We’ve written several times about the bizarre claim of the Discovery Institute that Hitler’s insanity was inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. The first time was Hitler and Darwin, and most recently Discoveroids’ Hitler Obsession Continues.
We were quite pleased a few years ago when we discovered that the only World War II leader who actually read Darwin was Winston Churchill — see Hitler, Darwin, and … Winston Churchill? Nevertheless, the Discoveroids continue to promote their Hitler-Darwin fantasy.
But we didn’t realize the extent of Churchill’s understanding of Darwin and other science. A new article in Nature provides an amazing amount of new information. It’s titled Winston Churchill’s essay on alien life found. You’re going to read it for yourself (no subscription is required), so only a few excerpts are necessary — with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Winston Churchill is best known as a wartime leader, one of the most influential politicians of the twentieth century, a clear-eyed historian and an eloquent orator. He was also passionate about science and technology. Aged 22, while stationed with the British Army in India in 1896, he read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and a primer on physics.
We knew about that, but we didn’t know how much more there was. The article says:
In the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote popular-science essays on topics such as evolution and cells in newspapers and magazines. In a 1931 article in The Strand Magazine entitled ‘Fifty Years Hence’, he described fusion power: “If the hydrogen atoms in a pound of water could be prevailed upon to combine together and form helium, they would suffice to drive a thousand-horsepower engine for a whole year.”
Skipping over a lot of neat stuff, the writer tells us:
Despite all this, it was a great surprise last year, while I was on a visit to the US National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, when the director Timothy Riley thrust a typewritten essay by Churchill into my hands. In the 11-page article, ‘Are We Alone in the Universe?’, he muses presciently about the search for extraterrestrial life.
Aliens? That’s another subject creationists consider to be ridiculous. Nature continues:
Churchill’s reasoning mirrors many modern arguments in astrobiology. In essence, he builds on the framework of the ‘Copernican Principle’ — the idea that, given the vastness of the Universe, it is hard to believe that humans on Earth represent something unique.
Churchill then defines what is known today as the habitable zone — that narrow ‘Goldilocks’ region around a star that is neither too cold nor too hot, so that liquid water may exist on the surface of a rocky planet.
Churchill’s essay next assesses the probability that other stars host planets. He reasons that “the sun is merely one star in our galaxy, which contains several thousand millions of others”. … Churchill writes: “I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets.” Thus, he concludes, a large fraction of extrasolar planets “will be the right size to keep on their surface water and possibly an atmosphere of some sort” and some will be “at the proper distance from their parent sun to maintain a suitable temperature”.
The essay finishes eagerly: “with hundreds of thousands of nebulae [galaxies], each containing thousands of millions of suns, the odds are enormous that there must be immense numbers which possess planets whose circumstances would not render life impossible.”
Churchill wrote that in 1939, and revised it slightly in the 1950s. He was far more science-minded than we ever imagined. Today’s creationists wouldn’t like him at all.
Anyway, the Discoveroids will continue to promote their wild fiction that Hitler — a high school dropout — was inspired by Darwin. They’re as right about that as they are about everything else — i.e., they’re totally wrong.
Addendum:: See also this article in the Scientific American blog: Winston Churchill’s Thoughts on Evolution.
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