In Darwin’s scheme of things, the Victorian rich were the perfect expression of evolution. In perfecting itself, nature started with amoebas, and moved on through dinosaurs and flying lizards, fish, fowl and mammals until it came to the apes, so obviously like the poor savages of Tierra del Fuego or Papua New Guinea. Above the savages were the southern Europeans, above them the British and, at the top of the evolutionary pecking order, sat the great families of England, the Darwins, the Arnolds, the Huxleys and the Wedgwoods, who all intermarried and were obviously cleverer than anyone else.
If these types of remarks had been made about any Victorian other than Darwin, the combox would not be Days of Rage.* That shows us the extent to which Darwinism is a substitute for religion for its many zealots.
Discussing Darwin’s dependence on Malthus, Wilson says the unsayable yet again:
Once the Napoleonic wars were over, the population of Europe soared. So did the food supply. Instances of starvation occurred most notoriously in Ireland in the 1840s, where the selfish landlords, many of them absentee, insisted on exporting huge quantities of grain while the peasant population, dependent on the potato, died of hunger. The Westminster government was scandalously late in reacting, partly because it believed that the potato famine was a Malthusian “solution” to the “problem” of a large, anti-English, Roman Catholic population. In other words, Ireland was not a demonstration of the truth of Malthusianism, it was a victim of it. We find similar, and much more alarming examples, later in history, when Darwin’s ideas were used to justify genocide and mass murder. More.
Yes, it’s all true but wasn’t a polite thing to dwell on. The fact that Wilson is allowed to express these thoughts in an establishment venue seems like part of a gradual change in which evolution is no longer a synonym for Darwinism. Darwinism, along with its eponymous founder, warts and all, will just have to find their place in the system like everything else.
Zealots naturally feel that the End of All Things is at hand, as the comments make clear*; others will just shrug and adjust.
* For example, “Sorry to add to all this, but given the review of Wilson’s book in the New Scientist, I am angry that The Times even allowed Wilson the space to publish this. This is the sort of article that should be subject to peer review. Does The Times have nothing in place to vet controversial pieces like this.” The commenter seems not to realize the newspapers have thriven on controversy since they were invented. Offering a point of view different from that of New Scientist is conventional in an open society. But it’s not clear that Darwinians, protectors of the single greatest idea anyone ever had, have much of a commitment to an open society.
See also: The second advent of the Royal Society’s evolution rethink last November?
Royal Society: What has the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis missed?
High dudgeon over A. N. Wilson’s new book on Darwin Like we said, plenty of time for Darwinians to beat their iron rice bowls into hatchets.