[asa] Nick Matze's reply to my comments, with my responses

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Thu Mar 01 2007 - 16:31:31 EST

Nick Matzke replied privately to my post about his inquiry, and with his permission (I am copying him blindly) I put them on the record here. My own further comments are [bracketed thus], otherwise this is the full text of his comments.


Hi Ted -- thanks for this reply. Your points are well taken although I disagree in various places.

I cannot resolve the Bryan/militarism issue in the near term -- it is far from clear to me that "evolution" or even "Darwinism" motivated the Germans in WW1 or WW2. Fundamentalists have claimed this of course, but did fundamentalists ever do a serious analysis of the question? Did they ever consider Gobineau, Chamberlain, and the other race theorists for instance, who appeared to be far more influential in Germany than Darwin? Or was this just more anti-evolution propaganda? Bryan seems to have read Kellogg's "Headquarters Nights", a piece of war propaganda (in the official sense of the term) that makes one reference to Neo-Darwinism. This may help explain Bryan's psychology but this is different from arguing that Bryan's perception of the issue was well justified.

[TED: I entirely agree with your point, Nick, about differentiating what Bryan believed from what the truth actually was. I think nevertheless there is evidence that German intellectuals saw evolution as justifying military conquest, but the main point I was making is that without Bryan's perception of this (and in the case of American capitalism I doubt that you would disagree with the actual fact of it), there would not have been a Scopes trial. Bryan was more than anyone else responsible for passing antievolution laws, and he was galvanized by those perceptions. A nice short account of this is Stephen Jay Gould, “William Jennings Bryan's Last Campaign.” Natural History (November 1987), 16-26. On a related point, if not identical, it is abundantly clear that German evolutionists used evolution to justify anti-Semitism, and that Hitler drew on this particular strain later in a somewhat more virulent form. The best essay-length source on this that I can think of is Geor!
 ge J. Stein, “Biological Science and the Roots of Nazism.” In The Sociobiology of Ethnocentrism, ed. V. Reynolds, V. Falger, and I. Vine (Univ. of Georgia Press, 1987). As reprinted in American Scientist 76 (1988), 50-58. Another interesting account is that of Duke anthropologist Matt Cartmill, "A View to a Death in the Morning," (Harvard, 1993), which notes that, "From Darwin's time down to the beginning of World War II, most scientists who studied human evolution were shocking racists by today's standards. Most of them firmly believed that some living human races were closer to the apes than others." etc. p. 199f. A persual of the biology book used in Dayton, Hunter's "A Civic Biology," will give one plenty of evidence that evolution and forms of social Darwinism were not exactly kept at arm's length. These comments go beyond what I had in the post you were commenting on, but they will serve to indicate the kinds of things in my mind, relative to the misuses of evol!
 ution and Bryan's discontents.]

At any rate, the essay I am working on is only about 1980-1990, which frankly is the big gap in the history of creationism. The question I am asking of the ASA listserv was to solicit some help on what to say in a brief background (pre-1980) section.

[TED: Agreed, this is a big gap, and I will be very interested to see what you say about it. I note that historian Donald Yerxa, an ASA member, wrote a nice short history of ID in PSCF. http://www.asa3.org/asa/PSCF/2002/PSCF3-02Yerxa.pdf
His account is hardly comprehensive, but it is very good IMO and you will want to study it. As always, of course, primary sources take precedence over secondary accounts, and I will want to see what you have found.]

The very purpose of the chapter is basically to make the case that, yes, ID is creationism relabeled. Of course the creationist drafts of Pandas are a key piece of that (but how much more evidence could you possibly need -- I mean, for a decade we cynics said ID was creationism relabeled, for a decade it was denied, and then we find that yes, in fact, it was actually relabled in the very first book to explicitly put forward "intelligent design" in so many words!), but there are a number of other skeletons I have dug up in the last year or so. The simple truth is that the ID guys have systematically hid their creationist origins, and have snookered a lot of fairly responsible people like yourself into buying into their party line, which is that ID is something new and different from creationism.

[TED: If your claim is entirely correct, that ID is creationism relabeled, then I still doubt that I have been snookered; I would more likely say that my definition of creationism is different from yours. My conclusions are based on my own analysis of ID and my knowledge of creationism and its history. I'm not really all that friendly to ID, as you may know, Nick, and the IDs tend to reject my views on many aspects of this issue. The fact that my conclusions support their view on this one reflects simply my own views. See below.]

I don't think Numbers and Larson are quite at your position, although I have detected some of this from Numbers. (His new chapter on ID in The Creationists seems to hint that people on both sides get creation science and ID "confused".) I think he thinks he thinks that creation science = Flood Geology, and therefore ID does not equal creation science. This is legitimate from a certain point of view, but ignores what the creation scientists were doing in the 1980s (which occurred basically after Numbers's research concluded -- his new ID chapter is just based on secondary sources and does not reinvestigate the events of the 1980s in any way). And in any event, "creation science" is only one form of creationism; ID could be another.

[TED: Larson's *legal* opinion is exactly what I say it is. As for his *historical* opinion, I think it is also pretty close to mine. Another post on the ASA list earlier today quoted Numbers as of this month, clearly stating that ID and creationism are not the same thing. Numbers does think that flood geology is crucial to creationism, and as you say this is legitimate as far as it goes. I put more emphasis myself on the crucial theological issue of theodicy/death before the fall, which really does to a very significant degree drive the YE part of YEC. I've written about that in various places that I am not entitled for copyright reasons to copy here, but I'd be happy to send that to you. Offiicially of course ID ignores the issue of theodicy and earth's age, just as it officially ignores flood geology, but nearly all IDs (including most leaders) accept an old earth and death before the fall--either one of which would get them tossed out of the CRS. Whatever creation!
 ists were doing in the 1980s--and I'm not entirely uninformed about their activities--they surely weren't going around telling people about an old earth and carnivorous dinosaurs that ate meat before Eden. These aren't trivial points. Most IDs are not "creationists" in the sense usually meant, and in the sense that is meant to be conveyed by saying that ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo.

As for various forms of creationism, then we are using the term in a different sense than I just used it. I prefer the term "antievolutionism" for clarity, but then one can't quite so quickly equate ID with creationism for legal and educational purposes. I think that is one reason why this inaccuracy is so popular.]

At any rate, this is the argument I will make.

[I look forward to seeing it.]


[And my best to you, Nick]

To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Mar 1 16:41:18 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Mar 01 2007 - 16:41:18 EST