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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Why do people recant Darwinism just before they die?

I am really going to miss Richard John Neuhaus, who slipped away January 8 (1936-2008), quite unexpectedly. I got my February First Things earlier this week, knowing it was the last installment I would ever read of his "The Public Square," and especially of my favourite portion, "While We're At It," of which I am transcribing a bit for you below, a bit that is relevant to the intelligent design debate. And he is NOT an example of the problem I am commenting on here.

I first became aware of Neuhaus when he was a Lutheran pastor (he subsequently became a Catholic priest), because he was one of the first people ever to write against the "population bomb" hoax, in 1971 - when that very hoax was hot stuff in what we today call the legacy media.

Essentially, as Pamela Winnick has also pointed out, there was no population bomb. The rise of national government - which meant, among other things, the prohibition of local warfare, together with the worldwide spread of modern agriculture and medical techniques - simply meant that more people than ever before in history happen to be alive at the same time. This is an inevitable consequence of reducing child and young adult mortality. But inevitably then, birth rates begin to taper off. As Neuhaus recognized, there was unmistakable evidence that birth rates were already tapering off, even while editorialists were freaking out about the supposed "bomb."

Anyway, without more ado, here are some of Neuhaus's comments on Ernst Haeckel, Darwin's devoted German disciple:
Give a boy a hammer and he discovers the whole world needs hammering. Give an intellectual enthusiast a really big idea and he discovers it explains just about everything. Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was such an enthusiast and, along with many others, his really big idea was Darwinism. He had no problem with being accused of worshiping Darwin and was an influential popularizer of his thought. A new biography of Haeckel, The Tragic Sense of Life, by Robert Richards, notes his prodigious productivity, including what he considered a central pillar of Darwin's theory - the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. This means that in the first two months of development a human embryo can scarcely be distinguished the tailed embryo of a dog or other mammals. In other words, the embryo of a contemporary species goes through the same morphological changes in its development as its ancestors went through in their evolutionary descent. I have met people who still hold to Haeckel's theory and contend that an abortion only interrupts an evolutionary process, and we do not know what the embryo would have turned out to be at the end of its evolutionary development. Haeckel published a book with an illustration, juxtaposing three embryos (dog, chicken, and turtle) and pointing out, as evidence in support of Darwin's theory, that the three images were indistinguishable. A sharp-eye reviewer noted that they were indeed indistinguishable. The same woodcut had been printed three times. Haeckel's reputation never recovered. T.H. Huxley, "Darwin's Bulldog," wrote him a letter of consolation": "May your shadow never be less, and may all your enemies, unbelieving dogs who resist the Prophet of Evolution, be defiled by the sitting of jackasses upon their grandmother's graves!"
Okay, so anyone who doubts Huxley, and presumably, current Darwin perpetrators, should have their grandmother's grave defaced? Okay. At least they are making it clear. If this is a fight they want, they will get it.

Sadly, at one point, what Fr. Neuhaus writes is not strictly true. Haeckel's reputation totally recovered! He's part of the Darwin religion now. His beliefs about human embryos pioneered abortion legislation worldwide. (After a while, people began to acknowledge, of course, that abortion kills a human being, but - they now say- society is better off without the humans who merely punish their relatives by existing. That was after the abortion mob had confused the public by claiming that the human embryos were not human - as if anything could be more impossible in real science.)

And while we are here, why do so many people recant Darwinism just before they die?

In this world, today, isn't there some point at which guys with balls just push their way forward to say, "We know this is major crap and we will sign here to say so, and will fight for it?

Well, all power to those guys, and I will do anything I can to help them.

Hey, guys, do it. Do it for your kids. Don't your kids deserve a world in which we can know what is real and what isn't? Should your kids be listening to this or to something worthwhile? Think for a kid who wants to make it in science?

For what it is worth, Richard Weikart had intended to call his magisterial book on the contribution of Darwinism to Nazism "From Haeckel to Hitler" but the publisher insisted on titling it, From Darwin to Hitler. The book is sobering, and much recommended, however titled.


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