In response to Jonas Alexis’ A Challenge to Lasha Darkmoon
and How Lasha Darkmoon Misreads Darwin
The greatest threat to world peace is godless nihilism: world war is the evil child of world despair.
CHARLES DARWIN and RICHARD DAWKINS
Don’t confuse Darwinism with pseudo-Darwinism;
don’t conflate Darwinism with Dawkinism.
Darwin remains remarkably fit for a man who’s been dead almost 136 years. The UK’s Channel 4 aired Richard Dawkins’ three part series “The Genius of Darwin” a few years ago, demonstrating clearly that Dawkins (popularly known as “Darwin’s rottweiler”) is a devout disciple of Darwin. Yet it is a mistake to confuse Darwin with Darwin’s rottweiler. And it is wrong to blame Darwin for things he never said, but which Dawkins was to say over a hundred years later.
This is the mistake that the anti-Darwinians keep making: they keep confusing Darwinism with Dawkinism.
This is a monstrous logical error.
Just as you must avoid making the mistake of attacking Jesus Christ for things said in his name by St Paul and a long line of Christian spin merchants, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin and the Rev Billy Graham, so you must do your best not to confuse Charles Darwin with Richard Dawkins and his like.
Don’t confuse the Master with the Disciple. Don’t get Darwin mixed up with his spin merchants. Don’t attack X for the ideas of Y.
In a recent article called Demonizing Darwin, I drew attention to the fact that there are many types of Darwinism to which Darwin himself would not have subscribed. These arguments are so important that they need repeating:
“There are more types of Darwinism than there are colors in the rainbow. Failure to understand this, that there is a broad spectrum of views on what Darwinism actually means, will lead invariably to strident denunciations of Darwinism. Understanding Darwin is not easy, because there were times when Darwin hardly understood himself. He was modest enough to admit it. Nuance. That is the operative word here.
Getting to grips with Darwin is like getting to grips with an eel.
The sad truth is, no one has been more misunderstood than Darwin. Paradoxically, the Darwinism of Darwin bears no resemblance to the Darwinism of his more dangerous disciples. He would have rejected their interpretations of Darwinism as distasteful. Richard Dawkins would have been an unwelcome guest at Darwin’s dinner table at Downe House in Kent. He would have had to watch his manners. The chances of Dawkins coming to blows with some of the other dinner guests, and of giving grave offense to Darwin’s beloved wife Emma, a devout Unitarian Christian, would have been pretty substantial. So Dawkins would have had to be on his best behavior in Darwin’s house.
The same applies in spades, a fortiori, to some of the more disreputable Darwinists preaching natural selection, or the Survival of the Fittest, without checks or balances. Social Darwinists like the mysterious Ragnar Redbeard, author of Might is Right, would have been given the boot almost at once if he had somehow managed to gatecrash one of Darwin’s dinner parties. So it is a mistake, a monstrous ideological error, to conflate the moderate and delicately nuanced Darwinism of Charles Darwin with the harsh, dog-eat-dog Darwinism of his more extreme and, in some cases, mentally deranged disciples.”
I am not saying that Dawkins is mentally deranged, though many others have said so. I think Dawkins is a genius in his own right. But Dawkins is Dawkins, and Darwin is Darwin, and never the twain shall meet.
— § —
Having read through Jonas Alexis’ recent 2-part article (here and here), challenging my pro-Darwinian views, I was impressed by his verbal restraint and dexterity. I felt that his tone throughout was refreshingly polite and civilized, considering he was challenging my views and pointing out how mistaken and confused I was.
I wish to state categorically here, however, that I am in no way “debating” Darwin with Jonas though he appears to be debating Darwin with me! Whereas he is offering an exhaustive point-by-point critique of my article Demonizing Darwin, I am not doing the same for his two articles linked above. Indeed, I hadn’t even read Part 2 of his article (published yesterday on Veterans Today) before writing roughly 99 per cent of this article of my own several days ago. My sole concern is to present my own pro-Darwinian views, without any attempt to refute Jonas’s thesis or launch a counter-attack on him for saying how erroneous and confused I am.
I admit to being confused — who isn’t? — and as to having erroneous opinions on Darwin, it would be extremely presumptuous of me to maintain that my opinions on this subject are the correct ones and that anyone who dares to contradict me is wrong. I am only too happy to admit that I “see through a glass darkly”, though seeing through a glass darkly is not something to be happy about. 🙂
I was particularly struck by this comment in Part 1 of Jonas’s article:
“Now tell me, Lasha: If Darwinists say that objective morality does not exist—and I can guarantee you that the vast majority of Neo-Darwinists do say that—and then appeal to “moral clarity” or even morality to build their system, don’t you think that they are living in contradiction?”
That’s a good point. I happen to agree here with Jonas. So there’s no argument between us.
But Jonas misses my point.
I am defending Darwin, not “the vast majority of neo-Darwinists” who profess to speak in Darwin’s name. As I pointed out in my article in defense of Darwin, there are as many types of Darwinism as there are colors in the rainbow. No two Darwinists think alike. Some are at opposite ends of the Darwinian spectrum, and Darwin is somewhere slapbang in the middle. The mistake Jonas keeps making is his assumption that there is only one type of Darwinism. As a consequence, he falls into the trap of believing that all Darwinists think alike — or, at any rate, that they ought to think alike since they are all grouped under the one banner of “Darwinism”. Jonas therefore, it seems to me, has the unfortunate tendency of holding Darwin responsible for every single statement made by the dangerous disciples and spin merchants of Darwin. I am surprised that a man so intelligent and scholarly as Jonas should fall prey to such a hideous logical fallacy. I expected better of him.
Jonas quotes Richard Dawkins as saying:
“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”
This statement annoys Jonas. Nay more, it outrages him! Since he doesn’t believe in the theory of evolution himself, he resents the implication that he is ignorant, stupid and insane. But his blood positively boils at the thought that he is being called “wicked”. Speaking for myself, I would be flattered if the renowned Richard Dawkins were to take notice of my existence and call me “wicked”. I would be tickled pink. And I would at once forgive him for calling me ignorant, stupid and insane.
But Dawkins is not going to do that in my case, since I happen to believe in the theory of evolution. It makes sense to me. In no way does it threaten my deeply intrenched religious beliefs. God may be a delusion. But only to Dawkins and his disciples. Not to me. I can accept Darwin without kicking God into the bushes.
I think Dawkins is to be forgiven for his little rhetorical flourish and commended for his facility of language. Anyone who can produce such scintillating quotable quotes cannot be all that bad.
— § —
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that Darwinism and Dawkinism are two entirely different animals. For my part, I accept Darwin. I do not accept Dawkins. What is the main difference between Darwinism and Dawkinism? Answer: the God Question.
Darwin is an agnostic with theistic inclinations. He accepts the possibility of God. He is like someone who says, “Look, I’m not going to say I believe in God right now. Don’t rush me! Maybe I’ll say I believe in God tomorrow. All I’ll say right now is that I believe God is a distinct possibility. And I wouldn’t be surprised if God should turn out to be the ultimate explanation for the universe.”
I’ve lived with Darwin a long time now and absorbed the man’s essence, and I know in my bones that this is how Darwin thought and felt. He had a veneration for life. He had seen its beauty and majesty. He had looked into the heart of things and heard “the still, sad music of humanity”.
Darwin’s religious views were full of “fluctuations” — his own words — changing by the day and mellowing with the years. In 1859, after the publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin was still pretty atheistical in some of his pronouncements. For example, this:
“I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ [parasitical wasps] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”
But then he adds elsewhere, far less atheistically and more agnostically, with that characteristic modesty of his that is one of his most endearing features: “I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can.”
That’s Darwin for you. So beautifully measured. So honest and down to earth. For my part, it’s hard for me not to respect and admire such a man.
To hate Darwin is to misunderstand him; not to love him is to have missed the way.
He is thinking on our behalf. He is reaching out, like neolithic man looking up at the starry heavens, for the Unknown God — the Hidden God who is so stunningly beautiful that he needs to hide behind a veil.
CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1882)
“I am not the least afraid to die.” — Last words
Last sentence of The Origin of Species : “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Note. The significant words “by the Creator” did not appear in the the first edition of The Origin of Species, but this omission was corrected by Darwin himself in the second edition of 1860 where the words appeared for the first time. This important emendation was then added to all subsequent editions during Darwin’s lifetime, the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth editions. It is hard to see how Darwin could have been an “atheist”, as is often falsely claimed, if he insisted on using the word “Creator” so many times. (Scroll down to end of this Wikiquotes List)
Jonas is factually wrong to say, in Part 2 of his article, that I had “misread Darwin’s views“, when he himself is guilty of the glaring mistake of maintaining the very opposite of the truth here:
Yes, Darwin did say at the end of the Origin of Species that life was “originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.” But subsequent editions tell us something very different. This is what Darwin later said: “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Jonas, I regret to say, has got it back to front.
Darwin didn’t change his mind, as Jonas erroneously suggests, by dropping the phrase “BY THE CREATOR” in subsequent editions of The Origin of Species and settling for atheism.
On the contrary, the quote Jonas gives above, where the words “by the creator” are omitted, is the correct version only for the first edition of The Origin of Species, published in November 1859. To all subsequent editions of the book during his lifetime — from the second edition of 1860 to the sixth edition of 1871 — Darwin had added the significant words “BY THE CREATOR”.
Contrary therefore to the false impression Jonas gives, Darwin had moved into theism, not lapsed into atheism!
— § —
Richard Dawkins, however, is the inhabitant of different mental universe and you must not blame Darwin for Dawkins’ profoundly pessimistic, nihilistic pronouncements. The negative quotes about Dawkins that Jonas provides in his recent anti-Darwin article — “much of the philosophy he [Dawkins] purveys is at best jejune”, “badly flawed”, “an amateur”, “at best sophomoric … unfair to sophomores” — sadly miss the mark. The people who say these bad things about Dawkins are who exactly? Nonentities. Second raters. Relatively untalented ranters probably a bit jealous of Dawkins’ outstanding achievements and accomplishments: his scientific expertise, his genuinely religious awe for the mysteries and marvels of our universe, and his rare gift for rhetoric.
You may not wish to believe a word of this, but it’s so eloquently expressed that you cannot but admire its brilliance:
“Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.”
This is just the kind of comment bound to anger devout Christians and all who believe in some kind of God. But why not let the sad bird sing? Why shoot the pretty songster because its script annoys you? Remember Shelley: “Our sweetest songs are those / that tell of saddest thought.”
Here is Dawkins again. Though I do not like what he says, I can’t help admiring the way he says it. Such lapidary prose, such brilliant use of language, dazzles me with delight and makes me feel I am in the presence of a virtuoso:
“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
What we have here is a Godless universe. The Well of Despair. The ultimate expression of nihilism.
NEXT STOP — SUICIDE!
So where do we go from here? Don’t ask me!
I’m just an ant on the window ledge.