February 13, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

New Website Aids Slow Process of Dethroning Darwin

A new website, Darwin and Design.com, based on the book co-authored by Stephen Meyer and John Angus Campbell, has been announced by Discovery Institute.  Meanwhile, Ohio anticreationists are trying to caricature a proposed lesson plan on critical analysis of evolution by identifying it with intelligent design theory.  �Intelligent design isn�t even covered in this lesson,� said Bruce Chapman, President of Discovery Institute, according to the press release on Discovery Institute News Feb. 11.  �The curriculum only examines the evidence for evolution and the scientific challenges to Darwin�s theory that are under debate by scientists around the world.�

The Darwin Party totalitarians are so protective of Charlie, their bearded buddha,* that they do not want anyone asking questions about his deity while they worship, let alone handing out tracts for another faith.  Perhaps the only way to get open debate back into science will be to get the government to stop funding the state religion.


*Janet Browne, in Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (Princeton, 2002, ch. 10), describes the veneration of Darwin going on in 1871 British media with example after example of illustrators portraying him as a little god.  For instance, “Linley Sambourne … portrayed a great spiral from ‘Chaos’ to God’s throne in heaven, on which Darwin casually sprawled” (p. 378).  The caricatures and cartoons of Darwin, ubiquitous in the media, had far more impact on the popularity of his theories than any claimed scientific evidence.  Browne writes (p. 381):

Such powerful visual statements propelled the idea of evolution out of the arcane realms of learned societies and literary magazines into the ordinary world of humour, newspapers, and demotic literature.  Without Mr. Punch’s monkeys and gorillas, Figaro’s mirror of nature, and Holyoake’s cloud of protoplasm, the transformation in nineteenth-century thought would probably have remained predominantly an elite phenomenon.  The full implications of human descent would have taken much longer to sink in.  These caricatures were not just a transparent medium of illustration but an actual shaper of contemporary thought, as representative in their own way as any of the fine arts or literary texts of the period.  The themes of Darwin’s Descent of Man were graphically repackaged in a versatile cultural form enjoying wide distribution and popular appeal.  The cartoons might appear on the tables of any middle-class home in the country.

(See Baloney Detector entry on visualization as a propaganda tactic and smokescreen.)
No wonder Charlie retains such a devoted group of hardline loyalists.  He was not a mere founder of a scientific idea; he is the Holy Father of the materialists.  Visitors to his house acted as if they were making a religious pilgrimage.  “Mischievously, Huxley sent a sketch of someone paying his devotions at the shrine of ‘Pope Darwin’” (p. 384).  Some worshippers during their pilgrimages to Down House became breathless, so overcome with awe they could hardly speak in the exalted master’s presence.  “Grown men could crumble in the presence of the god,” Brown writes (p. 383).  Even his appearance was part of the act.  The long unkempt beard made him look like an Old Testament prophet or patriarch.
    Charlie shamelessly played along with this celebrity worship, and with the aid of family members and friends like Huxley and Hooker, used it to his advantage.  He developed “a shrewd management of personal publicity”; for example, he “unashamedly manipulated his reputation for poor health” to control the timing and length of visits (p. 383).  She describes how “Darwin’s entourage worked as if they were a family firm, protecting and supporting their figurehead…. Darwin’s household was an integrated corporate enterprise” (p. 384).  They played along with Charlie’s “selfish” escape mechanisms, like cutting visits short due to alleged illness, the need for a nap, or the need to get back to his pretended scientific work in the lab.
    All this manipulation just added to the mystique, and made visitors even more grateful for having had even a brief opportunity to kiss the feet of their pope.  Some of these young pilgrims, filled with the spirit, returning to their homes, labs, and schools with a “cherished memory” of “the great man” and their “near-religious experience” having had a moment to “sit at Darwin’s feet and venerate him,” understandably treated his books of just-so stories like inspired scriptures.  They “turned Darwin into a secular saint and Darwinism into a religion” (p. 383).  You may now throw up.
    Think times have changed?  The editor of Current Biology, Geoffrey North, lets us know where his adoration lies: “Charles Darwin is – quite rightly – a hero for many in biology.  He is undoubtedly the greatest biologist of all time; I think many may also envy the way he was able to work at home, with a lifestyle rather similar to that of a country parson, surrounded by his family.  What continues to astonish is the way that he has turned out to be right on so many fundamental issues” (Feb. 17 issue).  Follow the Chain Links on “Darwin” for some data points you need to make an informed vote.  Greatest biologist of all time?  Right on so many fundamental issues?  We vote for Louis Pasteur.

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