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Friday, December 24, 2004


Week One: I.C. reads Q.M.

I see no need to force people to be informed. If they don't want to be then it is Darwinism in action...societal Darwinism being the only place that his theory has been proven.

If I might quibble, Quilly--what part of Darwin's theory has not been proven? What part has?

Well, first, what is Darwin's theory? That the offspring of a species are slightly different from their parents, and that the offspring better suited to their environment will prosper and reproduce; further, Darwin speculated that over time, this change—let us call it evolution, though Darwin called it transformism—would change a species of animal so much that it becomes an entirely different species.

This is called "natural selection," and it has been proven, again and again, to be scientific fact. It can be seen in the ligers of Africa, who prove that Tiger and Lion descend from a common ancestor; in the birds of the Galapagos Islands, whose beaks can change shape in mere generations; in the breeding records of the Westminster Kennel Club, freely available at their annual dog show.

Of course when people say, "evolution has never been proven," they mean, "it has never been proven that man descends from monkeys." That is true, and will remain true until the time machine gets back from the shop. The debate is between those who think that the well-demonstrated law of natural selection probably applies to humans just as it applies to the animal kingdom, and those who see something wholly unnatural—divine, some would say, a word which here means precisely the same thing as unnatural, "something that cannot be explained by nature"—in mankind and reason that there must therefore have been some supernatural process at work in the beginning of mankind. In general, the question is, are we of the Earth, or beyond the Earth?

It's a question beyond the scope of this blog, of course. And whichever way you fall on it, Darwin's ideas are too important and complex to be reduced to a simple one liner. A rather stupid Englishman named Herbert Spencer coined the phrase "survival of the fittest" when he invented Social Darwinism, a philosophy as opposed to a theory, and something of which Charles Darwin vehemently disapproved, as Social Darwinism was invented mostly as a way to make the Robber Barons feel better about not giving a shit for poor people.

It hasn't changed much since, although apparently it's now an excuse for not caring about stupid people, too.

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