Thursday, February 19, 2009

Libertarian responses to Darwin

Thursday, February 12, 2009, was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Many years later he codified the theory of evolution, and more than a century afterwards it is still a subject of debate.

Unfortunately it is still a subject of debate among libertarians. Gary North, Bill Sardi, and especially Fred Reed all took time away from the useful task of promoting libertarian ideas to criticize the fact that Darwin made a major contribution to understanding the science of biology.

The most common accusation against evolution is that, somehow, it leads to the idea of Social Darwinism. The problem is that Darwin never advocated anything of the sort as he tried to understand the source and diversity of life. Evil people will find whatever excuse they want to justify their actions, including religious texts of all sorts as well as misinterpretation and misapplication of scientific theories.

Honest, Informed or Creationist. You can at most have two. You can have less than two. You cannot have all three.

Gary North commits guilt by association by pointing out the similar timelines of Lincoln and Darwin in the advancement of their careers and how they both managed to change the world at about the same time. But not all changes are equal and guilt by association is not an honest rhetorical tactic.

Bill Sardi goes farther with guilt by association by attributing to Darwin's theory many things not included in the theory, such as militant atheism, purposelessness, and Social Darwinism. The last in particular is used to say that because some people looking for justification for misbehavior have latched onto something that isn't even in the theory, the theory must be wrong. Social Darwinism is not part of biological evolution, and Darwin's theory was about biological evolution.

Sardi goes further to show a basic misunderstanding of science. Yes, evolution doesn't answer "who am I" but then no other science does either. It's a question of philosophy, which means it is in the wrong field. Evolution no more answers that then it explains why falling objects accelerate to the earth at 9.8 meters per seconds squared. That latter bit is physics, and physics fails to account for the diversity of life. He also commits many of the basic errors of those who dislike this scientific theory by committing the 2nd law of thermodynamics error and mentions the frauds but never mentions the fossils that have been found. Creationists always mention Piltdown, they never mention Homo Erectus. It is true that at one time that there was little evidence, but it is no longer 1860.

Fred Reed goes the farthest in his criticisms. He also commits guilt by association by creating from scratch an association with cultural Marxists, as well as arguing that the subject of evolution versus creation is somehow inexplicably related to the court battles over nativity scenes. His refers to those who support science as "Knights Templar" in order to make them appear as if they are on a holy crusade. He also makes knowledge errors such as ignoring the difference between evolution and abiogenesis. He says the mechanism is mutation, when the mechanism is both mutation and natural selection. For some reason creationists never talk about both mutation and natural selection at the same time, perhaps because either one of those alone would actually be insufficient. But they are not alone. He makes assertions about what evolution would predict that are not reflected by the theory of evolution itself. And the reason that people who understand the subject agree with the theory is ... they are marching in lockstep and dare not deviate from each other.

In truth, the Theory of Evolution doesn't even contradict Christianity or the Bible in the first place. All it does contradict is one particular heretical view of the Bible. Creationism is not a Christian doctrine.

The only intersection between evolution and libertarianism is that since we have government schools people are not free to choose a school that teaches religion in the science classroom. The only subject allowed in the science classroom in a government school is science.

But trying to argue that there is a libertarian issue in creationism versus evolution itself is frankly embarrassing to other libertarians. Every attempt to convince people one doesn't have to be saddled with the baggage of the religious right in order to prefer small government and free markets is undermined by scientific ignorance and dishonest debate.

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