Klinghoffer Disproves Darwin!

This will be one of our rare excursions into that unknown (to us) domain of social science. A day or so ago we saw this at PhysOrg: Small family size increases the wealth of descendants but reduces evolutionary success. The article discusses a century’s worth of data about 14,000 people born in Sweden and concludes:

The researchers found that having a small number of children increased the economic success and social position of descendants across up to four generations, but reduced the total number of long-term descendants. [Duh!] They conclude that the decision to limit family size can be understood as a strategic choice to improve the socioeconomic success of children and grandchildren in modern societies, but this socioeconomic benefit does not necessarily translate into an evolutionary benefit.

Here’s a link to the paper they’re talking about: Low fertility increases descendant socioeconomic position but reduces long-term fitness in a modern post-industrial society. Maybe we’re just grumpy today, but we’re not impressed. We understand that for an entire species, severe infertility can be an evolutionary dead-end, but in a numerous and highly successful species like ours, it’s a bit of a leap to confuse the fertility rates of prosperous Swedish families with evolutionary success. Anyway, let’s not dwell on that.

We were going to ignore the whole thing, but then it popped up at the blog of the neo-Luddite, neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

The Discoveroid article is Family Size in Affluent Cultures: Another Failed Prediction of Darwinian Theory. It’s by David Klinghoffer, whose creationist oeuvre we last described here, and upon whom the Discoveroids have bestowed the exalted title of “senior fellow” — i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist. His name has some of the resonance of Red Skelton’s Clem Kadiddlehopper.

In his latest post, Klinghoffer (or Kadiddlehopper) imagines that the social science study we mentioned above somehow disproves Darwin’s theory of evolution. Really, that’s what he thinks. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and his links omitted:

If natural selection really is the creative driving force behind the evolutionary development of species, you ought to find it programming creatures to maximize the number of their descendants.

That was his first sentence, and he’s wrong already. Natural selection is not a “creative driving force.” It’s a filter. Let’s read on:

But this prediction of Darwinian theory is foiled by research newly reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Scientists in Sweden and the UK studied a cohort of 14,000 Swedes born between 1915 and 1929, plotting the relationship between family size, social and biological success [link to the paper].

Darwin’s theory doesn’t hang on that “prediction,” and even if it did, the study proves nothing — Swedes are still reproducing. As for the reasons why wealthy families choose to limit the number of children they have, that’s hardly a mystery. Kids are expensive, especially if they’re expected to go to college. It makes sense not to have a dozen of them — well, unless you’re a Kennedy or something, in which case money is not a consideration.

The opposite behavior can be often observed in a rural family that operates a farm. They may choose to have many children — again, for economic reasons. These decisions have nothing to do with Darwin’s theory, unless one imagines that a wealthy, urban family has some kind of mysterious “prosperity gene” which could be the next big thing in human evolution. But no one is hypothesizing anything like that, so Darwin’s theory is unaffected. We continue:

I take this subject personally since, with five kids, my wife and I consider ourselves as having a packed house. However, that’s only relative to the culture around us — Seattle — which competes with San Francisco for the title of America’s most childless city. In other places our family would be considered modest in size. My brother-in-law and his wife in Jerusalem, for example, have 18 (eighteen) kids.

Aaaargh!! Skipping a bit, we come to this:

Given natural selection, you would expect one thing. What you get is the opposite. That’s called a failed prediction and Darwinists have a variety of strategies for dealing with those, as Cornelius Hunter [a Discoveroid “fellow”] writes …

We’ll skip most of the Hunter quote, but you’ve gotta see this:

[Klinghoffer quotes Hunter:] Evolutionists argue that evolution is a fact, and that we ought to focus on evolution’s successful predictions rather than its false predictions. The tendency to seek confirming evidence over contrary evidence is known as confirmation bias.

Right! In the Bizarro World of the Discoveroids, it’s evolutionists who overlook inconvenient facts, but creationists never do that. Klinghoffer concludes his brilliant essay with this:

Those British and Swedish researchers ought to have a chat with our friend Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, who advises Darwin advocates to avoid giving the impression that evolutionary theory has any serious weaknesses at all.

What can we say? Klinghoffer’s keen mind has found the soft under-belly of Darwin’s theory. The only thing that can save us now is for the rich folks of Sweden to … well, start doing their evolutionary duty. If they don’t, Darwin is doomed!

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Klinghoffer Disproves Darwin!

  1. I take this subject personally since, with five kids, my wife and I consider ourselves as having a packed house.

    He’s breeding?? That’s the trouble with natural selection – where is it when you need it?

  2. It always interests me how a well balanced video game resembles evolution. Certainly one weapon might have a higher damage per shot and so appear to give an advantage, but in the long term something else that strikes a balance between shot power (i.e. success of each generation) for number of shots (i.e., size of litter) will succeed, even if it ultimately has a lower shot power than the aforementioned uber gun.

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    Well, that plan worked for Noah. So maybe Klinghoffer can tell us how many nieces a fundamentalist is allowed to marry?

  4. Jim Thomerson

    Simple Darwinian fitness is a measure of how many offspring you raise to adulthood compared to the rest of your population. This suggests that, if poor people have higher fitness, then the proportion of poor people in the population should increase. Within recent history we have gone from five billion to seven billion. What percentage of the additional two billion are poor? Maybe it is not the meek who will inherit the earth, but rather the poor.

  5. Hmm. The greater economic prosperity exhibited by small family size in the 20th and 21st centuries somehow disproves evolution? What? It’s a modern innovation.

    Kling is just spinning tales.

  6. Ceterius Paribus wonders:

    So maybe Klinghoffer can tell us how many nieces a fundamentalist is allowed to marry?

    I believe the correct answer is, a fundamentalist is allowed to marry as many nieces as are left over after stoning the witches and lesbians among them

  7. Aw, come on, guys! Give little Klinkles a break. He’s just. Writing a little street theater. Hardy har har! That’s all he ever writes.

  8. I admit my ignorance of all things biological but it seems to me that Klinghoffer and the authors of the paper are missing something here.

    What happens is what happens. This trumps all laws, theories, and even observations and measurements (remember the ‘missing’ neutrinos). What happens is not determined by laws or even Laws; these are merely human attempts at describing what happens in a rational manner.

    Some laws and theories enable us to predict what will happen in the future or even, to some extent, what has happened in the past. Kepler’s laws, Newton’s law of gravity, and Einstein’s general relativity allow us to analyze the motion of a simple configuration of bodies in the solar system; this all breaks down for more complex configurations (as may have existed in the distant past) where motions tend to become chaotic even while obeying the same laws.

    In the case of the untidy collection of facts, theories, and laws that we call evolution, we can explain things that have already happened and perhaps lay constraints on what could happen in the future. What we cannot do is to predict major changes that will occur in the future. No knowledge of the Cretaceous, even knowledge of the exact nature of its end, would allow us to use our understanding of evolution to predict all the diversity that was to follow.

    Evolutionary change requires environmental changes that favour one mutation over another. The paper is concerned with a country, Sweden, during a period when it experienced remarkable stability compared with previous times and compared with the calamitous events that engulfed the rest of Europe and much of the remainder of the world. In addition, Sweden was a stable parliamentary democracy that provided for the welfare of its citizens to an exceptional degree; thus there was even less environmental pressure. Thus ‘evolution’ would predict – nothing much.

    Evolution has nothing to say about creatures having to make correct decisions, extinction is always an option – natures way of burying its mistakes. If Swedes chose to make a short term gain, so be it, only time will tell. If global warning goes the way it seems, then the Swedes are in the right position to move north and grow bananas. In any case, the Swedes can hardly claim to be a distinct species – which is the unit that evolution is concerned with.

    Nothing here – move on.

  9. Alan(UK) says: “Nothing here – move on.”

    But you missed the whole point! If Darwin were correct, then each of us should be straining and struggling — every hour of every day — to produce additional offspring. If we’re not, then evolution is falsified. I shouldn’t even be wasting my time here. I should be … ah, getting on with it, if you know what I mean. Yea, Darwin!

  10. The Curmudgeon cryptically notes:

    I should be … ah, getting on with it, if you know what I mean.

    From my reading of Klinghoffer’s previous ‘articles’, I can only presume the activity you refer to is ‘practising genocide’, in accordance with Darwin’s personal injunction so to do, yes?

  11. megalonyx says: “I can only presume …”

    You’re partly correct. Genocide is Darwinist foreplay.

  12. Gabriel Hanna

    Klinghoffer is just making things up. Darwinism does not imply that evolution maximizes the number of descendants. If it did, you wouldn’t need this Swedish study to tell you that, because you can see that’s false just by looking around the natural world. Mammals have on the order of one to ten offspring, and insects have on the order of hundreds or thousands. Mammals are not doing it wrong, though one could argue that at least by biomass insects are more successful. But both are doing fine.

    Klinghoffer used a variation of this argument when he said that strip clubs shouldn’t exist if evolution is true–you have all this sexual activity not leading to any offspring, right? After that discussion (it was a forum where he HAD to allow comments) he has no excuse of ignorance for his caricature.


    The very first comment there is mine, talking about how evolution doesn’t imply maximizing offspring.

  13. Sorry this is so late, but with two jobs…
    So, Klingding does not know the difference between biological evolution and cultural evolution? I thought he was just theocratic and dishonest; I didn’t realize that he was ignorant, too.

  14. Ha ha. I’ll bet that study only counted “legitimate” progeny which would skew results since half of the subjects were wealthy males in an era before birth control. Lucky for all of us, evolutionary success doesn’t care about marriage vows.

    Hmm, the Klinghoffers and extended family have signed on to a self-serving breeding program. Double eeewww!
    1) “My brother-in-law and his wife in Jerusalem, for example, have 18 (eighteen) kids.” Obscene, although the sex probably wasn’t. Will physically outnumbering the Palestinians work? Are David’s kids supposed to eventually go to Israel?
    2) Can’t phrase it more normally, David? Like, “My sister and her husband”, or “My sister and brother-in-law”?
    Just a question of semantics.