On today’s ID the Future, bioethicist Wesley J. Smith explores a recent article in the journal Nature, “The Alarming Rise of Complex Genetic Testing in Human Embryo Selection.” As alarming as that title sounds, Smith says the reality is even worse than the Nature article suggests. Using the breakthrough technology known as CRISPR, scientists are not only altering the genes of a given creature, including humans, but are even altering the creature’s germline. This threatens to permanently alter a species, Smith explains, including the human species. There’s the question of whether we have the right play god in this way, of course. There’s also the practical issue of scientists not really knowing what they are doing yet. A gene identified as having a certain negative effect and therefore targeted for elimination, Smith says, could turn out to also have a positive effect that was only discovered after the gene was eliminated. This precise scenario may have occurred in a case in China involving human beings. Tune in to learn more, and check out Smith’s new podcast, Humanize.Show.
Today’s ID the Future brings listeners a lively conversation between radio host and bestselling author Eric Metaxas and historian Richard Weikart about Weikart’s new book, Darwinian Racism: How Darwinism Influenced Hitler, Nazism, and White Nationalism. Weikart provides a quick flyover of the evidence that the outlook of Hitler, the Nazis, and contemporary white nationalists is significantly shaped by Darwinism and the arguments of early Darwinists. Metaxas and Weikart then contrast the Darwinian foundation for morality with the Judeo-Christian foundation, which holds that all humans are made in the image of God and therefore possess inherent worth, regardless of race and regardless of one’s “fitness.” This episode is reposted here, with permission, from The Eric Metaxas Show. Check out Weikart’s new book here.
Today’s ID the Future features the second half of a recent webinar spotlighting historian Richard Weikart and his new book, Darwinian Racism: How Darwinism Influenced Hitler, Nazism, and White Nationalism. Here Weikart fields questions from the webinar audience. Along the way Weikart touches on the connection between Darwinism and scientific racism, the objection that Darwinism, properly understood, doesn’t support scientific racism (much less Nazi racism), the racism inherent in Darwin’s own writings and those of prominent early Darwinists such as Ernst Haeckel, and more recent manifestations of Darwinian-inspired scientific racism both academic and populist. This and much more is explored in Weikart’s new book, available here. And for scientific reasons to reject Darwinism along with its racists implications, jump over to Evolution News and Science Today.
Today’s ID the Future features the newly released Darwinian Racism: How Darwinism Influenced Hitler, Nazism, and White Nationalism by distinguished historian Richard Weikart. Here Andrew McDiarmid reads from the introduction and chapter one. Weikart begins his book by revisiting the harrowing Columbine High School mass shooting and underscoring the curious fact that one of the mass shooters, a white nationalist, claimed inspiration from not just Adolf Hitler but also Charles Darwin. Since Darwin was a peaceable Victorian English gentleman and naturalist, what possible connection could there be between Darwin on the one hand and Hitler and contemporary white nationalism on the other? Weikart shows that the connection is in fact quite clear from the writings of Hitler, Darwin himself, and early Darwinists, and that the connection has continued to fuel scientific racism down to the present, despite the fact that the racist notions that Darwin and Germany’s Ernst Haeckel used to support the case for apelike-primate-to-human evolution have long since been debunked. Weikart’s revelatory new book is now available for purchase.
On this ID the Future, Taking Leave of Darwin author Neil Thomas continues a lively conversation with radio host Hank Hanegraaff. In this second in a three-part series, the two touch on the fossil record’s challenge to Darwinism, Gould and Eldredge’s rescue attempt, the question of whether Darwin’s best known contemporary defender is dishonest or merely self-deluded, the wishful thinking surrounding origin-of-life studies, the failed attempts to reduce the mind to mere brain chemistry, and the morally repugnant pro-eugenics ideas rooted in Darwinism and touted in the textbook at the heart of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. The conversation is posted here by permission of Hank Hanegraaff. Get Neil Thomas’s book here.
On today’s ID the Future, bioethicist Wesley J. Smith makes the case for passionate opposition to, and stricter bioethical regulations against germline genetic engineering that changes not only the genetics of the subject but also of all that subject’s descendants. He and episode host Casey Luskin discuss germline genetic editing in China, the brouhaha that ensued when the experimental work by He Jiankui came to light, and why Smith is convinced that China’s disapproving response is less than it appears on the surface. He’s convinced, he explains, that the Chinese government wasn’t upset that the Chinese scientist conducted the experiment. They surely knew about his work and allowed it, Smith says. Rather, they and the scientific establishment internationally were upset that Jiankui went public before the public had been softened up to embrace germline genetic editing with lots of talk about how it will save lives. Smith argues the health benefits being pursued can be achieved without permanently altering the germlines, and he warns of a brave new world of eugenics pursued using CRISPR technology and germline editing. As he explains, it’s not just that germline editing could lead to unintended health consequences, or that such changes could work their way into the human population long term. It’s also that the eugenics mindset driving much of this experimental work threatens to undermine the foundational belief that all humans possess inherent dignity and worth, not just those humans who are genetically edited and enhanced. The occasion for the conversation is Smith’s bioethics chapter in the recently released anthology from Harvest House Publishers, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith.
On this ID the Future host Casey Luskin interviews science journalist Denyse O’Leary about her recent essay, “Is Evolutionary Psychology a Legitimate Way to Understand Our Humanity,” which appears in the new Harvest House anthology co-edited by Luskin, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith. O’Leary, a science journalist and co-author of The Spiritual Brain, offers a withering critique of evolutionary psychology and traces its roots, beginning with The Descent of Man (1871), where Charles Darwin attributed various human behaviors to natural and sexual selection. That fed into what became known as social Darwinism, which fell out of favor after World War II thanks to Hitler and the Nazis’ application of social Darwinist ideas to defend Nordic superiority and genocide. The ideas resurfaced in modified form under the banner of sociobiology, and then later still, as evolutionary psychology. This latter manifestation, O’Leary says, marks the most comprehensive attempt to explain the various facets of human behavior in evolutionary terms, but its comprehensiveness has not won it widespread acceptance. Far from it. The field is quick to offer explanations for why we do what we do, but it has left a train of blunders in its wake. So for instance, evolutionary psychologists claimed that we associate pink with little girls and blue with little boys due to the sex-based division of labor among our primitive ancestors over the course of millions of years of evolutionary development. In primitive societies the girls gathered fruit (pink when ripe), and the boys fished (and blue is associated with water). Mystery solved? But wait. In Victorian England, pink was associated with boys and blue with girls. Do we have an evolutionary explanation for that as well? Give any reasonably creative company of evolutionary psychologists an evening and a twelve-pack, and they’d probably be able to dream up a sure-fire evolutionary explanation. Evolutionary psychology, with its ability to explain everything and its opposite, convincingly explains nothing. According to O’Leary, distaste for the field stretches well beyond the company of Darwin dissenters. Most evolutionists steer clear of evolutionary psychology, and even some who probably count themselves as fully paid-up members of the Darwinian materialist guild openly criticize it. Thus it seems that if we want to effectively explain human behavior in all its messy richness, we would do well to look beyond the box of just-so stories built from Darwin’s toolkit of natural and sexual selection.
Today’s ID the Future again spotlights The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith. Historian Richard Weikart and host Casey Luskin discuss Weikart’s contribution to the new anthology, his essay “How Evil Has Been Done in the Name of Science.” As Weikart explains, over the past century and a half, science has been misused to fuel racist policies and undermine human rights. Darwinian ideas helped lay the groundwork for Nazi ideology in Germany. And we shouldn’t imagine the problem was restricted to Nazi Germany. Scientific racism also reared its head in the United States, including in the long-running and infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment. More broadly, a marriage of scientism and evolutionary thinking continues to undermine the idea of inherent human worth and dignity, Weikart notes, even among thinkers who likely would reject scientific racism.
In today’s ID the Future historian Richard Weikart (Cal State Stanislaus) dissects a new Cambridge University Press book on social Darwinism by Jeffrey O’Connell and Michael Ruse. Weikart, author of Hitler’s Ethic, From Darwin to Hitler, Hitler’s Religion, and The Death of Humanity,* says that a major shortcoming of the new book is the authors’ attempt to put as much distance as possible between Darwin and eugenics thinking, and between Darwin and Hitler. The new book paints Darwin follower Herbert Spencer as the eugenics-championing bad guy and posits that Darwin and Darwinism had little or no influence on Hitler’s warped master race ethic. Weikart patiently highlights some key evidence to the contrary, statements front and center in Hitler’s writing. Did Darwin cause Hitler? No. Would Darwin have approved of Hitler? Almost certainly not. But according to Weikart, Darwin’s own racist and pro-eugenics thinking, combined with some implications of his theory that he himself explicitly surfaced, manifestly did lay the groundwork for Hitler’s diabolical outlook on “the master race,” “the struggle for life,” war, and eugenics. *As an Amazon Associate, Discovery earns from qualifying purchases.
As a nod to Darwin Day and Black History Month, today’s ID the Future spotlights the racist thinking of Charles Darwin and the scientific racism fueled by Darwinism and Darwinists. As guest and historian Michael Flannery notes, Darwin’s followers, including Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, took ideas found in Darwin’s work and used them to vigorously press the case for eugenics, a movement that came to have a horrifying impact for American blacks in the twentieth century, including for thousands who were subjected to forced sterilizations. Was Darwin’s racism purely a function of his time and place, Victorian England? Flannery says no, and on two counts. First, he says that the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace, was far more progressive about non-Anglo indigenous races than was Darwin, arguing that they were very much the equals of Europeans, morally and intellectually. Such an outlook is dramatically different from Darwin’s, who saw them as far inferior and destined to be weeded out by the process of natural selection one day. Also, while Wallace came to embrace a form of intelligent design and to reject philosophical materialism, Darwin and many of his followers saw his theory as both rooted in, and supporting, a materialistic outlook on nature. Humans, in other words, were without an immaterial soul. This materialistic view of the human person, Flannery and host Jay Richards argue, vitiates the traditional theological understanding of humans as made in the image of God with inherent dignity and worth. As Richards further notes, Martin Luther King Jr. made precisely this point himself. Tune in as Flannery and Richards explore this oft-neglected corner of history.