Weekend Reads

Ross Douthat, “Among The Believers”

Steve Chalke, “Have We Misread The Bible?”

Emily Asher-Perry, “You All Forgot That Luke Skywalker is a BAMF”

“5 Ways To Deter A Pedophile”

Paul Wehner, “Christians Should Speak Out Against The Rising Persecution of Gays Overseas”

Randall Rauser, “Is Atheism A Default Position?”

Alastair Roberts, “Chris Seitz on the Biblical Crisis in the Homosexuality Debates”

Stanley Hauerwas, “The End of Charity: How Christians are (not) to ‘Remember the Poor'”

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No, Ken Ham, Darwin Was Not A Racist

I was fortunate enough to be able to post this response to one of Ken Ham’s claims during his debate with Bill Nye on God of Evolution. It’s an excellent blog that everyone interested in the science/religion conversation should read regularly. 

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The pottery medallion created by Darwin’s grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, for his anti-slavery campaign.

The debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye the other day surprised me in a number of different ways. I wasn’t expecting much at all and I was bracing for a train wreck. But the debate turned out to be quite civilized and the interactions between the two interlocutors were respectful and well-mannered. In regards to content, they both did quite well presenting their cases. Ken Ham was kind of all over the place, especially towards the end, and in contrast to Bill Nye’s factual and pragmatic case for the scientific superiority of evolution, attempted to build his argument as much on theology and ethics as on science. But while The Science Guy’s easy to understand presentation of science was strong, his comments on religion, especially the Bible, were woefully ignorant. Also, Ken Ham had better PowerPoint.

I doubt any minds were changed by the debate. If you thought any one of the debaters won, you were probably rooting for the guy to begin with.

One thing I’d like to acknowledge, though, was the generally positive nature of Ken Ham’s presentation. Those familiar with creationist arguments — perhaps especially those on the receiving end of said arguments — know well how negative, fear-mongering and demonizing they can be. Ken Ham could easily have resorted to such tactics and scored culture war points with his audience. But he didn’t.

Mostly.

As Ken Ham went through the scientific predictions he argued creationism could make, he claimed that creationism predicted that human beings are all one race (a point related to the “kinds”-argument and microevolution made just before). Since we all can trace our ancestry back to one set of gardening parents, we are all the same race. Which is fair. What was not so fair was his characterization of evolutionary theory as essentially racist.

Some 46 minutes into the debate, Ken Ham makes this claim: Evolution, as expressed by Darwin in his book“The Descent of Man” and later taught to unsuspecting American school children, supplies the logic required to segregate human races according to higher and lower worth. It was only after Craig Venter’s alternativehuman genome project, Ham claims, that secular science found out what biblical creationists had always known: There is only one race — the human race. Ken Ham presents this as going against evolution as expressed by Darwin.

This is wrong.

Darwin was certainly a man of his time: A Victorian gentleman with views about “savages” that would be less than politically correct these days. But despite his ignorance and privilege, Darwin was no racist. He did not teach that there were lower races and higher races, as Ham claims. In fact, the idea that humanity consisted of higher and lower races was precisely what he set out to refute in “The Descent of Man” — the very book Ken Ham mentions! For Darwin, the logic and evidence of the evolutionary process was that all human beings came from a common ancestor. Mankind could be intelligibly classified into different races, groups belonging to the same species having adapted to life in different environments. But all were part of the same species, deserving of the same basic dignity and worth. Darwin dryly observed:

“Now when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small details of habits, tastes, and dispositions between two or more domestic races, or between nearly-allied natural forms, they use this fact as an argument that they are descended from a common progenitor who was thus endowed; and consequently that all should be classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied with much force to the races of man.” (Descent, 179)

This was more than a century before Venter.

Furthermore, in their 2009 book, “Darwin’s Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin’s Views on Human Evolution,” Darwin biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore argue that for Darwin, the essential equality of the races was not just a scientific conclusion reached through observation. Rather, it was a moral imperative for him. For all of his life, Darwin was a fierce opponent of the institution of slavery and the cruelty that came with it. Both of his grandfathers — Erasmus Darwinand Josiah Wedgwood — were prominent abolitionists and Charles imbibed their righteous fervor against slavery from an early age. A potter by trade, Wedgwood is remembered for mass producing his “slave medallion,” a cameo depicting a shackled and pleading black slave, with the famous inscription underneath:“Am I not a Man and a Brother?”

Darwin brought this moral indignation with him as a young explorer on his voyage on the Beagle. There he witness the horrible mistreatment and torture faced by slaves in South America. Desmond and Moore argue, somewhat controversially, that it was Darwin’s passion against slavery that lay behind his writing “On the Origin of Species,” and later “The Descent of Man.” Convincingly arguing for and publicizing the theory of evolution was, for him, not merely a scientific pursuit, but a moral and social one as well. In the face of evolution, no one could claim that certain races could lay claim to the title and associated benefits of “humanity” over against another, who they then could enslave.

No matter differences in appearance, common descent unites us all and is the foundation of basic human equality. For Darwin, evolution made slavery impossible.

Christians would want to say more and root human equality, dignity and rights not in common descent, but in the Imago Dei. But we should recognize and celebrate how Darwin viewed his theory and encourage such a helpful interpretation of it.

Obviously, a cursory familiarity with history demonstrates that things haven’t been as simple as Darwin hoped. Evolution was subsequently used by eugenicists and others to support their racist ideas — just as Ken Ham mentioned with his reference to a 1914 biology text book. But such sentiments weren’t based on, as Ham said, “Darwin’s ideas, which were wrong.” Rather, they represented the twisting of Darwin’s ideas. Which is wrong. To project them back unto Darwin himself would be to deeply disrespect the moral character of the gentleman abolitionist. It would be just as unfair as chucking out the Bible because it has been similarly misused by slavery apologists and other racists throughout the centuries.

Ken Ham is absolutely correct in pointing out that creationism is anti-racist. But his insinuation that evolution is racist is a grave misunderstanding of both the theory and its implications, in addition to being a defamation of Darwin himself — who fought actively against slavery all of his life and argued that, fundamentally, all men are equal.

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Weekend Reads

Michael Ruse, “Is It Wrong To Teach Children About God?”

Scott Bixby, “My $295 Skype Exorcism”

Kevin Davis, “Al Mohler is more humble than evolutionists”

Chaplain Mike, “John Walton’s Excellent Take On The Debate”

Matthew Lee Anderson, “On the Number of Zygote Deaths and the Meaning of Pro-Life”

Lee M., “Science, Faith and Cognitive Dissonance”

Andrea Palpant Dilley, “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries”

Tyler Francke, “Why Ken Ham’s scientific defense of young-earth creationism just doesn’t make any sense”

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Music Monday – Ihsahn, “Tacit”

Can’t say I’ve been an avid follower of the former Emperor frontman, but I’ve really enjoyed the twisted experimentation of Ihsahn’s recent forays into progressive metal. It’s very organic, but not pleasantly so – which is what I like about it. It’s really harsh, almost offensive, but precisely that harshness creates the contrast which allows the intermittent beauty to make a special impact.

This song is from his most recent album, Das Seelenbrechen (a Nietzschean term, by the way), which was released in October last year.

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Sunday Reads

Michael Jensen, “The Art of Confession In An Age of Denial”

Kevin Davis, “Emil Brunner Revisited”

Edward Feser, “The Pointlessness of Jerry Coyne”

Nathan Smith, “How To Talk To Family About Evolution”

Tim Stafford, “Our Children Should Not Have To Choose Between Science And Faith”

Charlie Jane Anders, “The Best “Entry Level” Science Fiction Books to Convert Your Friends”

Lawrence Garcia, “Stop Using “Literalist” for Genesis 1 Creationists: No Seriously, Stop It”

Thomas Baekdal, “How In-app Purchases Has Destroyed The Industry”

Michael Booth, “Dark lands: the grim truth behind the ‘Scandinavian miracle'”

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Music Tuesday – Carpark North feat. Stine Bramsen, “32”

I’ve been a fan of Carpark’s since my best friend and I poured over every single musical detail on their debut album back in 2003. Those were some good car rides.

“32” is the first single off their new and long-awaited album, Phoenix, which came out yesterday. I heard the song live last summer and, along with the album, it’s vintage Carpark: Electronically fused very melodic and very dynamic stadium rock. I love the angularity of the opening riff and, of course, the sing-along chorus. The vocals, especially Stine Bramsen’s, are a compelling organic counterpoint to the distorted electronics. Really good.

If you get the album, which you should, check out “Phoenix”, the title track, especially. I’ve been obsessed with that riff ever since I heard the song for the first time a couple of weeks ago. And the positive lyrics have really spoken into my life with some of stuff I’m going through at the moment.

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Music Monday – Mandroid Echostar, “The Sleeper”

From their EP Citadels, which can be bought here. I love the interplay between the prog and the rock-out. The guitar-work, especially, stands out. I love the bluesy solo and I love the groove it’s played over. Mandroid Echostar sound what Protest the Hero, featuring the singer (and his hair) from Coheed and Cambria, would sound like on a mild tranquilliser.

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