Discoveroids Say Evolutionists Are Witch Doctors

You may have seen the news a couple of weeks ago. PhysOrg had this headline: Researchers wonder if ancient supernovae prompted human ancestors to walk upright. Here’s one excerpt:

Did ancient supernovae induce proto-humans to walk on two legs, eventually resulting in homo sapiens with hands free to build cathedrals, design rockets and snap iPhone selfies? A paper published today in the Journal of Geology makes the case: Supernovae bombarded Earth with cosmic energy starting as many as 8 million years ago, with a peak some 2.6 million years ago, initiating an avalanche of electrons in the lower atmosphere and setting off a chain of events that feasibly ended with bipedal hominins such as homo habilis, dubbed “handy man.”

This is the paper they’re talking about: From Cosmic Explosions to Terrestrial Fires?, but you can’t read it without a subscription. The abstract says:

Multiple lines of evidence point to one or more moderately nearby supernovae, with the strongest signal at ∼2.6 Ma [2.6 million years ago]. We build on previous work to argue for the likelihood of cosmic ray ionization of the atmosphere and electron cascades leading to more frequent lightning and therefore an increase in nitrate deposition and wildfires. The potential exists for a large increase in the prehuman nitrate flux onto the surface, which has previously been argued to lead to CO2 drawdown and cooling of the climate. Evidence for increased wildfires exists in an increase in soot and carbon deposits over the relevant period. The wildfires would have contributed to the transition from forest to savanna in northeast Africa, long argued to have been a factor in the evolution of hominin bipedalism.

In other words, supernovae may have caused conditions that resulted in the African savanna, the environment in which human ancestors evolved. Okay, fine. Not much a creationist can do with that, right? Wrong! This just popped up at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog: Upright Walking and African Witch Doctors.

The Discoveroids’ author is Olufemi Oluniyi, PhD, whom they describe as “executive director of the Centre for Values and Social Change in Lagos, Nigeria.” They also refer to “his expertise on the history of Social Darwinism in shaping European colonialism.” Here are some excerpts from his post, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

From the 18th century to today, the image of the African witch doctor has lingered in the Western imagination. Travelers to my continent mocked this weird figure. For phenomena he did not understand, he offered ridiculous explanations and uninformed guesses, addressed to his followers who seemed powerless to tear themselves away from his enchantment. Does this sound at all familiar?

Yes, very familiar. In the Western world, that kind of character would be a creationist. It sounds familiar to Dr. Oluniyi too, but for different reasons. He says:

The Western scientist, including the evolutionary scientist, is thought to be light years ahead [Does he mean time or distance?] of such superstition. But sometimes I wonder. Consider an article for The Guardian, “Exploding Stars Led to Humans Walking on Two Legs, Radical Study Suggests.”

Dr. Oluniyi criticizes the research — based on the newspaper story — and gives us three principle objections:

First, what appears as an explanation does not actually add any new information. [Hee hee!] Rather, it is a sleight of hand, an assertion posing as an explanation.

Second, while we hear about wildfires devouring African forests and leaving savannas in their wake, there is no mention of the more immediate impact of the fires on the protohumans living in the vicinity. Such destruction seems more consistent with wiping species out of existence, not transforming and gifting them with complex new functionality. [Yeah, nothing can survive a forest fire.]

Third, why was the anatomy needed for walking upright the only part of the body to be affected — and affected in one particular way, to cause human beings to walk as we do, whereas there are countless other imaginable outcomes? What of the nose, the intestines, the ankles, the thighs, the vocal cords, and the fingers? Did the “cosmic intervention” sculpt any of these? If not, why not? It appears arbitrary. Or perhaps purposeful! [Gasp!]

But banish that thought. This latest research could just as easily be taken as supporting intelligent design, yet the pseudo-scientists would swear and recoil from such a conclusion.

Dr. Oluniyi has ripped this new research to shreds! He concludes by telling us:

Yes, it does all sound familiar. In seeking to explain what makes humans exceptional, current evolutionists convert guesswork into a methodology, as humans did for long ages in the pre-scientific past. The African witch doctors of old would sympathize.

So there you are. Don’t kid yourself by thinking that the ignorant savages chanting Oogity Boogity! are creationists. They’re the smart guys. The real savage is you, dear reader. and Darwin is your witch doctor.

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Discoveroids Say Evolutionists Are Witch Doctors

  1. Richard Staller

    I read about this theory before and I was somewhat skeptical of the conjecture and tenuous ties between the events. That said, to compare evolutionists with African Witch doctors is somewhat amusing coming from a creationist. After all they and the witch doctors all share an unshakeable belief in folklore.

  2. Mark Germano

    “…his expertise on the history of Social Darwinism in shaping European colonialism.”

    I’m interested in learning how the French invasion of Algeria in 1830 was shaped by social darwinism. Or maybe before 1859, it was more of a benevolent colonialism.

  3. Michael Fugate

    The good doctor works for a Christian missionary organization. He also worked on the DI’s “Human Zoos” with Weikart.
    http://www.cra.org.ng/index.htm

    This article is supposedly based on his work – comparing and contrasting exactly 2 people who had no overlap in Africa.
    https://ethicsdaily.com/nigerian-scholar-corrects-idea-that-missionaries-and-colonialists-had-shared-agenda-cms-22946/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Lugard,_1st_Baron_Lugard
    Lugard (1858-1945) started colonial service in 1900. His father was a minister.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson_Bowen
    Bowen (1814-1875) spent parts of the 1850s in Africa as a missionary.

  4. “…In seeking to explain what makes humans exceptional, current evolutionists convert …. Sorry but basically to the universe and to the actions of evilution, there is nothing much about humans that is anymore exceptional then any other creature…we are ALL exceptional!

  5. The recent spate of weird Discovery publications isn’t a savannah fire as much as it is a bonfire of inanities.

    i haven’t read the article, but I doubt it says the fires started while the protohumans were there. Rather, they leveled the ground for animals to move into.

    And I’m confident, too, that it doesn’t claim that our nose etc. were shaped as a specific result of this event. He could also have written “But what about the capibaras?” because that’s exactly as relevant.

    Why do they even bother publishing this?

  6. @MarkG: instead I’m rather interested how social darwinism shaped

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_conquest_of_the_Banda_Islands

  7. There is a Wikipedia article “Colonization of Africa”. It is true that the real cmpettition by Christian European powers forcolonies in Africa began its fnal push onnly in the late 19th century. But there was the world-wide copettition beginning with the Portuguess and hen the Spanish in the 15th century. Then the English and the Dutch and the French.
    Who can forget the colonization of the Americas and India, Indonesia, Phillipoines and Polynesia?
    ANd if we go back before the Common Era, there is Rome in North Africa. Remember Caesar and Cleopatra?

  8. Whether or not supernovae had anything to do with it, the adaptation for bipedalism in our primate ancestors was most likely already there, as a form of arboreal locomotion, and probably later selected for due to changing environmental conditions. Near relatives like orangutans display this today, and lemurs (not closely related to us) can exhibit short bursts of bipedalism, too. Not to mention chimps and bonobos.

    In other words: modification of existing traits. Oluniyi can waste his time on academic subjects like “the history of Social Darwinism in shaping European colonialism”, but that’s irrelevant to evolution proper.

  9. Dave Luckett

    ChrisS, for shame. There is nothing about the study of history, even odd corners of history, that is either a waste of time or purely academic. Social Darwinism was real and to some extent still is; the European colonisation of Africa was also real. They existed contemporaneously. Understanding the interactions of historical causes is an important field of study, and instructive – subject, as all fields of study should be, to rigorous examination of the evidence and arguments involved, by peers.

    Rigorous examination, I say. Of the evidence and arguments, I say. Which includes pointing out irrelevancies and unsupported assertions. To specify: a hypothesis assigning natural cause to the deforestation of eastern Africa and hence the natural selection towards bipedalism of the apes living there, is NOT equivalent to the mumbo-jumbo of myth and malarkey peddled by witch doctors. It has nothing whatsoever to do with either social Darwinism or colonialism. Dr Oluniyi is operating in regions far removed from his field of study or expertise, and what he is serving up is distilled and refined claptrap.

  10. @DaveL
    Be that as it may, it’s not germane to the topic at hand, which is how bipedalism might have evolved. It’s not incumbent upon us to follow Oluniyi’s irrelevant red herrings on race or the evils of colonialism.

  11. Dr. Oluniyi asks “…why was the anatomy needed for walking upright the only part of the body to be affected” and asks about other parts, including the intestines. Any anatomist could point out that is a odd part for someone talking about some “…purposeful… …cosmic intervention” to pick. After all, the intestines in humans and other bipeds are suspended from the dorsal abdominal fascia, pretty much demonstrating evolution from quadrupeds. Some Oogity Boogity intelligent designer (blessed be he/she/it) could have thought of another way to do it. Evolution doesn’t necessarily produce the best of all possible designs, just ones that are good enough to survive long enough to reproduce.

  12. @Dave Luckett
    I am not convinced that Social Darwinism is real. I mean to say that it is not helpful to compare and constrast social ideas of the early 20th century by their relationship with the biology of Darwin.
    Does a population have a tendency to deteioriate without intervention? No, according to Darwin. Indeed, if Yes, then evolutionary biology does not make sense. Moreover, if Yes, then what is to be done?
    In particular, that distinctive theory of Darwin: random variation and natural selection; was largely out of favor in the early 20th century, when the disparate ideas tagged as “Social Darwinism” flourished.
    In brief, that tag may represent more misunderstandings than a relationship which is helpful in understanding those social ideas.

  13. @TomS and DaveL: “I am not convinced that Social Darwinism is real.”
    Depends on what you mean with real. There can be no doubt that it was a popular idea in western countries and hence influenced politics and history. In that sense it was real. It still is – our dear SC’s Free Market Superstition is a mild version of it, limited to economics (and only as long as it’s compatible with our dear SC’s good manners).
    But as a sociological theory it’s quackery, as much as Free Market Superstition is quack-economics. Neither is even compatible with evolution theory, because both fail to recognize that humans not only are competitive, but also are cooperative.
    It also should be noted that unlike evolution theory both social darwinism and Free Market Superstition (including our dear SCs’ version) are teleological. The goal of social darwinism is the dominance of the “strongest” individuals/social classes/nations; the goal of Free Market Superstition is the dominance of the “strongest” enterprises. Both goals are supposed to magically benefit the entire world; its fans display faith here that’s quite religious. What’s even more remarkable is that in a way very similar to creacrap the fans try to hide this and justify their ideology by referring to science.
    In this respect social darwinism and Free Market Superstion are not any more real than creacrap.

  14. Dave Luckett

    TomS, FrankB: When I said that social Darwin was and is “real”, I meant it in the sense FrankB explains. It was a real idea that influenced politics and history, and did have relevance to the colonisation of Africa. Of course, being founded on completely false premises, it was entirely misleading and invariably pernicious. But still, it was real. It existed as an idea.

  15. What I am questioning is whether there is a unified ideology which can be identified. I know that there are people who think that they are being scientific in their social policy. Whether they agree with one another is my main doubt. What policy is singled out by the tag “Social Darwinism”. Or is it just a manufactured to disparage?
    I have met people who say that if we don’t intervene, that unfit people will out-reproduce, and that is contrary to Darwin. I point out that if you were being scientific, that reproduction is the definition of fitness. I have not met people who were social darwinists by the scientific definition of fitness. I don’t know what social policy that would mean.
    Moreover, I have my doubts because the groups so tagged arose during the era known as the Eclipse of Darwinism. Why would it attract popular attention just when there was widespread doubt about Darwin?

  16. Dave Luckett

    TomS: Oh, I see. That is of course a different question. I doubt if “social Darwinism” was ever coherent enough to generate specific policies, beyond rendering the “unfit” incapable of reproducing – or simply eliminating them – but where “unfit” was never actually defined, and ignoring the observation that “fitness” for a social species implies strengthening social bonds by reciprocal altruism. (To be fair, creationists don’t understand that idea to this day, and will tell you with a straight face that Darwin meant that the strong should murder the weak.)

    But “social Darwinism”, with its perversion of natural selection, was easily held to imply that “favoured races” should dominate less favoured ones. Hence the carve-up of Africa. People who read only the title page of “The Origin of the Species”, or not even that, say they are quoting Darwin’s very words, there. Of course, this is social Darwinism a la Hitler – but now we must invoke Godwin’s Law, fold up our tents and depart.

  17. @Dave Luckett
    OK.
    I was trying to avoid mentioning names.
    Other than “Darwin”.
    But insofar as there was a name “Darwinism”, it could only be by ignorance (deliberate or otherwise) of one of the most important points that Darwin had to make, that any change in evolution has nothing to do with any increase or decrease in any trait whch seems desirable to us. One of the major objectons to Lamrckian evolution was that it was obvious that those big, strong dinosaurs went extinct.
    I have no knowledge of the rhetoric used by the late 19th century Christian Europeans in carving up Africa. But, obviously, those Christian Europeans who carved up the rest of the world starting in the 15th century had no need to resort to Darwin.

  18. Does Olefumi’s apartment lease agreement include any electrical agreements?? Having electricity in Lagos, Nigeria is usually a big indicator that you’ve hit the big time. Based on the content of his writings, it would appear Olefumyi is working by gas light a lot. Just sayin.

  19. Eric Lipps

    Why was the anatomy needed for walking upright the only part of the body to be affected — and affected in one particular way, to cause human beings to walk as we do, whereas there are countless other imaginable outcomes?

    Well, if there are multiple possible outcomes, one of them had to occur. The one that did happened to help push our ancestors in a particular (aided by other factors, of course).

    And once again, creationists insist that our existence was necessary, somehow, so that everything just had to have been miraculously arranged to produce us. They don’t actually say why humanity had to exist, or why, if God arranged the universe with us in mind, Genesis itself suggests that humans were an afterthought.