Kevin MacDonald has been called a “coward” and other insulting terms
for refusing to debate Darwinism with a writer called Jonas Alexis. Why?
An Open Letter to Jonas Alexis,
Columnist on Veterans Today
“Sorry, I am not going to deal with someone who denies
the scientific validity of Darwinism.” — Kevin MacDonald
1. KEVIN MACDONALD ATTACKED FOR DEFENDING DARWIN
Dear Jonas Alexis,
I have now had time to read and reflect on the anti-Darwin material you sent me in links last week. In an email to me, dated February 12, you appeared to seek my approval for an outspoken attack you had launched on Kevin MacDonald in November last year on the Veterans Today site.
I refer, firstly, to your needlessly impolite article, “Kevin MacDonald is intellectually dishonest”. Here you made use of a header picture featuring Kevin MacDonald and David Duke. The picture carried a caption which plainly suggested that both MacDonald and Duke were “cowards” for refusing to enter into debate with you. “Cowards die may times before their deaths,” you quoted Shakespeare as saying, “the valiant never taste death but once.” You were plainly applying the word “COWARDS” to Kevin MacDonald and David Duke. It seemed to me that your assessment of their characters was unnecessarily harsh.
DAVID DUKE and KEVIN MACDONALD
“COWARDS die may times before their deaths;
the valiant never taste of death but once.”
Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
I emphasze the word “COWARDS“, Jonas, by putting it in capital letters, because it would be clear to anyone with even a smidgen of intelligence what you are doing here. By juxtaposing the above picture with that nasty quote from Shakespeare you are suggesting in no uncertain terms that both men in the picture are “cowards” — for refusing to debate Darwin with you. If this is not a vicious personal attack, what is?
(See the article here, with its picture and pointedly insulting caption)
This initial attack on Kevin MacDonald led to an even more hostile follow-up article in which you did your best to demonize Darwin and attack Kevin MacDonald for defending the great naturalist. Kevin declined to enter into dialogue with you, as was his right. For this imagined slight to your dignity, you renewed your attack on him with slightly more testosterone than was necessary. I refer now to Part 2 of your anti-MacDonald onslaught, your harshly entitled article “Kevin MacDonald’s Abject Failure.”
Can you please tell me how Kevin MacDonald is a “coward”—as you slyly suggested in your quote from Shakespeare above—for refusing to enter into dialogue with you? What emeritus professor of evolutionary psychology is willing to waste his time debating Darwin with an angry young man who has called him “an abject failure” and accused him of being “intellectually dishonest”?
Here is a typically abrasive statement of yours:
“Discussing these issues with [David] Duke was almost like talking to an ATM machine. MacDonald knows better, and I think the Alt-Right deserves a better class of intellectuals…”
If I may say so without giving offense, I find it hard to understand how the author of The Culture of Critique can be cast in the role of a pseudo-intellectual by a columnist on Veterans Today! 🙂
Here you go again, Jonas, having a bash at Darwin and working yourself up into a frightful froth about nothing:
Darwinism is morally incoherent, philosophically repugnant, and existentially worthless…. MacDonald is not even prepared to deal with blatant contradictions in his own system. More importantly … MacDonald doesn’t even make an attempt to address the fundamentally (sic) problem responsibly, which is intellectually embarrassing….
A correspondent sent me an email earlier saying that he sent MacDonald my critique of his views to see his reaction. To the correspondent’s dismay, MacDonald responded by saying: ‘Sorry, I am not going to deal with someone who denies the scientific validity of Darwinism.’ …. MacDonald’s followers will almost certainly find these statements outrageous. Great!
— Jonas Alexis, here
I’m sorry, Jonas, but I simply cannot understand what has gotten into you. For a man so benign and friendly at the best of times, you are displaying here an alarming deficit of charm. Attacking Darwin is fine. No problem. You are not the first person to attack Darwin. Join Bishop Wilberforce! What is totally inappropriate, however, is not so much your attack on Darwin as your ad hominem onslaught on Kevin MacDonald for declining to enter into a debate with you. Is Kevin really a “coward” for preferring to keep quiet and leaving you to your own devices? If he happens to dislike your tone and is not overly impressed with your knowledge of Darwin, surely he has a right to tactful silence?
You are an enormously talented and likable man, Jonas, and I hold you in the highest respect, so I’m hoping you will appreciate that all I have said so far is sincerely meant and for your benefit.
2. DEMONIZING DARWIN
Like Kevin MacDonald, I have no wish to enter into debate with you on the subject of Darwin. Instead, I will append a few notes here for the benefit of other readers. These scattered observations may help to convince a few anti-Darwinists that it is time to give Darwin the respect he deserves.
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.
Unfortunately, this is what many superficial thinkers do nowadays. They think there is only one kind of Darwinism: the dog-eat-dog Darwinism of Ragnar Redbeard and his grotesque “Might is Right” camp followers.
Homo homini lupus — ‘Man is a wolf to man’ — this is the motto of the Social Darwinists. To some Darwinists who could accurately be described as “extremists”, to uppity “bulldogs” like Thomas Huxley, men in a state of nature were often likened to “tigers”. To them, nature was always “red in tooth and claw.” This bore no resemblance to the far gentler Darwinism of Charles Darwin who wrote:
“When we reflect on this struggle [for existence], we can console ourselves with the full belief that the war in nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.”
Still less is the popular conception of Darwinism—i.e., the feral “red in tooth and claw” Darwinism of Ragnar Redbeard and his ragbag of Might-is-Rightists—anything like the religiously based, God-centered Darwinism of Asa Gray, the famous 19th-century botanist, Darwin’s best friend in America. Nor is this distorted misconception of Darwinism in any way cognate to the mystical Darwinism of A.R. Wallace, the co-discoverer of the theory of evolution. Wallace was even sunnier and more life-affirming in his tone than Darwin:
The popular idea of the struggle for existence entailing misery and pain on the animal world is the very reverse of the truth. What it really brings about is the maximum of life and the enjoyment of life with the minimum of suffering and pain. Given the necessity of death and reproduction, it is difficult even to imagine a system by which a greater balance of happiness could have been secured. (See here)
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 natural world has no moral validity or purpose.”
You make use of this quote, Jonas, more than once — “The natural world has no moral validity or purpose”— obviously outraged that Darwin should have uttered such a monstrous heresy. You quote Janet Browne’s magisterial 1200-page biography of Darwin as your source for the quote. (Volume 2, p. 54). However, you give the entirely wrong impression that it was Darwin himself who said this. And Darwin said no such thing.
This was only a viewpoint ascribed to Darwin by his biographer Janet Browne, so the quote lacks canonical status. It was Janet Browne, in other words, not Darwin, who said these words: “The natural world has no moral validity, he [Darwin] argued.”
There’s no need to go down the path of pessimism and assume the worst. For the truth is that the proposition “the natural world has no moral validity or purpose” is a not something most Darwinists believe. Darwin himself certainly didn’t believe that. Darwin, and certainly Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolutionism, were far more optimistic and bracing in their world views than this miserable quote you have produced (not even’s Darwin’s own words) to make Darwin look like a gloomy killjoy.
Paradoxically, Darwin, whose revolutionary discoveries had dispensed with the need for God as a First Cause, had nevertheless invoked the idea of God as the primal force behind existence in the final sentence of The Origin of Species. He did this by referring to “life having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.” Here he is in the bravura finale of his magnum opus:
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. (Emphasis added)
That memorable sentence which forms the finale to Darwin’s magnificent work of genius is infused with a moral grandeur unparalleled in the literature of science. “Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful…” That sentence sends a shiver down the spine. It has brought tears to countless eyes down the ages. You can see that the man who wrote it is moved to the depths. How long did Darwin take to write that sentence? Thirty seconds? No, it took him thirty years.
This noble and dazzlingly beautiful sentence makes complete nonsense of the statement: “The natural world has no moral validity or purpose.”
You appear to be under the misconception, Jonas, that Darwin was a heartless atheist and crude White Supremacist who had no compassion for the old, the weak, and the sick. Nothing could be further from the truth. You conflate the gentle views of the amiable Darwin with the harsher views of Herbert Spencer and the far more extreme views of Ragnar Redbeard and his Social Darwinist philosophy as set out in his book, Might is Right.
It has often been said that the anonymously authored Ragnar Redbeard book was meant as a cruel parody of Darwinism. Indeed, as a satirical spoof. I can well believe it. The Marquis de Sade could have written it as a tongue-in-cheek literary exercise. Those who take this book seriously could be making a big mistake, unaware that their legs are being pulled. (See here).
Like all other bona fide movements, including Christianity, it is possible to turn Darwinism on its head by pushing it to its extremes and making a reductio ad absurdum out of it. Just as Christianity can be held up to ridicule and contempt by suggesting that all Christians are hypocrites for not being perfect as Christ enjoined — “Be ye therefore perfect”— and for failing to love their enemies and giving all their wealth away to feed the poor, Darwinism can be mocked and demonized by suggesting that there is nothing wrong with cannibalism and mass murder if they promote the survival of the fittest: if they help, in other words, the strong to survive and the weak to be wiped out.
And so we have the febrile slogans of Ragnar Redbeard, an anonymous Victorian gent snickering up his sleeve as he dishes up a farrago of fine phrases that constitute a cruel parody of Darwinism. Ragnar Redbeard is Nietzsche on steroids, doing his best to make Darwinism look like a hell pit of horrors.
Here, listen to Ragnar rave:
Napoleon was Darwin on horseback. Be thou a Napoleon—do not be Christ! … Christs may come and Christs may go but Caesar lives forever.
He who saith “thou shalt” to me is my mortal foe.
Behold the crucifix, what does it symbolize? Pallid incompetence hanging on a tree.
The natural world is a world of war; the natural man is a warrior; the natural law is tooth and claw. All else is error.
This world is too peaceful, too acquiescent, too tame. It is a circumcised world. Nay! — a castrated world! It must be made fiercer, before it can become grander and better and — more natural…. When men cease to fight — they cease to be — Men.
All men who would obtain freedom must obtain wealth ‘by hook or by crook’. There is a strong affinity between the criminal and the conqueror.
Women shed tears; Men shed blood.
If a man smites you on one cheek, smash him on the other.
— Ragnar Redbeard, quotes from Might is Right.
All this is a far cry from Darwinism. Anyone who believes that Darwin would have nodded enthusiastically over the above laughable sentiments has never studied Darwin or contemplated his heroic life struggle. Ragnar Redbeard sounds like an undergraduate in his cups who has just finished reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra and has been knocked on the head with a blunt instrument.
3. DARWIN’S RELIGIOUS VIEWS
You seem to be totally unaware, Jonas, that the word “CREATOR” occurred in the final paragraph of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Though the all-important words “BY THE CREATOR” had not appeared in the 1st edition of November 1859, it had been added to the text by Darwin himself in the second edition of 1860 and to all subsequent editions during Darwin’s lifetime, right up to the sixth and final edition of 1872. These critical words — “BY THE CREATOR” — clearly demonstrating Darwin’s theistic leanings, were later to be removed without proper explanation in subsequent editions of The Origin of Species.
The result has been to give the entirely false impression of Darwin as an out-and-out atheist, even though he himself had repeatedly rejected the atheist label. “I have never been an atheist in denying the existence of God,” he was to state flatly in a letter to his friend John Fordyce in 1879, twenty years after the publication of The Origin of Species and three years before his death. In his own words, he had “never entirely discounted the existence of God”. In his Autobiography, Darwin tells us that by the time he had written the Origin he was already a theist who had come to believe in an intelligent First Cause. “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist,” he was to add significantly.
The persistent misconception prevails that Darwin was an atheist, despite the fact that he repeatedly rejects that label and claims to be an agnostic — an agnostic with theistic propensities.
It must be understood clearly that Darwin believed in conventional Christianity for the first half of his life. He only stopped going to church in 1849, at the age of 40. “I never gave up Christianity until I was forty years of age,” he says. The more he thought about religion, the more confused he became, admitting to constant “fluctuations” in viewpoint. In his own words, the subject was “too profound for human intellect.” Theology made his head spin, he confesses modestly. “A dog,” he tells his friend Asa Gray ruefully, “might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.”
Darwin’s religious views need to be discussed in greater detail. We need to consider the case of Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk who not only managed to sing hymns to the Christian God several times a day but who was also the father of genetics, acting as the essential link between Darwin and Watson and Crick, the discoverers of DNA.
While it is perfectly true that many prominent evolutionists have been incorrigible atheists—Thomas Huxley (“Darwin’s bulldog”) and Richard Dawkins (“Darwin’s rottweiler”) are the most notable examples—it is equally true that some exceptionally gifted evolutionists have been passionate believers in God. Two of the most eminent theistic evolutionists that spring to mind are Asa Gray, America’s most renowned 19th-century botanist and a personal friend of Darwin’s for decades, and Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of the Theory of Evolution. Gray, a devout Unitarian Christian, was an ardent believer in intelligent design. Wallace, while not a Christian, was a religious mystic with a theosophical bent who not only believed in intelligent design but in a life after death in a purpose-driven (“teleological”) universe.
4. SOCIAL DARWINISM
In attacking Kevin MacDonald, you state indignantly: “So whether Darwin and his intellectual children like it or not, Social Darwinism flows seamlessly from Darwin’s own ideological foundation, and this wicked enterprise has wrought havoc both in Europe and America in the 1920s and 30s.”
No need to work yourself up into a state about this, Jonas. Darwin was not the mastermind behind the “wicked enterprise” you describe. Nor was Kevin MacDonald in any way to blame for the “havoc both in Europe and America in the 1920s and 30s.”
Social Darwinism may be bad, but why blame Darwin for that? He rejected Social Darwinism and distanced himself from it. He was not the standard bearer for Social Darwinism.
If Darwin were the crude Social Darwinist you assume him to be, he would have had no sympathy for the old, the poor, and the sick. He would have been against Victorian Poor Law and the humanitarianism of the numerous charitable foundations that were the bedrock of the early welfare state. Yes, Darwin knew only too well that natural selection—the doctrine of the Survival of the Fittest—meant that there should be no provision for the old, the sick, and the weak in a state of nature. The Law of the Jungle, he knew, precludes a welfare state. But in actual fact, Darwin was like all other enlightened Victorians. He insisted that everything should be done to ameliorate the lot of the poor and downtrodden. He did not spit in the beggar’s bowl. He would never have said to a drowning man, “Sink or swim!”
If Darwin had been even half the monster you have conjured up in your vivid imagination, he would have been in support of slavery. Natural selection, after all, decrees that if men become slaves, it’s because they are too weak and stupid to be anything but slaves. If they were stronger and fitter, after all, they would be slave owners, not slaves. Paradoxically, Darwin rejected natural selection, his own doctrine, in favor of a civilized altruism that sprang from moral convictions and from his early upbringing as a compassionate Christian. As a consequence, Darwin was one of the most passionate advocates for the abolition of slavery.
What better proof do we need that Darwin took natural selection, the Survival of the Fittest, with a pinch of salt? Natural selection is fine in the jungle. It’s fine in theory. But it’s not fine in practice, and it’s unacceptable in a civilized society. You don’t push the old and sick over the clifftop just to create more Lebensraum for the young and fit.
As for Darwin being a White Supremacist with condescending contempt for the darker races, as you seem to believe, that, too, is a total misconception. Darwin had a far more enlightened attitude toward the darker races than you give him credit for. If you doubt this, ask yourself: who taught Darwin taxidermy? It was a Caribbean ex-slave of African origin whom Darwin had befriended while he was still a medical student at Edinburgh University.
Read this — it may help you to undemonize Darwin:
Darwin might have never proposed his revolutionary ideas if not for John Edmonstone. A freed Guyanese slave, Edmonstone taught Darwin taxidermy at Edinburgh University. During his voyage around the world on the S.S. Beagle, Darwin collected and preserved the famed finches using the techniques Edmonstone taught him, allowing him to draw his pivotal conclusions.
Edmonstone’s vivid accounts of Guyanese rainforests might have also inspired Darwin to study natural history instead of medicine.
In 1807, Edmonstone’s master brought him to Edinburgh and freed him. Edmonstone settled in a house a few doors down from Darwin and his brother, Erasmus, earning his living stuffing birds at the Natural History Museum and teaching taxidermy to Edinburgh University students.
You see? Darwin was the very opposite of the White Supremacist “racist” you have conjured up in your fevered imagination! He got on famously with ex-slaves of African origin.
Darwin in 1826, age 18, with ex-slave John Edmonstone
5. DARWIN’S DANGEROUS DISCIPLES
Darwinism was to have a profound influence on both Hitler and Stalin who adopted enthusiastically Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” doctrine and gave it a sinister twist that Darwin would certainly have deplored.
In Hitler’s case, Darwinism was to provide a rationale for experimental eugenics without ethical constraints, the conquest of Lebensraum, and the aggrandizement of the Aryan Master Race at the expense of other races deemed to be inferior and expendable. (See here). So it is argued by most mainstream historians. We may not all accept this, but this is how most intelligent observers see the profound influence Darwin had on Nazi Germany.
The point is, why blame Darwin for the excesses of the Nazis?
In Stalin’s case, Darwinism, or rather its misinterpretation and corruption, offered an excuse for the messianic atheism inseparable from Communism. This was to lead to the mass murder of at least 20 million innocents, mostly Christians. This is the mainstream figure, now widely seen as an underestimate. Solzhenitsyn and others put the figure much higher, at over 60 million. These victims of Communism were essentially the peasant proletariat and the industrial working classes who opposed the grandiose “repairing of the world” — i.e., revolution without the consent of its victims — that was to end in the hideous dystopia dreamt up by Marx and his misguided followers. The descendants of these psychopaths are still, alas, very much with us today. The Stalin cult continues to flourish in contemporary Russia, mostly among atheists and secular humanists, given that Christianity and Stalinist Communism cannot possibly coexist and flourish side by side. (For corroborative details, see this informative article: Stalin’s Brutal Faith).
It was Stalin who once said: “You know, they are fooling us, there is no God. All this talk about God is sheer nonsense.” (Quoted by E. Yaroslavsky, Landmarks in the Life of Stalin, cited here). Under Stalin, over 45,000 Orthodox Christian churches were destroyed in the Soviet Union and many monks, priests and nuns ruthlessly liquidated, often being tortured to death. Stalin’s contempt for human life is best illustrated by his cynical comment: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
It is undeniably disturbing to reflect that both Stalin and Hitler were devout disciples of Darwin, especially of Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” doctrine, which they used as a justification for ruthless totalitarianism. But why blame Darwin for the excesses of Lenin, Trotsky, Lazar Kaganovich, Ilya Ehrenberg, and Stalin? Darwin, after all, was not responsible for the Bolshevik Revolution or for the millions killed by Mao Tse-Tung in Communist China.
It is reported that Karl Marx once wrote a letter to Darwin, asking him for his permission to dedicate the first volume of Das Kapital to him, and that Darwin refused to give his permission. Which amounted to a cruel snub for Marx, the bearded prophet of Communism. This story has now been dismissed as apocryphal, but many still believe it. Whether the story is true or not, one thing is certain: that Darwin declined to have anything to do with a similar Communist organization, at a later date, that purported to follow the teachings of Karl Marx to the letter. (See Francis Wheen, Karl Marx, pp. 363-369). So even if Marx had not been trying to cuddle up to Darwin and obtain his imprimatur for world revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, Darwin would have indubitably snubbed Marx in any case. Darwin was a moderate; at no time would he have wished to be associated with wild-eyed revolutionaries and gulag operators.
Darwin knew only too well that these revolutionary fanatics would be only too happy to exploit the prestige of his name in order to use natural selection as an excuse for genocide — genocide on an unparalleled scale. The false idea under which you, Jonas, have apparently fallen, is the grotesque view that Darwin was ready and willing to underwrite genocide; and that “natural selection” somehow gives everyone a right to trample on the poor and get rid of the old and sick when they become a burden. This is not the case. We are not all tigers, baring our fangs in the forests of the night. We are human beings, and some of us are vegans. Pushed to its reductio ad absurdum, natural selection, the doctrine of the Survival of the Fittest, can provide a perfectly plausible excuse for cannibalism. After all, why not eat our neighbors if it helps us to survive?
The sinking of the Titanic provides us with a striking example of how natural selection doesn’t work in civilized societies. The old and the sick, the women and children, were the ones who survived the iceberg. The men, the strongest and fittest and bravest, these were the ones who went down with the ship.