This is about a new kind of attack on Darwin from the Discovery Institute. Usually, they blame his theory for allegedly inspiring communism, Hitler, and an ark-load of other evils, including atheism — all of which are false and depraved accusations. But this time they’re attacking his scholarship.
The Discoveroids’ latest assault is in this essay: Was Darwin a Scholar or a Pitchman?, written by Michael Flannery, a Discoveroid “fellow.” He’s some kind of librarian at the University of Alabama, and he’s also an adjunct instructor of history and sociology — splendid qualifications for critiquing Darwin’s scholarship. A previous post of his inspired us to write Beyond Despicable, in which he blamed Darwin for the atrocities of Stalin.
Flannery also plays the Hitler card — see Discovery Institute: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Part VI. But that’s not all. He engages in one of the most contemptible of creationist techniques, quote mining — see More Discoveroid Quote Mining by Michael Flannery. Further, he wrote a biography of Alfred Wallace, which was published by — who else? — the Discovery Institute Press.
Okay, you know what we’re dealing with. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
You read a great deal about Darwin’s scientific method and meticulousness as a student of nature, but that’s not exactly scholarship. Good scholarship demonstrates the ability to put all aspects of one’s research into a broader context. This usually involves a familiarity with the discipline, its literature, and its historiography, as well as its implications in other areas. … On the few occasions that Darwin’s “scholarship” is mentioned, usually with hyperbolic effusions as to his “genius,” specific examples are often conspicuously absent. His weaknesses as a scholar, in fact, are seen in a couple of key areas.
The Deluge of Drool begins:
Darwin’s total lack of facility with theological questions — his seeming lack of knowledge (or at least glaringly facile knowledge) of Scripture — is surprising enough to make one wonder how low the bar of biblical studies was for the typical Cambridge students of 1828 to 1831, when he attended. His philosophical and theological musings seem quite amateurish. This is not to suggest that Darwin was in any sense stupid, but he doesn’t seem particularly “well read.”
Harsh criticism indeed! Let’s read on:
On top of that, he seems incapable of seeing the implications of his own arguments or, more tellingly, the implications of other people’s arguments. Four examples may be given here.
We won’t give you all four examples, but here’s one of them:
The second example comes from Darwin’s own argument from domesticated breeds. For Darwin, the fact that man could breed a fancy pigeon or an especially fast race horse or a unique dog indicated evolution “in action.” But, as Wallace pointed out to him, when left in the wild, these fancy breeds either perish or revert to their original type. Besides, domestic breeding of animals requires the very thing Darwin sought to avoid — careful thought and pre-selection. In effect, it requires a breeding plan and design. This is clearly not random and purposeless, wholly natural causes operating to produce speciation. Darwin never saw that logical flaw in his own theory … .
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Darwin understood the situation perfectly. In Origin of Species, after discussing Variation Under Domestication in Chapter 1, and Variation Under Nature in Chapter 2, in Chapter 4 – Natural Selection he said:
Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.
Slow though the process of selection may be, if feeble man can do much by his powers of artificial selection, I can see no limit to the amount of change, to the beauty and infinite complexity of the coadaptations between all organic beings, one with another and with their physical conditions of life, which may be effected in the long course of time by nature’s power of selection.
Darwin said much more, of course, but if there is any “logical flaw” in his work, it is apparent only to Flannery. Skipping over some nonsense, he continues:
If Darwin was so weak a scholar, how can his immense success be explained? Darwin’s Origin and Descent do not inspire the reader with their flashes of brilliance so much as they display the rhetorical flourishes of the accomplished pitchman.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Here’s more:
By and large, the scientists of his day were not much impressed with Darwin’s theory. John Herschel called natural selection “the law of higgledy-piggledy,” and William Whewell thought the theory consisted of “speculations” that were “quite unproved by facts,” so much so that he refused to put the book on the shelves of the Trinity College Library. Rather, it was the reading elite of London that was captivated with Darwin’s theory. “Freethinking” bohemians and assorted society trendsetters grabbed up copies of the Origin and later Descent. The secular creation myth they had long been looking for was finally in hand. The argument easily lent itself to belief, and even conviction.
Flannery has used that “higgledy-piggledy” remark before. John Herschel was the son of William Herschel (who discovered Uranus), and apparently he did say that about Darwin’s work. So what? Flannery would have us believe that the “real” intellectuals unanimously rejected Darwin and only the mindless hippies of his day approved of his work.
This is from Flannery’s final paragraph:
In the end, it was Darwin’s rhetorical salesmanship that won the day. … Darwin’s theory allowed the stench of secularism to be masked as a perfume of “refinement.” This wasn’t achieved by Darwin’s prodigious scholarship. It was accomplished by his sheer presentation. It was a pitch easily made because it “sold” a product the intellectual elites had long been waiting for, a theory of life in which God was superfluous and irrelevant. As everyone in retail knows, you’ve got to have the right product at the right time. Darwin had both.
So there you are. According to Flannery, Darwin was a terrible scholar who shamelessly “sold” his blasphemous theory to those were willing to be hoodwinked. And now it’s the noble task of the Discoveroids — the good scholars — to set the record straight.
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