Historians We Need Yourecent comments suggesting that parents have a “moral obligation to select ethically better children” were more than just another move in the on-going eugenics revival. The Oxford professor’s misrepresentation of the science, and castigation of opponents, was another entry in the growing list of uses of evolution’s Warfare Thesis which is at the heart of today’s culture wars.
In the nineteenth century evolutionists such as Darwin confidant Thomas Huxley, chemistry professor John Draper and Cornell University cofounder Andrew White constructed a false history, casting evolutionists as the latest in a long history of heroic truth seekers who faced religious intolerance and opposition at every turn.
History, as they say, is told by the winners. This is nowhere more true than in evolution’s contrived war between religion and science where evolutionists wrap themselves in virtue. Historians have long since recognized the Warfare Thesis as flawed, but that is for the halls of academia. In the real world the Warfare Thesis rhetoric has proven to be far too powerful to reign in.
And that is the problem here. Ever since its foundation was laid in the nineteenth century, the Warfare Thesis has found increasing application. It can be recognized by its two basic components: an attack on science and an attack on scientists.
The science is manipulated and misrepresented and said to make evolution a fact beyond all reasonable doubt. And scientists who do harbor reasonable doubts that the world spontaneously arose are cast as the antagonists. The codeword here is “denier,” as in Holocaust denier. It conjures up images of willful ignorance of the obvious scientific facts to advance an ulterior motive. Ironically this is, in fact, an accurate description of the evolutionists themselves.
The most prominent application of the Warfare Thesis is in the play and movie, Inherit the Wind, which evolutionists use to falsely frame the origins debate. You can read more about this here, here, here, here and here. Ironically the script was originally intended to combat the anti intellectualism of the McCarthy era. It now advances the anti intellectualism of evolutionary thought, complete with blackballing of scientists.
What is even more alarming, however, is the growing use of the Warfare Thesis even outside of evolutionary circles. Savulescu’s new eugenics is not based on solid science (sorry, but there is scant evidence that genetic tinkering can lead to ethically better children). Nonetheless, we should offer genetic selection because “To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality.” In other words, if you disagree it is not out of concern for the rather obvious bioethics issues, but out of cowardice and irrationality.
Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is another theory that has been cast in the Warfare Thesis template. The science is certainly better than evolution’s, but AGW is nowhere near as certain as its proponents declare. And scientists who do not sign on are routinely disparaged. Recently President Obama lent his voice to the Warfare Thesis:
We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.
There, in one rhetorically-charged phrase, is the Warfare Thesis: “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science.” It would be difficult to conjure up a more succinct summation of the Warfare Thesis template.
AWG may well be true, it may be false, or it may be somewhere in between. But there is no such “overwhelming judgment of science.” That is an abuse of science.
And so once again, it is not the theory that is the problem, but the Warfare Thesis template into which it is cast. One might hope that, with all the good historical scholarship, we would be moving beyond such sophomoric rhetoric. But even President Obama, who once encouraged us so when he called for more understanding and dialog in our heated public debates, is resorting to the Warfare Thesis. Unfortunately, rather than moving toward more understanding and dialog, the Warfare Thesis seems to be just warming up.