Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The 'Breitbart'ing of Darwin....

Luke: 'What's in there?'
Yoda: 'Only what you take with you...'

It's been a long while since 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed' was released and the dust has finally settled and it's clear that not much has changed in the Creationism/ID vs. Darwinism debate. To be sure partisans on each side seem to have hardened their positions ever more. For my part I have seen the documentary and while I don't think it did any serious harm to or in any way undermine the foundation modern biology that is Evolutionary Theory, there were of the film that deeply troubled me... until recently.

'Could he be that inhuman?'

In the documentary Mr. Stein ( or more to the point the producers at Premise Media) attribute the following statement to Charles Darwin's book 'The Descent of Man':

"With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed."

Yikes! Reading this it becomes exceedingly difficult to castigate anyone for linking the work of Mr. Darwin to the eugenics movement, all the worst behaviors of the 19th century robber barons and most ashamedly Hitler and his greatest hits. Naturally this quote bothered me deeply as I am a compassionate human being.

Admittedly, I hadn't read 'The Descent of Man'. This quote is decidedly more ominous and less charitable than anything I'd read in Mr. Darwin's earlier magnum opus 'On the Origin of Species'. Could this really be the same man? The tone of this quote is so different. So I decided to look this quote up. So I wrote down the quote word for word as used in 'Expelled'.

'A funny thing happened at the googling.'

When I searched for the text as quoted from the film, a funny thing happened: I found that the quote doesn't exist in the context offered by the film! What follows is taken from Mr. Darwin's 'The Descent of Man':

(the emboldened text was conveniently redacted)

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.

'Honesty can never take a holiday.'

Now, my purpose is NOT to debate the the truth value of Darwin's insight into the workings of nature and his explanation for biodiversity on Earth. Everyone seems to have made up their respective minds there. What I feel compelled to do is call out the blatant and cynical dishonesty of Premise Media in their representation of Charles Darwin .

Clearly, it was and continues to be the aim of Premise Media and many like them to lay the holocaust, the eugenics movement squarely at the feet of Charles Darwin and his 'Dangerous Idea'. But what these people have done is precisely what the proponents of those inhuman enterprises have done: take Charles Darwin out of context; omitted sections of or twisted his actual words to fit a presupposition they already had brought with them. This constitutes reprehensible dishonesty in extremis. This is a disservice to every person who has ever worked openly and honestly to expand human understanding. The explanation of the natural world is no place for this kind of tactic, something I have in lieu of recent events labeled 'Breitbarting'.

You are free to disagree with Darwin's ideas or any other idea for that matter. However, in that disagreement you must, to the best of your knowledge and ability, be honest in your representation of those you disagree with. In all of our discourse we must, above all else, be honest.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Glenn Beck learns from Richard Muller..

Generally I am not a fan of Glenn Beck. Probably never will be. I understand why he exists and the niche he fills. I just learned that he had on his program a man whom I consider to be one of the best teachers of physics alive today: Richard A. Muller Mr. Beck and Prof. Muller discussed whether or not Iran's new rocket technology coupled with its' suspected and to be fair, likely, nuclear program is an immediate threat to the West.


It's a short but insightful interview and a good primer to his U of C at Berkley course: 'Physics for Future Presidents". The best part is Professor Muller makes the lectures available to ANYONE with an internet connection and the desire to learn something. You can watch or listen to them via your web browser or even podcast them through Itunes. This is Physics for people with better things to do. The math content is very light but the content is still very useful.

I'm an engineer by training so Physics is in my wheelhouse even so, I have watched these lectures for the past 2 years now and every time I do, I learn something new I didn't know before. I highly recommend them that anyone who wants to understand the science behind the stuff of headlines today check them out.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Learn to fish....

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Lao Tzu (I think...)

It seems to me that our best means of ascertaining the beliefs of those who have long ago shaken off the mortal coil is limited to reading and understanding their writings. What better way is there to try to understand a person with whom you cannot communicate with directly than to read his written work? This has been something that I have been trying to do much more of over the last two years, that is; READ the actual writings of the actual person rather than another person's interpretation of the same. Due to many factors this is decidedly the much more difficult path. However, is it not self evident that 'learning to fish' is much more rewarding and in the interest of self reliance and independence than being 'given a fish' by a fisherman of whose providence and motivations you cannot be sure? In 21st century America we now have MANY would-be 'fisherman' competing to provide many different kinds 'fish' to a population either unable or in most cases unwilling to provide for themselves. It's abundantly clear to me how dangerous such a state of affairs is. Most of this 'fish' is of, at best, dubious nutritional value and at worst distinctly harmful to the hungry.

I say all this as a preface to the following question:

Was the founding of the United States a manifestation of the divine working through humanity or.... not so much?

There seems to be an on going discussion as to whether or not our esteemed (yet seemingly in decline) republic was merely the journey work of enlightenment educated men or something decidedly more super-natural. Lately, I have learned not to polemically dismiss the supernatural out of hand for reasons relating to the limitations of what we can truly 'know' for certain and without appeal to other presuppositions (not much as it turns out). We ALL do this, it's human nature, the key is to acknowledge it and to be consistent. That said I am trying to base my thoughts and my actions on real world utility. That subject alone could probably fill volumes and this post is not really about that. What concerns me here is what the thoughts and views of the founders of our Republic really were and what they thought they were doing; not what a modern day revisionist/pundit/'theocrat' SAYS they were doing. I yearn to fish for myself. On a recent 'fishing trip' I caught this:

"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
Re-read it. Let it percolate for while. Go ahead I'll wait.

Does this passage not convey a sense of the secularist nature that this person felt embodied the government of the United States? Sadly, this person could not begin to imagine the extent to which Americans would descend into the revisionism and distortion of his and others motivations and beliefs.

There are pundits from both sides of the political divide that will knowingly or otherwise 'contextually twist' and 'quote mine' the work of persons long since dead to suit short-sighted and greed based personal or political ends. Most Americans are all too willing to accept these interpretations and feel no need whatever to fact check or to read the actual words of the long dead humans to understand for themselves what these people actually meant.

For the sake of our republic and our children we ALL need to learn to fish again.


To answer the inevitable question of the authorship of the above quote t'was:

John Adams, from his work- "A defense of the Constitution of the United States", 1786

Clearin away the cob webs....

OK! I am now blowing off the cob-webs of my blog. In the age of the internet, 'blowing off the cob-webs' is code for deleting all the myriad SPAM that has accumulated in all the comment sections!

I guess I will turn on the moderation feature again to prevent such abuses!

As many of you know I have been spending most of my time on Facebook. However, 'FB', is decidedly stingy about what I can and cannot post and I generally chafe against such restrictions. Given this reality I will be endeavoring to resume posting here on a regular basis. I've said this before but it's my hope that I really mean it this time!