Creationist Hate Mongering

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An editorial in the “The News Record,” a student newspaper associated with the University of Cincinnati by Scout Foust was brought to my attention late in the afternoon on 15 Feb. I was both insulted, and saddened at the gross incompetence and ignorance it represents. Mr. Foust, a fourth year student in German Literature, titled his editorial, Evolution perpetuates racist ideologies: Blacks shouldn’t back evolution.

Scout Foust was allowed to publish a baseless slander of not evolution, which as a science will take no notice, but of the hundreds of thousands of scientists who work and teach in disciplines related to evolutionary theory. Evolution is such a powerful truth that this encompasses nearly every science discipline. The Editors of “The News Record” have failed their responsibility to their readers. Further, such an incompetent article reflects very badly on their newspaper, the University of Cincinnati, and the Department that had the dubious task of educating Mr. Foust. Nor have the Editors done Mr. Foust personally any favor, as he now is exposed as an incompetent on a national level. A few hours of internet research reveals that Mr. Foust’s editorial is little more than a string of creationist sites’ propaganda weakly edited together and presented without attribution. In other words, Mr. Foust is not only incompetent on matters relating to history and science, he is also exposed as a plagiarist.

I am reminded of Augustine of Hippo (Saint Augustine to some), who wrote in his work “The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim),

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. … Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” [ italics referred to 1 Timothy 1:7](translation is by J. H. Taylor in “Ancient Christian Writers,” Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.)

Mr. Foust’s ‘argument’ is that evolutionary biology is the origin and justification for racism and genocide, and that by studying evolution one will promote racism. Mr. Foust’s screed makes not one single true statement of fact, and many false statements of fact, and he commits little more than one long error of reasoning, and of history. His historical error is blatant; racism is far older than the theory of evolution. And hisorically, the Bible has been used far longer as justification of slavery and racism and religious persecutions and murders than any science. His first logical error is ad hominem, reasoning that if he could link something vile with individuals he can then discredit any other idea associated with them. His second is that finding unpleasant- even horrible- application of a scientific theory or philosophical argument invalidates the theory. If this were true, nuclear physics which leads to nuclear weapons, or the germ theory of disease which leads to biological warfare would be discredited. This is incompetent sophistry.

[u]Mr. Foust doesn’t Know Black History or Evolution[/u]

SF, “If evolution is to be believed, black history would include the notion that blacks are still an inferior race - still evolving, but far behind the evolution of white people.”

False, evolutionary theory, particularly those subdisciplines directly involved with human evolution make no such claim. This is a lie. There are biological differences that can be found between human populations. The smaller the biologically related group, the greater are their similarities. Families very often share medical problems that are genetically linked. Humans reproductively isolated within small geographic regions will share many genes. But, every time that anyone tries to extend the analysis to large geographic scales, or to truly significant numbers of variables, the concept of human races fails as a biologically valid concept. I can only offer a brief view of the current understanding of modern evolutionary biology, and anthropology’s understanding of human “race.” Richard Lewontin (1974), “The Genetic Basis Of Evolutionary Change.” New York: Columbia University Press, concluded, “Human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance.” pg. 397 A few additional highlights from Lewontin’s study are worth careful consideration. Only 6.3 percent of the total genetic variation of 17 human polymorphic traits is explained by race, i.e. the between-group variance. Nearly ninety-four percent of human genetic variation occurs as WITHIN-GROUP variation. In other words, for the variables measured individuals within socially determined categories of “race” were more biologically dissimilar from one another than they were between supposedly seperate “races.” Twenty years later Jia, and Chakraborty (1993) found nearly identical results in a study of DNA markers from 12,000 individuals within 59 ethnic groups. They found that up to 98.5 percent of the observed variance occurred WITHIN subpopulations at the individual level. ( Jia, L and R. Chakraborty 1993 “Extent of Within Versus Between Population Variations of VNTR Polymorphisms in Five Major Human Groups.” American Journal of Human Genetics, 53: Abstract #75). See also Michael Cummings, 1994. “Human Heredity: Principles and Issues. 3rd Edition.” St. Paul:West/Wadsworth “These results indicate that individual variation in DNA profiles overwhelm any interpopulational differences, no matter how the populations are ethnically or racially classified.” (1994, pg. 500. (The fourth edition, 1997, has different pagination).

Strikingly, all this was anticipated by Charles Darwin, who considered all human biological variation he observed in his worldwide travels merely due to differences in climate and diet. For example Darwin, wrote in “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex” (John Murray, London, 1871), “It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant.”

[u]Mr. Foust doesn’t Know Charles Darwin[/u]

This leads us to Mr. Foust’s next very ignorant and false statements regarding Darwin’s first major evolutionary text, “Origin of Species.” Darwin’s work did not “popularize the notion of “social evolution.” He did not say that Europeans were the “fittest to survive.” Nor did Darwin refer to humans at all in the title of his 1859 book, nor was he a racist. Four more lies, Mr. Foust.

Darwin in the 1850s wrote in what could be called a dated academic style which without practice can be rather thick reading. Ignorant creationists like to draw sinister conclusions from the title of Darwin’s opus, “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” They are apparently clueless that “Race” in Darwin’s use meant formally a grouping below species. This is how it is used by botanists today for local variations found in plants growing in slightly different soils, or varied amounts of sunlight. As there are no extant human subspecies, there is no scientific reference intended by Darwin to human races. Darwin in fact made virtually no mention of humans at all in “The Origin of Species” Further, popular political writing 150 years ago and even later commonly used “race” to mean nationality; we read from those times about the “Irish race” and the “English race.” A literature student should be ashamed to have so little appreciation of how the usage of words changes between formal and informal usages, let alone over the centuries.

Further, Charles Darwin was an ardent abolitionist at a time when many used the Bible to justify slavery. In 1833 he wrote,

“I have watched how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery. What a proud thing for England, if she is the first European nation which utterly abolishes it. I was told before leaving England, that after living in slave countries: all my opinions would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negro’s character.” Charles Darwin to Catherine Darwin (May 22 - July 14 1833) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 1 1821-1836 (1985), pp. 312-313

In a letter to American Asa Gray, a Christian, noted botanist, and one of Darwin’s scientific supporters, Darwin refered to the Civil War:

“But I suppose you are all too overwhelmed with the public affairs to care for science. I never knew the newspapers so profoundly interesting. N. America does not do England Justice: I have not seen or heard of a soul who is not with the North. Some few, & I am one, even and wish to God, though at the loss of millions of lives, that the North would proclaim a crusade against Slavery. In the long run, a million horrid deaths would be amply repaid in the cause of humanity. What wonderful times we live in. Massachusetts seems to show noble enthusiasm. Great God how I should like to see the greatest curse on Earth Slavery abolished. “ – Charles Darwin to Asa Gray (June 5, 1861) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 9 1861 (1994), p.163.

I recommend the selection of Darwin’s comments regarding race and slavery compiled for the internet by my colleague Troy Britain which I used in part: Darwin on Race.

From “Descent of Man,” Chapter 4, Section 2:

“Slavery, although in some ways beneficial during ancient times, [See Mr. Bagehot, ‘Physics and Politics,’ 1872, p. 72.] is a great crime; yet it was not so regarded until quite recently, even by the most civilised nations. And this was especially the case, because the slaves belonged in general to a race different from that of their masters. As barbarians do not regard the opinion of their women, wives are commonly treated like slaves. “

[u]Mr. Foust doesn’t Know Thomas Huxley[/u]

Next, regarding Thomas Huxley, Mr. Foust, and “The News Record” published a heavily redacted ‘quote,’ Foust most likely copied from some creationist website. This practice known as ‘quote mining’ is very popular with creationists. It is also plagiarism by Mr. Foust, who fails to provide his actual sources. They are most certainly not from Huxley (whom I doubt that Mr. Foust has ever read) as this pseudo-quote is from an essay titled, “Emancipation - Black and White” where Huxley is arguing against discrimination toward blacks and women.

SF, “After the 13th Amendment freed the slaves, Huxley said, “No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal… of the white man. And if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed… he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller-jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried out by thoughts and not by bites.”

The redacted quote is found on numerous creationist and anti-evolution sites, all of which promote the falsehood that evolutionary biology is inherently racist. The earliest presentation in the form used by Mr. Foust I know of was by Henry M. Morris, “Evolution and Modern Racism” IMPACT No. 7 October, 1973. So for at least 30 years this chopped up text has been offered as an ‘evidence’ that evolutionary biology is racist.

Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) was considered a radical reformer and anti-racist for his era. Happily, today his views would be challenged. As a young man (unlike Charles Darwin), Huxley had even supported the institution of slavery. In this he was in agreement of such terrible men as Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. In this essay, Huxley is arguing against slavery, and positively for the proposition that whatever the innate capacities of Negros or Caucasions, of males or females, social oppression is inexcusable. Actually the majority of the essay regards the question of women’s emancipation. Below is the quotation in context, it is from an 1865 essay “Emancipation - Black and White”, where Huxley is arguing against social discrimination toward blacks and women. His remarks must be understood in terms of the times they were made, and in the context of his argument. Namely, that even if on average Negros were of lessor ability than Caucasians this could not be used as a justification for slavery, or discriminatory laws.

The bold text is that which is discarded by the creationists :

It may be quite true that some negroes are better than some white men; but no rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the average white man. And, if this be true, it is simply incredible that, when all his disabilities are removed, and our prognathous relative has a fair field and no favor, as well as no oppressor, he will be able to compete successfully with his bigger-brained and smaller jawed rival, in a contest which is to be carried on by thoughts and not by bites. The highest places in the hierarchy of civilization will assuredly not be within the reach of our dusky cousins, though it is by no means necessary that they should be restricted to the lowest.

Huxley concluded his remarks on the abolition of slavery with,

“The doctrine of equal natural rights may be an illogical delusion; emancipation may convert the slave from a well-fed animal into a pauperised man; mankind may even have to do without cotton-shirts; but all these evils must be faced if the moral law, that no human being can arbitrarily dominate over another without grievous damage to his own nature, be, as many think, as readily demonstrable by experiment as any physical truth. If this be true, no slavery can be abolished without a double emancipation, and the master will benefit by freedom more than the freed-man. (Huxley “Emancipation-Black and White” 1865, pp. 17-18, from “Collected Essays, vol. III”)

I think that perhaps the best qualified commentor on Thomas Huxley’s attitudes toward racial equality is a contemporary, and strongly partisan abolitionist who certainly would have been highly aware of prejudice on Huxley’s part. Mrs. P. A. Taylor, president of the Ladies London Emancipation Society 1864, wrote for the scoiety, “Professor Huxley on the Negro Question.” There she reviews a series of lectures delivered by Huxley to the Royal College of Surgeons on “The Structure and Classification of the Mammalia.” Two of the nine lectures related to humans. Taylor reports Huxley’s possition that,

“The important question now remains-What is the value of the differences which have been shown to exist in the structure of human beings? This question resolves itself into two others. 1. Are these differences sufficient to justify us in supposing them to indicate distinct species of men? 2. Can any of the deviations be considered as transitional towards the lower forms of animals? In respect to the first, it is certain that well-defined types occur in different geographical localities, so distinct that any zoologist, taking a single example of each, without any other evidence, would probably pronounce them to be distinct species; but the fact that every intermediate form can be found between the most typical, and the absence of any proof of their infertility inter se, conclusively show that there is no sufficient ground for the doctrine of the diversity of species among men. As to the second question, it can be answered equally positively.

And she concluded with this summary,

““Clearly the high scientific authority of Professor Huxley is against the favourite notion of the partisans of slavery that there are signs about the negro that he has a place of his own in nature inferior to that of the normal man, and against the desired inference that he may fairly have a treatment corresponding to that place, and be excluded from rights and franchises that are agreed upon amongst men. Professor Huxley might have stopped here-for it was not necessary for him to say, as a man of science, what be might consider these rights and franchises to be. He might have vindicated the title of the Negro physiologically to whatever treatment is proper for human beings as such, and yet he might have believed in the necessity and expediency of slavery within that common society of human beings in which he had declared the Negro to be included. But be steps beyond the circle of the physiologist, and speaks strongly and generously his faith as a man. He believes in the doctrine of freedom, or equal personal rights for all men, and he pronounces the system of slavery to be root and branch an abomination-thus making his physiological definition of the ‘Negro‘s place among men equivalent to an earnest plea for Negro emancipation. Nay, as will have been noted, be goes farther, and, in virtue of the strength of his feeling with respect to slavery, avows a state of opinion regarding the American War in which many who share his feeling with respect to slavery will refuse to go along with him.” (Note: Huxley admired the courage of the Southerners in battle, but urged victory of the North when most British viewed a Southern victory as being in Britain’s economic interest.)

[u]Mr. Foust doesn’t Know Amalie Dietrich[/u]

The next lie told by Mr. Foust smeared a woman whoes contributions to 19th century science are quite properly highly regarded, Amalie Dietrich. Mr. Foust repeats a lie he picked up I surmise from the creationist organization “Answers in Genesis.” Typically lacking in honest scholarship, they in turn relied merely on a popular Australian television program and freely mixed fact with popular fictions.

SF: “German evolutionist Amalie Dietrich would even visit Australia, asking train station owners to shoot Aborigines so she could “keep the specimens.” It was through this that she received the nickname the “Angel of Black Death.” (Compare with AiG Open season on Aborigines)

Amalie Dietrich, a largely self trained German naturalist, spent the years 1863-1872 in northern Queensland, Au. collecting for the Museum Godeffroy in Hamburg, Germany. Amongst her many accomplishments, she collected, and is credited as the discoverer of many species of plants, insects, and vertebrates. She was the first European (1886) to collect a taipan snake, generally considered today as the most deadly in the world. Her Australian bird collection is still the one of the largest generated by an individual, and contains many holotype specimens.

The entire issue of human remains as specimens with a particular focus on Australian Aboriginal remains and their late 20th century repatriation and destruction is addressed by Paul Turnbull, in “Ancestors, not Specimens: Reflections on the Controversy over the Remains of Aboriginal People in European Scientific Collections,” 1997 The Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History. He comments on the small collection of human remains (eight skeletons, one skull, and one dried skin) sent to Europe by Dietrich.

She travelled coastal Queensland between 1863 and 1872, as a naturalist for the Godeffroy Museum, Hamburg. Oral testimony collected by historian Ray Sumner tells of Dietrich having shocked William Archer, a local pastoralist, by asking his help to obtain the “pelt” of an Aborigine. Archer had his overseer immediately drive his guest back to Rockhampton (Sumner, 1985, pp. 127)

Turnbull continued, “The story passed into local legend, surfacing in H.L. Roth’s 1908 History of Mackay as follows:”

The celebrated Godeffroy Museum…had a collector on the coast from 1863 to 1873, who made several ineffectual efforts to induce squatters to shoot an aboriginal, so that she could send the skeleton to the Museum! On one occasion she asked an officer of the Native Police what he would take to shoot so and so, pointing to one of the Native Black Troopers. She got no human skins nor skeletons from the Mackay district.. (Roth, 1908, p. 81).

It seems unlikely that Dietrich asked Archer or one of his workers to kill an Aborigine. What probably so offended Archer, a humanitarian who had good relations with local Aboriginal people, was Dietrich’s utter insensitivity to mortuary custom. In all probability, Aboriginal people of the Rockhampton district posthumously removed skin, dried it and for some time thereafter reverently carried it about their country. Nonetheless, whatever Archer told Dietrich, she sought and finally managed to procure a dried skin from an unknown location, and a skull from the Rockhampton district. And after befriending the Birri Gubba, she procured eight complete skeletons from near Bowen. Back at the Godeffroy Museum, Dietrich was keen to stress to a fellow worker, Alexander Sokolowsky, how hard it had been to procure the various remains, as the Aboriginal people “practised ancestor worship” (Sumner, 1985, p. 328, see also Sumner 1993 gh) From Turnbull 1997.

Nearly all early anthropologists received at least some medical training in human anatomy. And while we might be surprised today, the dissection of human cadavers was illegal in many parts of the world. The medical students of the early 18th century typically robbed recent graves in order to procure bodies for study. In one instance of personal interest to me, the Medical College of Georgia went so far as to purchase a slave who’s sole duty was to go at night to cemeteries in order to procure bodies. He preserved them in barrels of whiskey which he also sold (the whiskey) on the side. These activities generally created a dismissive attitude, and even disdain of funeral practices. Nor did this promote reverence for the decaying tissues of the dead by medical men and scienists. Nearly every museum in the world had supplied itself with human skeletons removed from graves. Christian missionaries supplied these just as often as anyone, since after all, they were not interfering with Christian burials or Christian burial practices. There can be little doubt that Dietrich acquired the human remains in the same manner.

Paul Turnbull 1997 “Ancestors, not Specimens: Reflections on the Controversy over the Remains of Aboriginal People in European Scientific Collections.” The Electronic Journal of Australian and New Zealand History.

Roth, H.L. 1908. “History of Mackay,” Halifax: King.

Sumner, R. 1985 “Amalie Dietrich in Australia”, Brisbane: unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Queensland

_________ 1993 “WOMAN IN THE WILDERNESS: THE STORY OF AMALIE DIETRICH,” The University of New South Wales Press

[u]Mr. Foust doesn’t Know German History![/u]

Mr. Foust asserted that , “… true evolutionists should praise Hitler’s efforts.” This is personally insulting and outrageous. If I thought that Mr. Foust possessed any honor or was capable of shame, I would demand an apology. And for a ‘student’ of German literature, his claim is remarkably incompetent. If Hitler tried to draw rhetorical support from Social Darwinism or evolution, this position is little evident from the text of “Mein Kampf,” and in any event, was merely a twig on the trunk of his anti-Semitism. Hitler’s opposition to what he considered a Marxist threat is not drawn from Darwin, and in any event was more a rationalization of his religious bigotry than its origin. Further, direct evidence from multiple statements by Hitler supports the observation that the theoretical inspiration Hitler drew from was not evolution, but the Germ Theory of Disease, and Christianity. For example, consider the following where we have Hitler, in his argument to Hungary’s Admiral Horthy, invoking not a übermench racist position, but an anti-Bolshevik, and nationalist one,

“The minutes [taken by Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt] for the second day’s meeting, on 17 April 1943, recorded a statement by Ribbentrop, in Hitler’s presence, to a point made by Horthy: “On Horthy’s retort, what should he do with the Jews then, after he had pretty well taken all means of living from them– he surely couldn’t beat them to death– the Reich Foreign Minister [Ribbentrop] replied that the Jews must either be annihilated or taken to concentration camps. There is no other way.”

Hitler almost immediately confirmed Ribbentrop’s explicitly murderous statement at some length: Hitler: “Where the Jews were left to themselves, as for example in Poland, gruesome poverty and degeneracy had ruled. They were just pure parasites. One had fundamentally cleared up this state of affairs in Poland. If the Jews there didn’t want to work [in Third Reich concentration camps], they were shot. If they couldn’t work they had to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, from which a healthy body could be infected. That was not cruel, if one remembered that even innocent natural creatures like hares and deer had to be killed so that no harm was caused. Why should one spare the beasts who wanted to bring us Bolshevism more? Nations who did not rid themselves of Jews perished.” (pg. 92-93, references and footnotes are found in Evans, Richard J. 2001 “Lying about Hitler: History, Holocaust, and The David Irving Trial” New York:Basic Books).

In 1938 the Nazi “Office of Racial Policy” publication Inromationsdienst Martin Luther’s advice on the “proper” treatment of Jews was given prominent display:

… to put their synagogues and schools to fire, and what will not burn, to cover with earth and rubble so that no-one will ever again see anything there but cinders … Second, one should tear down and destroy their houses, for they do also in there what they do in their schools and synagogues … And third, one should confiscate their prayer books and Talmud, in which idolatry and lies, slander and blasphemy is taught” Pg. 88, Proctor, Robert N. 1988 Racial Hygene:Medicine Under the Nazis Boston: Harvard University Press.

The founder of Protestant Christianity was a greater inspiration to the Nazis than any scientist. The Nazi Office of Racial Policy held thousands of public meetings a month promoting anti-semitism and attacking “muddle-headed humanitarianism” (Humanitätsduselei) or, what we call “liberalism” today. Science, politicized in Germany by the same conditions that radicalized both Left, and Right, was used as justification for actions long advocated as “Christian.” The political philosophy called Social Darwinism (divorced in reality from evolutionary biology) through the efforts of Alfred Poletz and to a lesser degree Ernst Haeckel and others was infuential in the organization of the Society for Racial Hygiene (Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene). But more significantly, Poletz was a believer in Nordic superiority, and he quciky formed a secret group of racists active within the Society who were strongly influenced by the racial theories of Arthur Comte de Gobineau published in the early 1850s (well before Darwin’s books). Gobineau’s complimented the creationist theories of the “pre-Adamites” who went so far as to claim that Negroes had been created on the Genesis fifth day with “other beasts of the field.”

The false notion that there were, or could be single issues determining complex social phenomena such as the rise of the Nazis, and the Holocaust is well explored by Goldhagen (1996), and Friedlander (1997). The interested reader should consult their work for insights on the general anti-Semitism of the Europeans and its direct influence on the Holocaust.

Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah 1996 “Hitlers willing Executioner’s: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust” New York: Random House

Friedlander, Saul 1997 “Nazi Germany and the Jews: Vol 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939” New York: HarperCollins

[u]Mr. Foust doesn’t Know Recent History[/u]

With the Hutu-Tutsi slayings Mr. Foust reaches for a new low. There were documented instances where the ethnically motivated murderers had to ask their victims to identify themselves. Further, while the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal indicted and convicted Christian ministers for their crimes agains humanity, no biologists had commited atrocities. False claims of racism, or logic tortured to indict biology have no traction.

Mr. Foust next makes some asinine suggestions to “Black people” in the most arrogant and demeaning way. The average educated person, Black, White, or spotted, can see through the trivialized evolution=racism, but Mr. Foust wants to warn all the po’ Black people what to expect. When I taught at the Medical College of Georgia, we all knew that the KKK and their RFR (religious far-right) allies were part of our past, and probable future. Mr. Foust, your warnings are a revolting arrogance that someone of your callow years and obvious lack of ability should not make.

[u]Mr. Foust is Even Weak on Apologetics[/u]

Allow me one further observation, Mr. Foust tells us, “Society says it is far-fetched to believe that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;” as the book of Acts says.

And he is at last partially correct. The sciences of evolutionary biology and anthropology have established, without reservation or retreat into superstition or any temporary political enthusiasm that we are “of one blood, all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” The rest is still in question.

Dr. Gary S. Hurd

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Ian F. Musgrave and Sheryl L. Anderson for their helpful suggestions. All errors of fact or interpretation are my very own.

Scott Foust is a fourth-year German literature student. Contact him at [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

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Hurd on Scott Foust from Dispatches from the Culture Wars on February 18, 2005 11:23 AM

Gary Hurd, an archaeologist and former Curator of Anthropology at the Orange County Museum of Natural History, has posted at the Panda's Thumb a more thorough fisking of Scott Foust's lunacy than the one I did. Nice work, Gary.... Read More

133 Comments

Nice research. Too bad it had to be done.

Dr. GH, what a pleasure to read what you wrote here. You are a learned man.

Thanks for your kind words. It turned into merely locating one creationist web site after another. Then doing some reading to find how they had lied. Mr. Foust’s “editorial” had very little, if anything, that was original with him. The Dembskis are more obscure, and the Hovinds more bizarre.

My only real personal complaint was missing the window for fishing yesterday. Oh, and the few bucks on the phone bill when I chewed out the newspaper’s editor. (CUE VIOLINS!) heh heh

Abolitionist, not “abolutionist.”

Abolitionist, not “abolutionist.”

DoHHH

Thanks!

I’ve managed to steer clear of the science/creationist conflict for many months, but (as a former Cincinnatian myself) this particular screed really irked me… and I felt compelled to respond to this fellow’s hate-mongering garbage:

“Though evolution=racism is an oft-deployed creationist canard, I’m still surprised (and saddened) whenever I see it appear… whether in a newspaper article (written by a student who, one would think, should no better), or on the floor of a state legislature (a bill condemning Charles Darwin as racist was introduced… and defeated… last year in Louisiana, for example).

If anything, the study of evolution shows the superficiality of what popular culture thinks of as “race.” so much so as to make “race” a completely vacuous notion from an evolutionary standpoint. Those traits which distinguish our species… language, intelligence, ability to use tools, adaptability to widely varying environments, etc. are common to us all, and were established in our species long before such recent (and relatively trivial) adaptations such as skin color or epicanthic eye folds appeared.

Leaving aside his many errors of fact, the author of this article clearly has no understanding of evolutionary biology whatever, and should be ashamed of himself for perpetuating this kind of creationist nonsense.”

Well Gary

What a tour de force - I agree with the other poster that it is sad that your articel was necessary in the first place - but Damn you nailed him!

I guess when one follows the creationism stupidity from the side line it is easy sometimes to get accustomed to their strange claims. Mr Fousts article *was* insulting to not only scientists but to “black” people - and since all us pale skins are no different from the darker types to all of humanity.

Your articel is the best I’ve seen for quite a while!

/Søren

Foust…Foust.… Hmmm, sounds familiar, ahh yes, Dr. Faust, the man who sells his soul to the devil. From Wikipedia

After reading this, I am left with the impression that this character’s goal was not to inform or convince but solely to incite. So many errors, in so few words; it boggles the mind.

It can only be intentional. Only, I fear, in this case it wasn’t the devil young foust sold his soul to, it was Ken Ham.

Dr Faust by Marlowe: http://www.arn.org/ubb/ultimatebb.p[…]/001963.html

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships, And burnt the topless towers of Ilium– Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.

O, thou art fairer than the evening air Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars; Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter When he appear’d to hapless Semele; More lovely than the monarch of the sky In wanton Arethusa’s azur’d arms; And none but thou shall be my paramour!

/Søren

This is the best I’ve read since the stuff about Stalin’s regime and Lamarckianism.

Good show, GH!

GH,

great article, especially the well sourced and worded part on the often touchy issue conerning use of christian and pseudo-scientific rhetorics by the Nazis. Just to add my two cents, the only place I have seen explicitely evolutionary (as opposed to social darwinist) Nazi propaganda has been concerning euthanasia and forced sterilisation of handicapped people. And even there it is nothing but a pretty thinly veiled appeal to fear. On the whole the Nazis seemed to have used anything that produced the right effect - in the case of antisemitism ranging from historic anti-Judaism in Christianity to modern anticommunist and anticapitalist propaganda as well as some strange social darwinist claims about ethnical parasitism. So, everybody’s fears and resentments could be targeted.

Nice article, but I wonder about that qoute from St Augustine. Do you know what position he was arguing against? Was it the belief in a flat Earth that was held by a few early Christians? It was far too early to refer to the geocentric/heliocentric debate.

Since this is an article about scientific errors, I should correct one of yours. Einstein’s general theory of relativity doesn’t lead to nuclear weapons, it is a theory about gravity with few practical applications. I suspect you think about the special theory and the famous equation E=mc^2, but that doesn’t lead to nuclear weapons either. This equation is as true for a stick of dynamite as for a nuclear bomb, and as useless for building either. It’s merely a coincidence that relativity was discovered at the same time as nuclear fission. Einstein’s sole contribution to the nuclear bomb was the letter he wrote to Roosevelt, suggesting that USA ought to build one before the Germans. I suspect the reason for this myth about Einstein being important for the nuclear bomb is simply because he is the one superstar in physics everyone has heard of so he *ought* to have been out in Los Alamos.

And historically, the Bible has been used far longer as justification of slavery and racism and religious persecutions and murders than any science.

This is the same kind of stupid, junior high school caricature you are supposedly trying to attack. It conveniently neglects the fact that Christians played a large role in abolishing slavery and in fighting racism. This is evident today. There is, for example, less anti-Semitism in the U.S. when compared to Europe not in spite of the fact that the U.S. is more Christian but because of it. You just couldn’t make your point without the little juvenile swipe, could you?

The founder of Protestant Christianity was a greater inspiration to the Nazis than any scientist.

More of the same. This kind of statement is the moral equivalent of what you are attacking. And I would love to debate you at length on this statement, in any venue, at anytime.

Nice going “Dr.” You have attacked an essay of sophomoric, unsubstantiated generalizations in kind. Kudos.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity which leads to nuclear weapons

Um, sorry, not unless nuclear weapons are designed on the basis of the curvature of space-time near massive objects.

”…E=mc^2, but that doesn’t lead to nuclear weapons either. This equation is as true for a stick of dynamite as for a nuclear bomb…”

No, not true. In a nuclear bomb matter is converted into energy. In dynamite, the reaction is purely chemical. No mass is converted.

” … E=mc^2, but that doesn’t lead to nuclear weapons either. This equation is as true for a stick of dynamite as for a nuclear bomb … “

Heh, well, technically, yes this is true, special relativity is always ‘in effect’ - I’m just seeing an implication that matter is converted to energy when you touch off some dynamite that maybe you didn’t even intend.

Thomas,

as far as I can tell the Augustinos cite is so important, because the final sentence in it is the first on the book to make the point, that trying to treat ‘holy scripture’ not as mythological stories and theological essays, but as factual information on the natural world, does nothing but show the bull-headed ignorance of those doing so, both regarding knowledge about the world and the theological intent of the scripture.

Augustine believed that creation was instantaneous. This is a useful point in the debate between old-earth Christians and young-earth Christians, since the the man generally regarded by both Protestants and Catholics as the greatest Christian theologian of the first millenium (if not all time) did not take a strictly literal view of the Genesis creation account. After all, instantaneous is just as non-literal as 14.5 billion years.

Hey Gary,

How many black guys you know with PhD’s in biology?

Carey Wrote:

No mass is converted.

If you can remove energy from a closed system without reducing its mass then you’ve falsified the equation e=mc^2.

Good luck with that.

In the meantime your statement is untrue.

DaveScot:

Hey Gary, How many black guys you know with PhD’s in biology?

At long last, DaveScot reveals his true character. While I can’t speak for the management here at PT, I’d be quite content if you’d just crawl back under whatever rock you’ve emerged from, and not return here. You have nothing worthwhile to contribute, and, indeed, you reveal your stunning ignorance with every comment.

I see David Heddle’s sensitivities are irritated.

This is the same kind of stupid, junior high school caricature you are supposedly trying to attack.

Your problem is, it just happens to be absolutely true. And very thoroughly documented. Pointing out truths YOU don’t like is not stupid or childish. Denying them is. Try again.

It conveniently neglects the fact that Christians played a large role in abolishing slavery and in fighting racism.

It also conveniently ignores everything else irrelevant to the statement itself. However, your implication that the slaveowners were not Christian is simply not true. Indeed, the former slaveholding states are not referred to as the “bible belt” for no reason. Do you even THINK about these things? The entire Civil War was Christians against Christians, because that’s what most citizens of both nations were. The Christians with the greater resource base won.

There is, for example, less anti-Semitism in the U.S. when compared to Europe not in spite of the fact that the U.S. is more Christian but because of it.

The problem with this statement is, there is no common scale for measuring anti-Semitism, and no way to associate it with any religion. You yourself conveniently ignore the Christian Identity movement. Perhaps you “forgot” what the KKK burned in their rituals?

I’m sorry history casts your faith in such a sorry light. But there might be a reason for it worth contemplating. Throwing a tantrum, while characteristic, is not helpful.

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… it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. … Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions …

Their “wiser brethren” (with PhDs and all) are not much better when it comes to being an embarrassment to their faith. Ignorance knows no bounds.

on the various side topics so far:

more specifically, in a nuclear *fission* bomb (fusion is its own beast), the energy is released by splitting the atom – and the mass increases in the two remaining smaller nucleii. Energy is contained in the nucleus in the form of the “Strong Force”, fighting the natural tendency for protons to magnetically push themselves apart. That energy comes by the loss of mass of the neutrons.

when split, less energy is needed to hold the remaining nucleii together, and that energy is released (and there is a LOT of it…the speed of light squared is a rather large number).

dynamite and similar reactions (even basic “fire”) are strictly chemical ones, and work on the the “weak” force of molecular bonding. this is not the same thing as e=mc^2, and in no way is mass lost in a chemical reaction of this nature. the atoms don’t change at all, only their molecular bonds. trust me, if even one instance burning oxygen with carbon in your cells released energy at the e=mc^2 level, you would cease to exist…and so would most of the things around you in a 20 foot radius.

(though yeah, I think it was special relativity, 15 years before general relativity, that introduced the infamous equation)

i also tire of complaints like those of Mr. Heddle, that take the actions of recent christianity, circa the enlightenment and beyond, and try to use them to assert that christians were never wrong in the past or that christian and biblical writings were never used out of context or for supporting morally reprehsensive policies.

as posted, there were a LOT of sources (in effect, their own variation of quote-mining) that were used to justify publically the atrocities of the nazi period. but Luther and other christian writings (though not the bible directly) were very common even as germany was converted from a nation worshipping the christian God into a nation worshiping itself.

there may be for less anti-semitism in the united states *now*, but that doesn’t solely come from being christians. it comes from the recognition that racial discrimination is morally wrong, regardless of how individuals came to that conclusion. many athiests, including every one I know, are extremely anti-discriminatory (in spite of creationist rhetoric). most are that way because its simply the right thing, not because of any modern (meaning post-enlightenment) interpretation of “love your neighbor as yourself”.

the golden rule simply is, regardless of how it is expressed. in this, the bible speaks a philosophical truth, but it is not the only (nor was it even the first) work to speak that.

If Nazis used anything remotely “evolution sounding” in there doctrine (and they did), then it is dismissed (as it should be) as a misuse and rationalization of their doctrine, a co-opting and distortion of evolution for their own purposes. However if they adopt the same methods using Christianity, it is assumed that they were in fact orthodox Christians.

He said no such thing. Misuse and rationalization through quote-mining is wrong and should be dismissed. The Nazi use of christian and lutheran writings was to justify their actions to a non-skeptical public and rationalize it among themselves. they were not “orthodox” in any way, and the references to them in the article here and the comments made no such assertion.

Hey Gary,

How many black guys you know with PhD’s in biology?

Several more than there are on the faculty at the Institute for Creation Research, or that are signatories of the Discovery Institute letter, or are fellows at the Discovery Institute.

What an odd, odd question, Dave. Why do you ask?

I actually contacted Mr Foust via e-mail upon reading his article. I argued with him about his points for several messages, and was not impressed. Quite sad that a senior in college has so little grasp of reality. (Me being a junior in college, lol)

David Heddle:

The same with the KKK when klansman (and former klansman, like the Democratic senator from West Virginia) co-opt Christianity, misuse the bible, and adopt Christian symbols for their vile purposes. These groups are not Christian but sadly find it convenient to hide behind the mantle. The hypocrisy on this post and your comment is that you acknowledge this insidious tactic when used against evolutionists but embrace it when used against Christians.

And so when some group uses their faith and their scripture to justify things you approve of, you credit their religion. The abolitions were “real Christians” because slavery is now disapproved. When another group uses exactly the same faith and scripture to justify something you dislike, then they are not “real Christians”. Is that it? But you conveniently forget that some of the heroes of the Bible owned slaves, approved of slavery, and even recommended rules for the practice. I presume you are engaging in the rather common practice of selective interpretation, and simply tuning out those parts of your scripture that don’t fit your current requirements. And this is not hypocrisy?

I didn’t say anything about “orthodox Christians” because I don’t understand the phrase to have any meaning when there are thousands of Christian sects, all of them accusing all the others of heresy of some kind. I live in Alabama. I hear the locals preaching often enough. There is no mistaking the racist undertones, the assumption that God placed the whites above the blacks for spiritual reasons, and it says so right in the Bible! They are exactly like you in dismissing those who can’t see this as misusing the bible and perverting scripture for politically correct purposes.

And although I don’t expect you to notice, there is a genuine qualitative difference between misrepresenting a scientific theory almost universally agreed to have a specific meaning, and finding one (of thousands) of congenial scriptural interpretations, ALL of which are congenial to those who hold them. One is based on evidence, the other is based on preference.

In 1845, both the Baptist and Methodist churches split into northern and southern factions over the issue of slavery. For every northern abolitionist motivated by religion, there was a southern supporter of slavery motivated by religion.

No major religion condemned slavery until after the Enlightenment; arguably, it was Enlightenment thinking or its effect on religious thinking, not religious thinking as such, that led to abolition.

In the American south, religious leaders used passages such as Genesis 9:24-27 (… Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren…) in support of enslaving black people. The Bible supports enslaving people other than your own. I would not want to overstate this thesis, but biblical literalism and hence creationism in the United States may be a direct result of religious leaders supporting slavery in the American south.

The same with the KKK when klansman (and former klansman, like the Democratic senator from West Virginia) co-opt Christianity, misuse the bible, and adopt Christian symbols for their vile purposes. These groups are not Christian but sadly find it convenient to hide behind the mantle. The hypocrisy on this post and your comment is that you acknowledge this insidious tactic when used against evolutionists but embrace it when used against Christians.

The irony is that the most pro-Jewish faction in the church in the USA are so because they want biblical prophesy to be fulfilled, which - if you take such things literally - would bring on Armageddon and the virtual anihilation of the Jewish people (only 144,000 would be left).

Also would you discount Martin Luther as a Christian?

Martin Luther: The Jews and Their Lies

I had made up my mind to write no more either about the Jews or against them. But since I learned that these miserable and accursed people do not cease to lure to themselves even us, that is, the Christians, I have published this little book, so that I might be found among those who opposed such poisonous activities of the Jews who warned the Christians to be on their guard against them. I would not have believed that a Christian could be duped by the Jews into taking their exile and wretchedness upon himself. However, the devil is the god of the world, and wherever God’s word is absent he has an easy task, not only with the weak but also with the strong. May God help us. Amen

Hmm…

But all this talk of anti-semitism is missing the original point of bringing up Hitler’s use of Martin Luther’s words to justify his Jewish pogrom. It is simply to point out that the author’s attempt to link Hilter with evolution is as fallaceous - maybe even more so.

If creationists would stop using this ridiculous argument that Hitler’s “endorsement” of evolutionary ideas proves evolution is racist, then we would be able stop showing that you also use Hitler’s writings to prove the same about Christianity.

All dictators and evil people use whatever tools are available to them to gain and maintain power, and that includes twisting scientific and religious ideas to their own nefarious purposes.

Pointing out there are genetic differences between bald eagles and people amkes you a racist? Evolution explains those differences and why they might have developed, but does not pass judgement. The theory of evolution doesn’t judge anything, it explains natures “judgements”.

Posted by DonkeyKong on February 21, 2005 10:19 AM:

Raceism [sic] is the belief that different races have differences that are genetic. Usually a difference in intelligence. Were a business to make hiring decisions based on race for the purpose of hiring the most intelligent employees on average that is called racist. If your theory says that hiring one race or not another race fits this objective then you are supporting that racism.

Intelligence is not the end all and be all of survivability. As someone already pointed out, a trait in one environment may not be as beneficial in another environment. Hence, there is no universal idea of “fittest.” Besides, if intelligence were the universal measure of fitness, you wouldn’t be here.

donkeykong Wrote:

Do you know what racism is? Raceism is the belief that different races have differences that are genetic. Usually a difference in intelligence.

Well, I do not know the definition (if there is a generally accepted one), but yours is definitely false. First of all, the concept of race - at least as applied to humans - has long been abandoned in biology. If you deny that “races”, for example of dogs, have no genetic differences, well, then this discussion can be ended now. It is a fact that different races are genetically different. That the difference is usually in intelligence, is also wrong, because there are myriads of traits which are relevant for fitness, intelligence being only one.

donkeykong Wrote:

Were a business to make hiring decisions based on race for the purpose of hiring the most intelligent employees on average that is called racist. If your theory says that hiring one race or not another race fits this objective then you are supporting that racism.

Actually, that business would be called stupid, not racist. At least by people with brains. There is no correlation between skin color and intelligence.

donkeykong Wrote:

Why are evolutionsists uncomfertable with the direct consequences of their beliefs? If you aren’t proud of your racism how can you be proud of the rest of evolution?

Wrong. “Evolutionists” are not uncomfortable. Perhaps if they are christians and see how their religion is used. I know of several people who turned away from Christianity because of the bigotry of literalists. But accepting evolution has nothing to do with belief, but with proof and hard thinking of a lot of bright people, quite the contrary to belief and religion. As racism does not follow from evolution, your last question is utterly meaningless. And trust me, nobody is proud of evolution. You cannot be proud of a fact, you can be proud of the human mind who figured it all out.

bcpmoon: You cannot be proud of a fact, you can be proud of the human mind who figured it all out.

Great line, can I steal that from you?

DonkeyKong: Intelligence will be the criteria of success in the future.

Yes it will, but that very same intelligence will over come the sheer silliness that is today collectively known as creationism!

DonkeyKong: Dude read more. Evolution clearly says survival of the fittest. The definition of fittest keeps changing I will grant you that but seriously read origion of species or something.

If all genes expressed today were equal then all species would have a equal chance for extinction. I think you would find that Humans are much less likely to go extinct than bald eagles.

The very premis of most fit is key to evolution. If it were survival of the randomly selected then the whole increase in complexity over time argument goes out the window.

Don’t be in denial about what evolution is about.

First of all, I NEVER said all genes were equal! What I said was that any given set of genes could be more fit given a particular environment, not that all genes were equal in that same environment.

Again, I will close with this point: fitness is a moving target, based on its environment. Since humanity has the ability to greatly affect its environment, a much broader set of genes is classified as “most fit” thus COMPLETELY circumnavigating the whole racism issue, since skin color, physical ability, intelligence, adaptability to new environments can all be supplanted.

Finally, I would like to point out that nowhere did I ever suggest a comparison between species, I was only referring to genetic differences found among humainty!

DonkeyKong:

You also fall prey to a very common fallacy about evolution: that of “random mutation” and selection.

Let us conduct a hypothetical experiment: A (human) individual is born (lets say a thousand years ago). This individual is born with two “random” mutations: 1) s/he is born with an intellegence far superior to any human then or now. 2) s/he is born with a abnormally slow metabolic rate.

Now suppose this person was born in the Siberian plains in the middle of winter.

The environment of that child will determine the survivability of that individual, not its inherant intelligence. The environment determines the “fitness” not the “random mutations” of the individual!

Thus while random mutations do occur in the genetic makeup of humans, it alone is not sufficient to determine “fitness”…

Thus your jump from “randomly selected” to “more complexity” is not only moot, but misguided. We are today, where we are on the scale of evolution due to a huge number of factors. Complexity is nothing more than a combination of random mutations/recombinations/duplications and there ability to respond to their environment.

That is what On the Origin of Species is all about. Not some farcical jump from random mutations occurring in a vacuum to denying an increase in complexity. The environment requires an increase in complexity if survivability or fitness is to occur over the long haul.

Now put that in your irony pipe and smoke it!

jeff-perado:

Thanks, feel free to use it. But come to think of it, the phrase sounds very much like hybris, which as a cardinal sin could offend religious people…

Speaking of hybris, both the abuse of religion and the abuse of biology in the name of racism are prime examples of it, namely trying to dictate to an authority one is pretending to submit to. In the case of evolution and its ‘eugenic’ use, the definition of fitness has been changed to represent the wishes of a political or philosophical movement to lend an air of biological destiny to its members and the stench of deserved obsolesence to all undesirables, instead of letting the natural conditions decide what and whom to be ‘fitter’ under the given circumstances. This is one of the reasons, why stating phylogenesis as a teleological process is not only bad science, as an aim can not be demonstrated, but philosophically risky, too. In the case of digging up prejudice from biblical and ecclesiastic sources, it is again the unwillingless to let the authority, in this case the central teachings of Christianity, speak for itself. In the case of the Nazis, this danger has already been pinpointed in the 1934 declaration of Barmen, where theologians wary of the first attempts to bring the churches under state control ‘rejected the false teaching that the gospel should be employed to further any political programme’(cited and translated from memory). The tragic irony is not only, that anti-evolutionists happily give the religon thus misused the benefit of the doubt, but are loath to extend the same courtesy to equally maltreated scientific concepts, claiming them to actually show their true faces. At least as bad is the lack of respect for the authorities invoked on their part, defining the acceptable outcome of both science and religion, and defining every falsification or dissent as dangerous, unfair, erronous or dogmatic. Thus neither inquiery into the natural world nor into religious documents and personal faith are given anything near the deferrence loudly claimed by proponents of ID and SciCre.

Stop smoking crack.

“First of all, the concept of race - at least as applied to humans - has long been abandoned in biology. If you deny that “races”, for example of dogs, have no genetic differences, well, then this discussion can be ended now. It is a fact that different races are genetically different. That the difference is usually in intelligence, is also wrong, because there are myriads of traits which are relevant for fitness, intelligence being only one.”

Biology abandoned race as a concept in humans?? You silly little twit. Humans have genetic differences. Sciencists don’t yet fully understand how genes are expressed by gunk DNA. But you with your little mind have spoken for biology that the concept of race is invalid among humans.…

Totally at odds with genetic difference among humans and genetic differences being the engine of evolution.

READ forest READ

Hmm

Science or religion?

“Actually, that business would be called stupid, not racist. At least by people with brains. There is no correlation between skin color and intelligence.”

There is a rather striking correlation between nations predominantly of one race being devoloped relative to nations predominantly of another race.

Call me silly names but that is a very clear correlation.

You do understand correlation don’t you?

Or do you need to.….

READ forrest READ

All together now…

“First of all, I NEVER said all genes were equal! What I said was that any given set of genes could be more fit given a particular environment, not that all genes were equal in that same environment.”

And by doing the logical thing and selecting job applicants for the set of genes that is in vogue today. Which would maximize profits as they are the most FIT genes.

Is called Racism whenever any of the fit genes is exclusive to a race or at least over represented to the point that racial makeup is a valid predictor.

This is like group denial.

“The environment requires an increase in complexity if survivability or fitness is to occur over the long haul.”

And yet virus persist.…and bacteria etc. The human race is much more likely to fall to these than to a more evolved species.

Maybe they didn’t get the memo.

So your hypothesis seems false…

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The comments have degenerated to absurdity. They are serving no purpose other than as a playground for some very silly creationist cant.

Thank you to all those who made cogent remarks, several of whom improved my original post and contributed to the next “Mark IV” version.

Good day.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Gary Hurd published on February 17, 2005 9:21 PM.

The heckler’s veto over evolution was the previous entry in this blog.

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