Apparently, one of the Thumbsmen has claimed that Bill Dembski overstated/misstated (or whatever) DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contempt for the feckless* Irish, with their endless stream of brats (combined, of course, with his approval of the thrifty andÃ‚Â allegedlyÃ‚Â cautiously procreative Scot).
Which is hilarious, because contempt for the Irish was part and parcel of DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Brit toffery – a social code everyone in those days understood. The Potato Famine, when so many thousands starved to death within easy reach of abundant food exported from Ireland, would be incomprehensible apart from it. Indeed, I heard its fell echoes a century later, as a child in a far distant land.
No, Dembski did not misquote Darwin. Darwin meant exactly what he said. The problem is that what Darwin meant is incompatible with the theory he is famed for advancing.
Either natural selection produces survival of the fittest (SpencerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s term, quoted with approval by Darwin as a suitable description of the main point of his theory) or it does not. But Darwin believed – irrationally – that the Irish were both most likely to breed and succeed and less fit, and therefore a menace.
The most reasonable explanation for such a view is that Darwin only believed in the awesome power of natural selection in the distant past where we cannot actually view it at work directly. And therefore his theoryÃ‚Â appeared safe from disconfirmation.
The moment he was confronted with an apparent example of selection in real time, he jumped the good ship Beagle and hopped genteelly aboard the eugenics bandwagon instead. Nature – which had got on so well for billions of years – turned out to need human legislation sponsored by DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s friends, relatives, and groupies, just to do the mundane job of keeping the human race from going downhill. Huh?
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the part about early Darwinists and eugenics that baffled me at first. If natural selection is as creative as DarwinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s followers claimed, they should have been the last people in the world to get involved with schemes for tipping natureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hand. But wait! what if they never really wanted to subject their pet theory to a true test?
Well, then, the feckless* Irish must have been a truly distressing sight …
Feckless* – The IrishÃ‚Â had kids when, according to experts, they couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afford it.