AEI and evolution

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Matthew Yglesias links to this depressing NYT article about some AEI conference where a bunch of conservatives expresed skepticism about evolution:
For some conservatives, accepting Darwin undercuts religious faith and produces an amoral, materialistic worldview that easily embraces abortion, embryonic stem cell research and other practices they abhor. As an alternative to Darwin, many advocate intelligent design, which holds that life is so intricately organized that only an intelligent power could have created it.


The reference to stem cells suggests just how wide the split is. "The current debate is not primarily about religious fundamentalism," Mr. West, the author of "Darwin's Conservatives: The Misguided Quest" (2006), said at Thursday's conference. "Nor is it simply an irrelevant rehashing of certain esoteric points of biology and philosophy. Darwinian reductionism has become culturally pervasive and inextricably intertwined with contemporary conflicts over traditional morality, personal responsibility, sex and family, and bioethics."


Skeptics of Darwinism like William F. Buckley, Mr. West and Mr. Gilder also object. The notion that "the whole universe contains no intelligence," Mr. Gilder said at Thursday's conference, is perpetuated by "Darwinian storm troopers."

"Both Nazism and communism were inspired by Darwinism," he continued. "Why conservatives should toady to these storm troopers is beyond me."

A few points worth making here. First, it would be great if the NYT would stop referring to the theory of evolution as "Darwinism". As far as I know, no biologist uses the term "Darwinism" to refer to the theory of evolution. The term is used more or less exclusively by Creationists as part of their frame that it's a religion rather than, you know, the consensus scientific theory of the development of more or less all life on Earth. It would be great if the NYT didn't implicitly buy into that frame. If they're going to call the IDers by their chosen name rather than "Creationists", the least they can do is use an accurate name in this case.

Second, it's not like Buckley, West, or Gilder are qualified to have any reasonable opinion about the truth value of the theory of evolution. Moreover, when you look at these quotes it becomes clear that at least in the case of Gilder his problem isn't that they have some evidence-based objection but rather that he doesn't like the cultural/moral implications of the theory, or even more ridiculously, that he doesn't like some of the conclusions that others have drawn. But of course that's not the criterion we use to judge the truth of a scientific theory, as Derbyshire points out:

As for Mr. Derbyshire, he would not say whether he thought evolutionary theory was good or bad for conservatism; the only thing that mattered was whether it was true. And, he said, if that turns out to be "bad for conservatives, then so much the worse for conservatism."



Second, it's not like Buckley, West, or Gilder are qualified to have any reasonable opinion about the truth value of the theory of evolution.
This is, of course, one of the big difficulties with the "evolution vs creation" discussion. Since the argument for evolution is a scientific one, if you argue for it the other side wants to know what your scientific credentials are, what qualifies you to talk about this. But the argument for creation is just that you believe it, and so any wingnut asshat moron (WAM; hm, that might be an acronym worth keeping) who believes is "qualified".

That gives the WAMs quite an army.

I'm sure that the "Law" of gravitation has all sorts of horrible consequences, too. For example, it is probably a key enabler for women being able to drive to abortionists, is involved in the efficacy of some forms of contraception and sinful sexual activity, and was absolutely critical to the Nazi attempt to conquer Britain. Here's hoping that Mr. Buckley and friends confront this scientific menace next.

Just curious - do you think that evolution and creation are mutually exclusive concepts at their broadest level of interpretation? Does evolution rule out the possibility that God (or god) had/has a random number generator?


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