2009 is an important year for science. It is the Year of Science, the International Year of Astronomy and the Darwin year. The latter because both the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth (February 12) and the 150th year of publication of his major book The Origin of Species (November 24) occurs.
So there has been a whole host of events and publications devoted to Darwin, his life, his writings and his science. There has been discussion on how his ideas fit into society and philosophy, the affects on society, politics and religion, and their relevance to modern society. There are some great articles and videos accessible on the internet. And then there are the books on Darwin and evolutionary science which have been, or will be, published this year.
But, of course, there are also the naysayers. Those hostile to science in general or just evolutionary science in particular. Almost always religiously motivated, these people have also been mobilising this year. Although the results have been comparatively negligible.
Misrepresentation from the first page
This book is one from the naysayers. The author, Eugene G. Windchy, has been “researching evolution” for 16 years – and this slim self-published book is the result.
Windchy reveals his approach in the first page – in the first paragraph! Here he refers to Olivia Judson’s New York Times article Let’s get rid of Darwinism. This was part of a series celebrating the life of Darwin. Judson’s criticism was not of Darwin or his work, but of the term Darwinism which she described as misleading. She says: “I’d like to abolish the insidious terms Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. They suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology.” I might add my own objection to these terms. Enemies of science often use these terms in their attacks, to imply a dogma, even a religion (akin to a political or ideological -ism) which should not prevail in science.
However, Windchy’s spin is that Judson was tired “of defending a nineteenth century theory that still is under attack.” That she “herself entertains some doubt about the theory.” And that “the outspokenness of Olivia Judson might presage an era of change.” Simple reference to Judson’s article will demonstrate how misleading this spin is. Windchy tries to push that approach throughout his book, claiming supporters of evolutionary science don’t “really believe” evolutionary theory. The science is “deeply flawed” and there is big change about to happen. If only the scientific establishment would remove their control. The old “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” story all over again!
The root of all evil?
Worse still, Windchy heavily promotes the lie that “Darwinism” is responsible for wars and genocide, if not all the evils of the world. And specifically communism, the First World War and fascism. Obvious from the cover where Darwin’s image shares prominence with those of Marx and Hitler. Another strong theme is the claim the theory of natural selection was stolen from Wallace. There’s plenty written on the genesis of Darwin’s theory and how Wallace’s independent discovery lead to the joint presentation of both men’s ideas to the Linnean Society on July 1858. The papers by, Wallace and Darwin respectively, were entitled On the Tendency of Species to form Varieties; and on the Perpetuation of Varieties and Species by Natural Means of Selection. This also precipitated publication of The Origin of Species. Reference to any major source of this history will show how Windchy has distorted the facts.
Well, what are facts when you want to promote a book with a subtitle: “And how a flawed and disastrous theory was stolen and sold?” And who “sold” this disastrous theory? Why the men of the “X club”. Men around Darwin who set out to impose the theory on the world – even though they didn’t believe it themselves. And their motives – why antitheism of course. As Windchy says: “Nineteenth Century thinkers launched a powerful, three-pronged attack on the concepts of God and free will.”
The book also gives a one-sided history of the Piltdown hoax and misrepresents other events in the history of evolutionary science – such as Nebraska Man and the Haeckel drawings of embryos. These to put the message across that evil scientist distort evidence in their efforts to “sell” evolutionary theory and proclaim the atheist message. Ed Brayton (see Buchanan Blathers About Evolution and Fisking Eugene Windchy), PZ Myers (see Old fossil “disproves” Darwin!) and Gary S. Hurd (see “The End of Darwinism”) have posted detailed rebuttals of these and other claims in Mindchy’s book. Brayton points out that rather than being examples of scientific deception the history of these events show how science works to correct false claims and mistaken ideas.
And finally, the last three chapters try to push the story that evolutionary science is founded on claims which are easily refuted and that most mathematicians and many, if not most, biologists disagree with that science. All done with the tired old creationist tactic of quote mining. (Why, oh why, do they think that quoting a palaeontologist like Gould out of context can be used to disprove palaeontological evidence?) Then there is the other trick of interpreting any new discovery, any development of theory, any finding contradicting previous interpretations, as evidence that evolutionary science is deeply flawed. And there is a conspiracy within science to keep this information from the public.
With friends like these
Hurd states the obvious when he says this book “would have disappeared as another self-published creationist screed had not Pat Buchanan puffed it on WingNutDaily.” He is referring to American Conservative Pat Buchanan’s review Making a Monkey out of Darwin. This is the only positive review I could find of Windchy’s book – although an Amazon Review by Gen. JC Christian, Patriot has been heavily promoted on the internet. This character seems to be a member of the Christian Militia Network. He wouldn’t give the book 5 stars “because it could have been so much more if he’d gone that extra step and exposed the evolutionists for the purveyors of sexual perversion they are.” With friends like that …
There is a strong trend among theists unhappy with evolutionary science and its findings to “shoot the messenger”. To blame Darwin, other scientists, or science in general, for finding a world which doesn’t support their own mythology or wishes. Unfortunately, there are people who cynically use this thinking to spread lies and distortions. People like Windchy. They recognise such an attitude makes this section of the population gullible.
However, these people will often push their story too far. They can end up repelling a large section of the religious population that may have been receptive. I suggest this book falls into the later class. If you enjoyed the deeply dishonest documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” you probably have the mind-set to accept, if not enjoy, Mindchy’s book.
Mind you – if you are one of those people more open to evidence but still feeling unsure about evolutionary science perhaps you should read this book. This may well show you the nature of the forces ranged against science these days and the lengths to which they will go to misrepresent its findings.