, although Matthew understood the principle of natural selection, it is not clear that he understood its power. Unlike Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, who hit on natural selection independently, prompting Darwin to publish his theory, Matthew seems to have seen selection as a purely negative, weeding-out force, not the driving force of all life. Indeed, he thought natural selection so obvious as to need no positive discovery at all.
Although Darwin’s theory can be applied to much beyond the evolution of organic life, I want to counsel against a different sense of Universal Darwinism. This is the uncritical dragging of some garbled version of natural selection into every available field of human discourse, whether it is appropriate or not.
Maybe the “fittest” firms survive in the marketplace of commerce, or the fittest theories survive in the scientific marketplace, but we should at very least be cautious before we get carried away. And of course there was Social Darwinism, culminating in the obscenity of Hitlerism.
Less obnoxious but still intellectually unhelpful is the loose and uncritical way in which amateur biologists apply selection at inappropriate levels in the hierarchy of life. “Survival of the fittest species, extinction of poorly adapted species” sounds superficially like natural selection, but the apparent resemblance is positively misleading. As Darwin himself was at pains to point out, natural selection is all about differential survival within species, not between them.
I’ll end on a subtler legacy of Darwin’s big idea. Darwin raises our consciousness to the sinewy power of science to explain the large and complex in terms of the small and simple. In biology we were fooled for centuries into thinking that extravagant complexity in nature needs an extravagantly complex explanation. Darwin triumphantly dispelled that delusion.
There remain deep questions, in physics and cosmology, that await their Darwin. Why are the laws of physics the way they are? Why are there laws at all? Why is there a universe at all? Once again, the lure of “design” is tempting. But we have the cautionary tale of Darwin before us. We’ve been through all that before. Darwin emboldens us – difficult as it is – to seek genuine explanations: explanations that explain more than they postulate.
Reposted from here