On today’s ID the Future, science-and-religion scholar Robert Shedinger makes the case that a well-known biography of Charles Darwin, Darwin’s Sacred Cause, is deeply misleading. Specifically, the book by Adrian Desmond and James Moore holds that Darwin was significantly motivated in his scientific work by abolitionist sentiments; and Shedinger says, not so fast. He had spent considerable time reading Darwin’s correspondence and had seen no evidence of this thesis, so he reread Darwin’s Sacred Cause, this time tracking down all the key citations the book offered as evidence, and a pattern soon emerged. The sources the authors cite didn’t actually support their thesis. Some were totally irrelevant. Some were cited completely out of context. In other cases, the authors gave the impression that Darwin said something when the comment they attributed to him was stitched together from multiple correspondences and the constituent comments were often about something else altogether. Shedinger says he realized that this biography that looked to be so well documented amounted to “historical fiction.” The effect of the biography is to misrepresent Darwin in such a way as to make those who reject Darwinism appear to be opposing a saintly anti-abolitionist. While Darwin did have anti-slavery sentiments, it didn’t drive his science and he himself was anything but free from racism. In fact, his case for human evolution partly rested on deeply demeaning racist attitudes toward indigenous peoples. For more on this, see historian Richard Weikart’s book Darwinian Racism. Also in this episode, Shedinger tells host Michael Keas about how he went from a scholar fully persuaded of Darwinian theory to a skeptic of modern evolutionary theory and attracted to the theory of intelligent design. Shedinger lays out his case against Darwinism in his recent book The Mystery of Evolutionary Mechanisms.
Today’s ID the Future features another reading from scholar Olufemi Oluniyi’s new book, Darwin Comes to Africa. In this excerpt we learn how Darwin himself laid much of the groundwork for social Darwinist ideas, primarily in his book The Descent of Man, and how those ideas were energetically developed in the ensuing decades by various mainstream scientists. Oluniyi further details how their work fueled pseudo-scientific racism against black Africans and other indigenous peoples outside the West. To learn more about this neglected corner of modern Western history, and for the good news that the flow of evidence has turned against Darwinism and, with it, social Darwinist principles, pick up Oluniyi’s book here.
On today’s ID the Future, Your Designed Body co-author and systems engineer Steve Laufmann continues his conversation with host and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor. In this episode, Laufmann reviews four causal factors involved in Darwin’s theory of evolution, and explains why they lack the power to generate life’s great variety of forms. To dive deeper into his argument, check out Laufmann’s new book co-authored with physician Howard Glicksman.
This ID the Future continues the debate between design theorist Casey Luskin, an editor of The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith, and science historian Adam Shapiro, co-author of Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction. Justin Brierley, of the popular British debate program Unbelievable?, hosts. In this second half of the conversation, Shapiro argues that intelligent design’s popularity seems to have waned. Casey Luskin counters, arguing that the number and frequency of New York Times articles on ID is a superficial metric and that the ID research program is exploding, with the number of peer-reviewed ID papers growing every year, and the number of interested graduate students, ID hubs, and conferences expanding around the world, including ID conferences attended by high-level scientists, including Nobel Laureates. Luskin and Shapiro also discuss religious and academic freedom as it relates to the teaching of evolution and intelligent design in the classroom. Shapiro is actually more sanguine than Luskin about the freedom of high school biology teachers to teach intelligent design. Luskin, who has both a PhD in geology and a law degree, strongly advises high school biology teachers in public schools against teaching ID in the classroom. Instead, he says, the better and legally safer approach is to teach evolutionary theory comprehensively, covering both the evidence for it but also some of the evidence in the peer-reviewed literature against it. Luskin and Shapiro also part company on the nature of the intelligent design argument, with Shapiro suggesting that in practice it often amounts to a presenter highlighting some amazing feature in biology and then giving glory to God. Luskin pushes back, reiterating that intelligent design is an argument based on positive evidence, and is an argument to the best explanation–intelligent design–one that employs standard methods of scientific reasoning. This program is presented here with permission of Justin Brierley. To see this and other Unbelievable? episodes, go here. The first half of this conversation can be found 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.
On this ID the Future, biophysicist Cornelius Hunter explores Charles Darwin’s theological arguments for his theory of evolution. By theological, Hunter doesn’t mean that Darwin was arguing for theistic evolution. He means that Darwin received what is known as theological utilitarianism from the intellectual culture of his youth, which had strong deistic tendencies and expected everything in creation to be perfectly adapted, and he made a case against it, presenting mindless evolution as a better explanation for his observations of the biological world than theological utilitarianism. But one problem with this approach, according to Hunter, is that it assumed that theological utilitarianism is THE alternative to blind evolution. In fact, there are other alternatives, including an orthodox Judeo-Christian understanding of God’s relationship to his creation. In Hunter’s conversation with host Casey Luskin, he unpacks the differences in this other understanding of God and shows how Darwin’s tunnel-vision fixation on theological utilitarianism led him into multiple problems. Hunter further shows that this basic theological mistake of Darwin’s also crops up in later defenders of Darwinism. Hunter and Luskin end the discussion by making what may strike some as a surprising claim: Evolutionary theory, argued in the way that Darwin and many of his followers argue the case, is fundamentally theology-based, whereas the theory of intelligent design, which points to a design of life and the cosmos, is strictly science-based. The occasion for the interview is Hunter’s chapter on this subject in the recent anthology co-edited by Luskin, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos. Check it out.
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.
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.
On this ID the Future, Michael Behe responds to the attacks on … his mousetrap. Behe used the common mousetrap to illustrate the idea of irreducible complexity, showing how various mechanical contrivances need all of their main parts to function, and to show how irreducible complexity poses a major challenge to Darwinism’s idea of gradual, step-by-step evolution of some biological machines. Most of the attacks on Behe’s argument have focused on the irreducibly complex biological systems he spotlighted, such as the outboard motor known as the bacterial flagellum. But some of his critics fixated on the mousetrap itself, and argued that the mousetrap wasn’t actually irreducibly complex. Behe rebuts these counterarguments and explains why he’s convinced they fail. The discussion is just a brief sampling of the deeper dive Behe takes in his newest book, A Mousetrap for Darwin.
On this ID the Future, Michael Behe continues discussing A Mousetrap for Darwin, his newest book. Understanding of the cell has grown “by leaps and bounds” since the 1990s, when Behe’s first book appeared. Fresh discoveries have revealed ever more complex structures inside the cell. As Behe explains, it isn’t just the bacterial flagellum that’s irreducibly complex; the “hook” region inside the flagellum is, too. Evolution’s proper place of study has moved from gross anatomy and population genetics to biochemistry. In his conversation with host Eric Anderson, Behe says that intelligent design theory’s predictions are coming true over time, while for every step of increasing knowledge, it gets “worse and worse” for the theory of evolution by undirected unintelligent processes. Purchase his latest book here.