December 15, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Sci Am Jumpstarts Darwin Day

It’s not even Christmas or 2009 yet, but the cover stories on Darwin have started to hit newsstands.  Latest to feature a whole issue to Darwin is Scientific American.  Predictable themes are all there: Darwin was a genius, he was the greatest scientist in history, evolution is the keystone of all biology, and creationists are still trying to sneak their religion into biology classes.  But also included are some weird topics like whether robots can be programmed to be evil.
    The editors gushed over Darwin in one short article entitled, “Why Everyone Should Learn the Theory of Evolution” as if they hadn’t already since kindergarten. 

Charles Darwin did not think of himself as a genius.  “I have no great quickness of apprehension or wit which is so remarkable in some clever men …” he remarked in one passage of his autobiography.  Fortunately for the rest of us, he was profoundly wrong in his assessment.  So on February 12 the world will mark the bicentennial birthday of a scientist who holds a rightful place alongside Galileo, Copernicus, Newton and Einstein.
    Darwin’s genius—and, yes, genius is the right word—is manifest in the way his theory of evolution can tie together disparate biological facts into a single unifying framework.  Evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky’s oft-cited quotation bears repeating here: “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.”

Having uttered the Dobzhansky mantra, they proceeded to lament that Darwin’s iconic visage has not yet eclipsed that of Einstein in the public consciousness.  Who’s to blame for this insult?  The creationists, naturally:

Yet it is also worth noting during this anniversary year that Darwin deserves a lot better than he gets.  When the popular press needs an iconic image of a brilliant scientist, it invariably recycles the famous photograph of Albert Einstein having a bad hair day…. Darwin’s failure to achieve icon status is the legacy of creationists and neocreationists and of the distortion of his ideas by the eugenics movement a century ago.

The juxtaposition of blame makes it sound like creationists were behind eugenics; actually, eugenics was founded by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton (CMI), and was supported by most leading evolutionists into the 20th century (CMI), which creationists found appalling.  Eugenical ideas persist under the radar to the present day among prominent evolutionists like Richard Dawkins (CMI).
    What more could Darwin inherit but the rest of the university?  The editors proceeded to laud David Sloan Wilson’s EvoS curriculum (12/21/2005) which extends the evolutionary “way of looking at the world” to “subjects as diverse as cancer, pregnancy, mate choice, literature and religion.
    Darwin’s Feb. 12 anniversary is an opportunity to push more evolution in education, they ended: “Natural selection and the complementary idea of how genes, individuals and species change over time should be as much a part of developing critical thinking skills as deductive reasoning and the study of ethics.”  It’s surprising they didn’t say that nothing in deductive reasoning and ethics makes sense except in the light of evolution.

The gushy, obsequious fawning over Caesar Darwin has just begun.  Brace yourself.  It’s going to be a long funeral.

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