Discovery Institute: Beyond Despicable

There is no way we can analyze the latest essay posted at the blog of the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page.

We can’t analyze it because that would require pointing out one or two major flaws in the article’s facts or reasoning. But this one is all flaws. There is nothing in it of any value whatsoever.

Nor can we even describe the essay. How many synonyms for duplicity are there? For misdirection? For excrement? Were you to list them all, you wouldn’t have begun to describe this thing. It’s by Michael Flannery, a Discoveroid “fellow.” The Discoveriods’ biographical material indicates that he’s some kind of librarian at the University of Alabama, and he’s also an adjunct instructor of history and sociology. If his work today is an example of his scholarly accomplishments, then … well, we don’t need to say it. Flannery may be a fine fellow aside from this kind of work, but we have no interest in meeting him to find out.

We’ve written before about Flannery’s postings at the Discoveroids’ blog (see Shock! Discoveroid Quote-Mining) and about his biography of Wallace — see Discovery Institute & Alfred Wallace, Again.

His contribution today is titled Darwinism and Stalinism. Stalinism? The rational mind boggles at the title.

As we pointed out in Marx, Stalin, and Darwin, Stalin opposed Darwin’s theory. This man, not Darwin, was Stalin’s biologist: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, and Lysenko was definitely an anti-Darwinian. Further, Darwin’s work wasn’t even remotely related to communism. The concepts don’t mesh; they actually conflict. Marxism’s maxim: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is pretty much the opposite of natural selection.

Further, Flannery doesn’t even discuss Darwin’s theory of evolution. It’s all about Stalin’s political behavior and communist party politics. But he keeps tossing in Darwin’s name, as if that somehow demonstrates some kind of historical causation. It doesn’t, but the smear is all that matters to the Discoveroids, and Flannery has willingly provided it.

Flannery also makes much of “social Darwinism,” something Darwin never developed or endorsed. It was concocted by Herbert Spencer, and it’s a concept as worthless as “social justice” and “social science.” Indeed, we’ve often said that the word “social” in such contexts is best understood as a negation of the term to which it is attached. Hey — speaking of social Darwinism, there is one rational statement in Flannery’s essay. It’s this:

The keys to social Darwinism, in other words, are not to be found in the technical expressions of evolutionary theory but rather in much larger forces. There are two features characteristic of social Darwinism and they are fairly broad.

First is its metaphysical foundation grounded in an effective atheism. It may or may not actually be called atheism, but a metaphysical outlook that has the net effect of placing man as the sole arbiter of moral and ethical life is a necessary condition of social Darwinism.


Another characteristic is more empirical. It comprises a general effort to translate evolutionary theory into some kind of social construct of progress.

See? Even Flannery says (albeit unwittingly) that social Darwinism has nothing to do with Darwin’s work. Anyway, that’s all we’re going to quote from Flannery’s essay. It’s pure … well, it’s Discoveroid rubbish. Go ahead and read it if you like. You’ll see what we mean.

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

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12 responses to “Discovery Institute: Beyond Despicable

  1. The Dishonesty Institute and its members are unable to conduct scientific research. They are also unable to write coherent materials that say anything other than Darwin was a communist, Nazi, eugenist, etc. In other words, Darwin, and any of his proponents, past, present, and future, are of the same line of thinking and are the enemies of the Dishonesty Institutes efforts to purge science from the U.S. and replace it with their theocraticly inspired nonsense. Flannery’s efforts here remind me of John West’s diatribes against Darwin wherein poor Darwin and his adherents, past and present, were Nazi’s or Nazi sympathizers. West loves to give talks on that subject to church groups. And you’re correct in that Lysenko had a devastating effect on the Russian landscape, particularly in agriculture.

  2. So Stalin was a “Darwinist”. Well I guess the gigs up, evolution is false. We can all go home and get on our knees and pray.
    I’ve never really got this line of argument. Firstly, it’s mostly crap i.e. Stalin was not a “Darwinist”, neither was Hitler, and their social constructs weren’t based on evolutionary processes. Secondly, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone advocating “social Darwinism” and, finally, even if Stalin et al were “Darwinists”, so what? That’s history, it happened and it’s in the past, it has no bearing on whether or not evolution is correct.

  3. I scanned the article . It was astonishingly ignorant . In fact it was so stupid I started laughing .The article’s content is porn for the creationist mind because it confirms all the evil stereotypes they fear. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
    Or so it would seem. 🙂

  4. Guy says:

    even if Stalin et al were “Darwinists”, so what? That’s history, it happened and it’s in the past, it has no bearing on whether or not evolution is correct.

    Except that they weren’t “Darwinists.” Not even close. I’ve pointed out before that of all the WW II leaders, only Churchill had read Darwin.

  5. Ceteris Paribus

    Hmm, there’s something strangely familiar in the outline of Flannery’s screed. Ah yes, to paraphrase a song writer:
    “Well, except for the names and a few other changes
    when Creationists talk about Darwin, the story’s the same one”

    What Flannery is ripping on is exactly the plot of the Greek legend of Prometheus, who stole the knowledge of fire from Zeus and gave it as a gift to mere mortals.

    Flannery himself takes on the role of Zeus, who is outraged that mere mortals have been given what he thinks should only belong to Zeus. That state of mind pretty well describes any creationist.

    Darwin is given the role of Prometheus in the creationist idiom.

    And any one of Hitler, Marx, Stalin, Mao, atheists in general, women, etc can play the role of the eagle which Zeus sends again every day to eat the liver of Prometheus as punishment.

    Paraphrasing another writer:
    “Theocracy has no rage like dogma to reason turned, Nor hell a fury like a creationist scorned”

  6. Bear in mind Flannery is just a librarian. He shelves books. He’s like the guy who serves you a smoothie at Quick ‘e’ Mart, as opposed to a mechanic who tunes your engine. He’s not an historian. He’s just an ignorant boob latched on to the DI. Like a leech. It doesn’t pay to get too worked up about what Flannery says about anything.

  7. Is this the legendary “Moral Compass” we keep hearing about?

  8. Except that they weren’t “Darwinists.” Not even close. I’ve pointed out before that of all the WW II leaders, only Churchill had read Darwin.

    Yes SC, I’ve read those excellent posts and was fully aware that none of the leaders were actually “Darwinist” when I wrote that. My point was that I don’t see how them trying to tar them with the “Darwinist” brush helps the cause of overturning evolution, because even if they could prove that they were, which they can’t because they weren’t, it would not detract from the evidence for evolution.

  9. The only economic system close to Darwin’s work is laissez-faire capitalism. For fun explain this to the next “Darwinism = Communism” loon you encounter. They will either just stare at you stupidly or scream profanity filled sentence fragments at you.

  10. Social Darwinism, with all it’s questionable assumptions, is at best an attempt to explain why people behave the way they do, or why societies evolve as they do, etc. Like Darwin’s theory, it is an attempt to describe and explain things that occur “naturally”. As soon as someone begins to artificially manipulate a person’s behavior or a society’s development toward a predetermined goal, then they are following a quite different model – they are implementing the principles of Intelligent Design. Perhaps we could describe this as Social ID, (or Social Johnsonism, if one considers Philip Johnson to be the founder of ID.)

    Books could be written about the evil dictators of the world and their belief that societies could be intelligently designed according to their own personal goals, and the harm that resulted.

  11. @Ed, I agree, and I’d also point out the distinction that so many creationists insist upon, between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Those creationists tell us that they accept evolution within a “kind”. When we’re considering human society and inheritance, we’re talking about something within “mankind”, and thus, if evolution is relevant at all, it is “microevolution”. It’s “Social Micro-Darwinism”, which those creationists should not object to, being “design” within a “kind”. Or how about “Social Baraminology”?

  12. The key howler for me, speaking as someone knows a little bit about the history of Marxism, was how Flannery utterly failed to say anything about the one philosopher who actually did dramatically and decisively influence the metaphor of the organism in Marxism, and that is Hegel. For it is Hegel who rehabilitates Aristotelian teleology and organicism, integrates it with Kant and Spinoza, and pull it all together for Marx to inherit. But pointing out that simple fact of historical influence would ruin the game, because Hegel died twenty-eight years before “On the Origin of Species” was published.