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The Impact of Darwinism ( A debate hosted by the Stanford Review : Michael Ruse vs. Richard Weikart)
The Stanford Review ^ | April 22, 2008 | Tristan Abbey

Posted on 04/26/2008 12:07:50 PM PDT by SeekAndFind

With the premiere of Ben Stein’s new movie, Expelled, many people are pondering the long-term impact of Darwinism on society. We touched base with two experts on the subject.

Arguing that Darwinism has had a largely positive impact on society is Michael Ruse (MR), the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University. Arguing that Darwinism has had a largely negative impact on society is Richard Weikart (RW), Professor of History at California State University, Stanislaus.


1. Set this up for the layman. What is Darwinism? Is it science? Is it a social theory? A philosophy?

MR: I understand three things by Darwinism. First the fact of evolution, namely that all organisms came through a long slow process of development - a natural process - from a few forms and ultimately from inorganic material. (Darwin himself does not assert this in print, but today we would claim this.) Second, the mechanism of evolution, namely that natural selection - the survival of the fittest - is the chief mechanism (although not the sole mechanism, there are other causes like chance and genetic drift). Third, often one finds that people want to use evolution to promote social and religious ideas - as in Social Darwinism. This is a loose form of the term.

RW: Darwinism is an historical science based on many empirical observations, but Darwin’s theory was also shaped by philosophical presuppositions popular in the nineteenth century (historicism and positivism), as well as social and economic theories, especially laissez-faire. In turn, Darwinism necessarily impinges on and overlaps with philosophy, ethics, psychology, religion, and social theory, especially when it tries to explain human evolution. In his published writings, especially in The Descent of Man, Darwin made claims about the origins of morality, the origins of religion, social developments, the need for laissez-faire economics, and the extinction of lower races.

2. What is the historical relationship between Darwinism and progressive ideas like racial equality, feminism, and so on, given that universal common ancestry makes us all brothers and sisters?

MR: Well, it is difficult to say absolutely. Some people took Darwin’s ideas to promote feminism etc - this was the move of the co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russell Wallace. Others, including Darwin himself in his Descent of Man, were less inclined to do so. As so often happens, what one finds is that the social ideas come first and then they are given a somewhat skimpy evolutionary justification that has little to do with the real mechanisms of evolution.

RW: Darwinists have not been united on these issues, but in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries most leading Darwinists, including Darwin, tended to stress human inequality more than equality, in part because evolution requires biological variability. Darwin stated in The Descent of Man: “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” By the mid-twentieth century and thereafter most Darwinists abandoned racial inequality, stressing the common ancestry of all humans.

3. Evolutionary reasoning seems to underlay free market economics: the fittest survive in a pitched commercial battle. Do we owe Western prosperity to Darwinism?

MR: Well, of course this assumes that free market economics yields Western prosperity. I would have thought that FDR’s new deal had something to do with America’s success and this has little to do with free market economics. In any case, if anything, Darwin based his ideas on Malthus rather than the converse. The ideas you are talking about, classical Social Darwinism, owe more to Herbert Spencer than to Darwin, and others - Wallace again, Karl Pearson for another, Keir Hardy for a third - claimed to be socialists in the name of Darwin!

RW: The historical causation worked in the opposite direction. As many historians have demonstrated, Darwin adopted many of his ideas from economic theories prominent during his time. He was an avid reader of British classical economists, and he admitted that his key idea of natural selection derived from his reading of the economist Malthus.

4. Was there a connection between Darwinism and Marxism? One rumor holds that Karl Marx offered to dedicate Das Kapital to Charles Darwin.

MR: Virtually no connection at all. Marx wanted to dedicate the second volume of Kapital to Darwin, who politely declined and never opened his copy. Marx read the Origin when it came out and liked aspects but thought it all very English (he wrote a letter to that effect to Engels). But Marx wrote in a continental tradition very far from Darwin.

RW: Marx formulated his worldview before Darwin published his work, so Darwin’s theory had no influence on the origination of Marxism. Though the rumor you mentioned was false, Marx was so excited about Darwin’s theory—especially the anti-religious implications of it—that he wrote to his colleague Friedrich Engels that Darwin’s work “contains the foundation in natural history for our view.” While Marx and most early Marxists adopted some elements of Darwinism with alacrity, most of them rejected natural selection, especially when applied to humans.

5. Some contend that Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were profoundly influenced by Darwinism. Is this true?

MR: No, not at all. The communists often paid lip service to Darwin, because at his funeral, Engels said that Marx had done in the social world what Darwin had done in the biological world. But lip service (and departments of Darwinism) was what one got. Remember the Lysenko affair in Russia in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s when they tried to change wheat using Lamarckian techniques - this was deeply non-Darwinian.

WR: Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, like most Marxists, clearly embraced biological evolution and considered it important in underpinning their atheistic worldview. Like Marx and Engels before them, however, they rejected any application of Darwinism to human society, so the atrocities they committed were not connected in any direct way to Darwinism. The only way that biological evolution could have contributed to their atrocities was indirectly by undermining Judeo-Christian morality and the sanctity-of-life ethic.

6. Tens of thousands of Americans were sterilized in the first half of the 20th century. What role did evolutionary reasoning play in the eugenics movement?

MR: It is hard to say really. The eugenicists would have been evolutionists, although not all were Darwinian - Certainly someone like Karl Pearson would have tied the two - on the other hand, Wallace again was anti eugenics and no one was more of an evolutionist than he. I think that genetics was more important than straight evolutionary thinking - together with the hubris of scientists who thought they could solve all of the problems with science. Of course today it still goes on, although under the radar. Parents of severely handicapped children make sure that they cannot reproduce - sometimes girls are given hysterectomies on the grounds that they are unable to handle menstruation - which I suspect is often true. But of course one is not in the business of trying to shape the future of humankind - although to be honest, most of the early eugenicists were not trying to do that either. They were more worried about degeneration.

RW: The founder of modern eugenics, Francis Galton, formulated his idea about breeding better humans while reading Darwin’s Origin of Species, and almost all early eugenicists believed that their ideas were an application of Darwinism to society. They thought that modern humane institutions had allowed the “unfit,” i.e., the physically and mentally disabled, to procreate, thus setting aside the beneficent influence of natural selection, which would not have allowed these “inferior” individuals to propagate their hereditary defects. A famous slogan of the international eugenics movement was: “Eugenics is the self-direction of human evolution.”

7. To what extent did Darwinism influence Nazism?

MR: Hard to say again, although my bet is not a lot. Certainly there are passages from Mein Kampf that sound Darwinian, but Hitler picked up bits and pieces all over. He was not a systematically well educated man. I think the Nazis owed much more to other factors, like the Volkish movement of the 19th century (Wagner etc) and general anti Semitism - not to mention all of the daft but dangerous ideas about living space. The interesting thing is that the Nazis did not want to glorify their famous German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel - apart from anything else, his solution to the Jewish problem was intermarriage! Of course, generally the Nazis did not like evolution - it implies that we are modified monkeys and that Aryans and the rest - Jews, Slavs, etc - are all one people. You certainly do not see systematic use of evolution by the Nazis and if you read the authorities - for instance Kershaw on Hitler - you don’t get much sense at all that evolution was important - nothing like the half baked ideas that Hitler picked up in the doss houses of Vienna before the Great War.

RW: Though Nazi ideology derived from many sources, most of them having nothing to do with Darwinism, Darwinism was a central, guiding principle of Nazi ideology. Hitler believed in a human struggle for existence, especially between the races that would result in the triumph of the “superior” individuals and races and the extinction of the “inferior” ones. He viewed his pronatalist policies, compulsory sterilization and compulsory abortion for “inferior” individuals, killing the disabled, expansionist warfare, and extermination of “inferior” races as measures to promote biological evolution. Many of Hitler’s ideas about how Darwinism applied to races and society derived from leading Darwinists in early twentieth-century Germany, such as Ernst Haeckel, Alfred Ploetz, Fritz Lenz, Eugen Fischer, and others.

8. What role does Darwinism play in the debates over abortion, euthanasia, and the like?

MR: I would say absolutely none. Abortion is a religious fight entirely, with Catholics and Evangelicals against the rest. Same with euthanasia. Perhaps more evolutionists are pro abortion etc, but even here it is dangerous to generalize. Most Catholics accept evolution.

RW: Peter Singer, one of the most famous bioethicists in the world today, argues that Darwinism undermines the Judeo-Christian sanctity-of-life ethic, which has been the main deterrent to abortion and euthanasia in Western culture. Ian Dowbiggin and other historians who have examined the history of the euthanasia movement claim that Darwinism played a central role in changing people’s attitudes about human life. In most contemporary debates about abortion and euthanasia, Darwinism is seldom invoked, but it nonetheless plays a crucial role in the background, shaping people’s conceptions about the meaning, purpose, and significance of human life.

9. Richard Dawkins and others like him contend that atheism and Darwinism go hand in hand. Is he correct?

MR: Well, I have argued NO , NO, NO on this many times and have invoked Dawkins’s ire and scorn for doing so. Of course you cannot be a biblical literalist and a Darwinian, but I have often pointed out that biblical literalism is not traditional Christianity but an idiosyncratic form of American Protestant evangelical Christianity, from the first half of the nineteenth century - we now know owing much to the theology of the Seventh-day Adventists. I think Dawkins is ignorant of just about every aspect of philosophy and theology and it shows. I could go on, but I will simply say, look at my Can a Darwinian be a Christian? The answer I give is Yes, although not always easy but whoever said the important things in life are easy?

RW: Dawkins is wrong in his claim that Darwinism logically entails atheism, but many atheists have correctly perceived that belief in Darwinism undermines many of the cogent reasons to believe in a God. Darwinism purports to explain naturalistically not only the origin of biological design in organisms, but often also the origins of human reason, morality, aesthetics, language, and even religion itself.

10. On balance, should we be thankful to or angry with Charles Darwin for what he hath wrought?

MR: I think evolution - the theory of evolution through natural selection - is one of the great achievements of humankind, along with Hamlet and Beethoven’s fifth symphony. It shows truly that although we may be modified monkeys we are little lower than the angels - if ever there was proof that we are made in the image of God, finding this theory is the best evidence.

RW: I once had two intelligent students in a small senior-level seminar tell me that since Darwinism showed the illusory nature of morality, Hitler was neither good nor evil. Darwin implied in The Descent of Man and Michael Ruse and E. O. Wilson have stated explicitly in an essay on “The Evolution of Ethics” that “Ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to co-operate.” Perhaps Ruse and Wilson find the pursuit of illusory morality liberating, but how can they then morally condemn Hitler (or Stalin or Mao) for pursuing their own illusions?

TOPICS: Education; History; Science; Society
KEYWORDS: darwinism; impact; learn2post

1 posted on 04/26/2008 12:07:50 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: SeekAndFind

Tom Wolfe, Jefferson lecture, ‘06

Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening it is my modest intention to tell you in the short time we have together . . . everything you will ever need to know about the human beast.

I take that term, the human beast, from my idol, Emile Zola, who published a novel entitled The Human Beast in 1888, just 29 years after Darwin’s The Origin of Species broke the stunning news that Homo sapiens—or Homo loquax, as I call him—was not created by God in his own image but was precisely that, a beast, not different in any essential way from snakes with fangs or orangutangs . . . or kangaroos. . . or the fang-proof mongoose. Darwin’s doctrine, Evolution, leapt from the pages of a scientific monograph into every level of society in Europe and America with sensational suddenness. It created a sheerly dividing line between the God-fearing bourgeoisie who were appalled, and those people of sweetness and light whose business it was to look down at the bourgeosie from a great height.

3 posted on 04/26/2008 12:37:29 PM PDT by gusopol3
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4 posted on 04/26/2008 12:45:33 PM PDT by Coyoteman (Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.)
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To: SeekAndFind

read later

5 posted on 04/26/2008 1:47:12 PM PDT by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: SeekAndFind

Somebody help me out here!

I clicked on the actual article and was sincerely expecting a DEBATE! As I see it, there was NO debate. If there was, Weikart got his clock cleaned!

As Rush often says: If you are opposed to someone’s position on something, the first thing you DO NOT DO is to accept their PREMISE!

Weikart accepted the PREMISE of Darwinism, which to a THINKING person, is so assinine and indefensible as to defy comment! The only reason Darwinism enjoys the primacy that it does today is because the members of that crowd, over the years, have worked their way into all the liberal institutions, from education to legislation.

That’s the point of Stein’s movie. We’ve got to force the Darwinists to an actual debate! The monkey progeny crowd will hold preeminence as long as they never have to truly debate anyone or PROVE any of the barf they spew in the name of “EVIDENCE”. As the fine article in the recent issue of ICR’s “ACTS & FACTS” stated: In EVERY place where there SHOULD be some EVIDENCE, if Darwinism were a FACT, there is NONE! Zero! Zip! Nada! Bupkis!

At this late date, if they HAVE anything besides WORDS, let them lay their cards on the table! Evidence! Let’s SEE it!
No more of their coulda, mighta male bovine feces! Let’s see the EVIDENCE!

6 posted on 04/26/2008 2:36:51 PM PDT by Tucker39 (Darwin, Huxley, Sagan, et al began believing in God and Creation after 5 seconds in Hell!)
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To: Tucker39

Tagline: Darwin, Huxley, Sagan, et al began believing in God and Creation after 5 seconds in Hell!

Think it took that long?

7 posted on 04/26/2008 4:30:13 PM PDT by ukie55
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To: ukie55
"Think it took that long?"

That would depend on whether or not you believe that they (Darwin, Huxley, Sagan, et al) had the intellectual wherewithall and integrity to make the connection and admit it.

8 posted on 04/26/2008 5:43:56 PM PDT by YHAOS
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To: Tucker39
whoops! Sorry Tucker39. You too (post #8).
9 posted on 04/26/2008 5:46:44 PM PDT by YHAOS
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To: Tucker39
That’s the point of Stein’s movie. We’ve got to force the Darwinists to an actual debate! The monkey progeny crowd will hold preeminence as long as they never have to truly debate anyone or PROVE any of the barf they spew in the name of “EVIDENCE”. As the fine article in the recent issue of ICR’s “ACTS & FACTS” stated: In EVERY place where there SHOULD be some EVIDENCE, if Darwinism were a FACT, there is NONE! Zero! Zip! Nada! Bupkis!

At this late date, if they HAVE anything besides WORDS, let them lay their cards on the table! Evidence! Let’s SEE it! No more of their coulda, mighta male bovine feces! Let’s see the EVIDENCE!

The journals below, and hundreds more like them, are where the evidence is. No wonder you don't see it!

American Journal of Human Biology
American Journal of Human Genetics
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
The Anatomical Record Part A
Annals of Human Biology
Annals of Human Genetics
Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics
Anthropological Science
L' Anthropologie
Behavior Genetics
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Biological Psychology
Biology and Philosophy
BMC Evolutionary Biology
Current Anthropology
Current Biology
Economics and Human Biology
Ethnic and Racial Studies
European Journal of Human Genetics
Evolution and Human Behavior
Evolutionary Anthropology
Forensic Science International
Genetical Research
Genome Research
Human Biology
Human Heredity
Human Genetics
Human Genomics
Human Molecular Genetics
Human Mutation
International Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
Journal of Archaeological Science
Journal of Biosocial Science
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Journal of Human Evolution
Journal of Human Genetics
Journal of Molecular Evolution
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Molecular Biology and Evolution
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Nature Genetics
Nature Reviews Genetics
PLoS Biology
PLoS Genetics
Proceedings of The Royal Society: Biological Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Russian Journal of Genetics
Trends in Genetics

10 posted on 04/26/2008 5:58:05 PM PDT by Coyoteman (Religious belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Not a comment on evolution, but I have trouble taking anyone seriously who credits “The New Deal” with western prosperity.

11 posted on 04/26/2008 6:45:22 PM PDT by SlapHappyPappy
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To: All

1 Corinthians 15

The Resurrection of the Dead

12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.

16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.

17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.

19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The Resurrection Body

35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”

36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.

38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.

39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.

40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.

41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;

43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;

44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.

47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.

49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—

52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55”Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Just like you all love your kids...God loves all of His kids too (ALL OF US). Can you imagine giving up one of your kids to die a horrible death...just so some unworthy sinners like us could make Heaven their “home”? That’s real LOVE!!!

God doesn’t want any of you lost...He made sure we got the Bible just like He wanted us to. And He allows each one of us to decide where we want to live forever...Heaven or Hell.

Yes Hell is a real place too, and if that’s where you decide you want to go...God will let you go for all eternity...with tears in His eyes.

BIBLE=Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

God loves all of us so much that He has allowed some folks to come back from the dead to give you all a warning about where you choose to spend your eternity.

Ian McCormack’s testimony about what he saw when he died.

You might want to read about Doctors who put Pam Reynolds to death medically & what she saw when she was dead.

Pam’s death was where the doctors were in control...she saw the instruments they used on her during surgery... which was her eyes were taped shut for her surgery...she heard what the medical team were talking about while she was dead...because she wasn’t in her body...she was outside her body.

Which means that we continue on after our body dies. We see things...we hear things...what makes is still alive.

Pam Reynolds She underwent a rare operation to remove a giant basilar artery aneurysm in her brain that threatened her life. The size and location of the aneurysm, however, precluded its safe removal using the standard neuro-surgical techniques.

She was referred to a doctor who had pioneered a daring surgical procedure known as hypothermic cardiac arrest. It allowed Pam’s aneurysm to be excised with a reasonable chance of success.

This operation, nicknamed “standstill” by the doctors who perform it, required that Pam’s body temperature be lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing stopped, her brain waves flattened, and the blood drained from her head. In everyday terms, she was put to death.

After removing the aneurysm, she was restored to life. During the time that Pam was in standstill, she experienced a NDE. Her remarkably detailed veridical out-of-body observations during her surgery were later verified to be very accurate.

This case is considered to be one of the strongest cases of veridical evidence in NDE research because of her ability to describe the unique surgical instruments and procedures used and her ability to describe in detail these events while she was clinically and brain dead.


For practical purposes outside the world of academic debate, three clinical tests commonly determine brain death.

First, a standard electroencephalogram, or EEG, measures brain-wave activity. A “flat” EEG denotes non-function of the cerebral cortex - the outer shell of the cerebrum.

Second, auditory evoked potentials, similar to those [clicks] elicited by the ear speakers in Pam’s surgery, measure brain-stem viability. Absence of these potentials indicates non-function of the brain stem. And third, documentation of no blood flow to the brain is a marker for a generalized absence of brain function.

But during “standstill”, Pam’s brain was found “dead” by all three clinical tests - her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain. Interestingly, while in this state, she encountered the “deepest” NDE of all Atlanta Study participants.

Some scientists theorize that NDEs are produced by brain chemistry. But, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist and the leading authority in Britain concerning NDEs, believes that these theories fall far short of the facts. In the documentary, “Into the Unknown: Strange But True,” Dr. Fenwick describes the state of the brain during a NDE:

“The brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences ... an unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working.

The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these experiences [a NDE], you come out with clear, lucid memories ...

This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact.”

The only thing that has died is this “house” we walk around in right now.

This life time is only a blink of the eyes compared to eternity.

Evo’s love to talk about billions & billions of years ago how everything changed.

Well I’m telling you about eternity. And it only takes a second your here on earth sucking in oyxgen...the next second your in your eternal home.

You only have two choices for your eternal home...Heaven or Hell. God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell...but if that’s what you want He’ll let you make that decision.

You might want to read about Howard Storm. He was an avowed atheist:

I would think you Evo folks would trust doctors testimonies of what happened to their dying patients...To Hell and Back by Dr. Maurice Rawlins, MD, a heart surgeon

12 posted on 04/27/2008 1:01:53 AM PDT by Ready2go (Isa 5:20 Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil;)
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To: Ready2go


13 posted on 04/27/2008 7:22:53 AM PDT by Ready2go (Isa 5:20 Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil;)
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