Over at Peaceful Science, Joshua Swamidass has made another strange and unsubstantiated claim. He has attempted to speak again on behalf of (all) ‘scientists,’ as is his linguistic tendency, yet in this case about ‘social Darwinism’:
“Social Darwinism was a thing that is legitimately connected to the holocaust [sic]. However, scientists today reject Social Darwinism. Even atheists should thank God for this.” https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-and-social-darwinism/6873/2
It’s a bit saucy, perhaps all well & good to suggest that atheists should thank God for something, anything. Yet one of the most active living and agitating ideological evolutionists and one of his co-authors are actually trying to get people to accept ‘Social Darwinism’. https://evolution-institute.org/truth-and-reconciliation-for-social-darwinism/ How does Joshua deal with this apparent blindspot in his approach?
Even Richard Dawkins disagrees with this use of Darwin’s evolutionary theory in “political & social life”:
“What I am saying, along with many other people, among them T. H. Huxley, is that in our political and social life we are entitled to throw out Darwinism, to say we don’t want to live in a Darwinian world, we might want to live in, say, a socialist world which is very un-Darwinian. We might say: Yes, Darwinism is true, natural selection is the true force that has given rise to life, but we, when we set up our political institutions, we might say we are going to base our society on explicitly anti-Darwinian principles.”
Yet D.S. Wilson & E.M. Johnson (who I met & had a long conversation & also lunch with some years ago) are actually indeed trying to rehabilitate and are promoting ‘social Darwinism’ … in universities TODAY. https://evolution-institute.org/truth-and-reconciliation-for-social-darwinism/ Note that neither of these writers is a sociologist, culturologist or social theorist. Wilson has built up a decent sized international network of scholars across a range of fields, ‘natural & social,’ with people who support & write for the Evolution Institute. Many of them are not social scientists, and most are atheists or agnostics, who are indeed pushing ‘evolutionary’ social ideas and theories as a kind of ‘new age’ religion-substitute.
Although Dawkins has no hesitation to speak about “anti-Darwinian principles”, others are rather incredibly still trying to expand ‘Darwinian’ ideas beyond the domain of biology and natural-physical sciences. So Swamidass is either incorrect, simply unaware, or, as he recently wrote ‘peacefully’ about someone on his own site, “deeply misinformed.”
This raises some questions:
1) Is David Sloan Wilson (PhD in biology) not (does he not count as) a ‘scientist’ according to Swamidass? Since he openly embraces social Darwinism as a biologist/biological anthropologist, does Swamidass take any kind of stand at all against such ideology in science or does he actually provide ‘in the closet’ support for ideological Darwinism? It seems from his statements so far, like many things with Joshua, that he both does & doesn’t at the same time.
2) Why does Swamidass act like he’s an expert about topics he is not educated or trained in (ideology, sociology, cultural studies, philosophy of science, anthropology, etc.) from a disciplined standpoint? It appears Swamidass has taken little to no time to study social Darwinism, social and cultural evolution or evolutionism. This shows up quite clearly in how Swamidass writes about them (imperialistically). I and most non-biologists, certainly most social scientists, would never even attempt what he is do regarding a topic properly belonging in biology. This comes across to me as both absurd and counter-productive. Swamidass has even defended ideological cultural evolutionism with me when I complied with his reject to dialogue with my full name in public. He balked, again. Is this a healthy approach for evangelicalistic Protestantism?
One troubling aspect of Swamidass’ views about ‘social Darwinism,’ that natural scientists, mathematicians and computer engineers might not immediately realize, is that he apparently sees no danger areas. Nevertheless, things can get socially dangerous in a hurry if these social Darwinian/social Darwinist ‘theories’ are put into ‘practice.’ People like Swamidass, promoting something not too dissimilar from D.S. Wilson’s “Evolution for Everyone,” often underestimate the power of dehumanizing evolutionary rhetoric that is found and used in social sciences and humanities. They ignore it & thus create an uneven playing field for the discussion of “What does it mean to be human?”
This is because natural-physical scientists like Joshua simply don’t have the background reading or interactions hearing about it. This means that even when they butcher a conversation, they simply might not be aware of it. There has thus arisen a serious & ongoing communications problem, much more serious than they are likely to admit, when dealing with ‘highly confident’ imperialistic biologists who, unfortunately, look at humanity straddling evolutionary biology with ideological evolutionism.
Swamidass writes, again with inflated language choice as if he speaks for ‘science’: “I’m glad science had moved on from eugenics.” What is Swamidass saying here?! He is again, quite sadly and also importantly in this case, quite wrong. We are TODAY staring down neo-eugenics in a HUGE way. Is he even possibly unaware of the genetic engineering of human beings? No. Yet even if one can’t speak coherently about it, there is little need or good in instead reverting to ‘confident evolutionism’ & trying to paint an evangelical Protestant ‘happy face on it. This can easily be fixed, however, and Swamidass would just need to take a quick dip into transhumanism, where neo-eugenics is waiting, lurking in the dark corners, some of whose proponents are indeed, just like him, ‘scientists’. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1794693/
Swamidass continued after the above quote, saying:
“it is objectionable to connect modern day scientists to Social Darwinism, as he does (‘still demands’). More than anything else, it demonstrates his ignorance of modern day evolutionary theory.”
Yet as evidenced above, surely not all, but at least some ‘modern day scientists’ don’t object to Social Darwinism the way Swamidass imagines. They actually embrace it. Does Swamidass know anything about why that is?
Indeed, his current closest ‘strictly scientific’ partner and ally, e.g. against Behe and the Discovery Institute over at Peaceful Science, in back & forths with EvoNews, etc. is Nathan Lents. This is Lents who in the same thread wrote approvingly of David Sloan Wilson’s new book This View of Life and Wilson’s promotion of a new ‘Social Darwinism’ (he capitalizes the ‘S’). Lents reveals he is also largely or entirely ignorant about ideology & that he has swallowed ideological evolutionism almost whole in his atheist/agnostic worldview. Is Swamidass, together with Lents, going to continue to act like social Darwinism, cultural & social evolutionism only exist on the margins & only constitute a valid conversation topic subserviently under the umbrella of biology?
“Eugenics and social Darwinism are, of course, related, but they are also distinct, neither has any grounding in science, neither were promoted by Darwin, and science has rejected them long ago.” – Nathan Lents (Author of Human Errors, including his own involving ideological evolutionism, posted in same PS thread as above)
I find it ridiculous that a ‘practising biologist’ would say this, as it is quite obviously untrue. Yet many biologists only approach this topic defensively, perhaps to avoid the discipline’s well-earned shame. Eugenics is certainly ‘grounded in biology’ as it’s about breeding & “the genetic quality of a human population”. That can be studied as a ‘strictly scientific’ topic, just as the mass of eugenicists in the 19th & 20th centuries thought and how the neo-eugenicists of today still think. Ironically, the people who think ‘eugenics’ is ‘strictly scientific’ of engage in writing the same kind of ideological scientism that Swamidass does.
Swamidass (who ‘liked’ the above post by Lents), like Lents, simply isn’t up to date on this topic & therefore gets it mostly wrong. Lents’ linguistic framing of “science has…” demonstrates his outdated & misleading language. Apparently Lents subscribes to the same linguistic imperialism school that Swamidass studied in. Do these men not know how to write with disciplinary humility, using proper articles, & pluralizing when something is plural, rather than singular? C’mon guys, please improve your level of communication because you’re muddying the waters!
Swamidass speaks about “ignorance of modern day evolutionary theory”, granted this is coming from within a specific narrow range of competences. These include biology, computing, physiology & YECism. He is now attempting to create a ‘fifth voice’ with what he calls ‘genealogical science’ or ‘the Science of Adam.’ Yet, he so far seems to be entirely unaware of, or has just rather shied away from the fact that social Darwinism, and indeed, cultural evolutionism, is indeed, openly or in code, being promoted by at least a few of his fellow biologists & not a few others. Swamidass appears, based on his writing, to be so far going along with them, perhaps due to his promotion of ambitious neo-creationism in post-YEC clothing.
One of the largest problems in the ‘discourse’ involving science, philosophy & theology/worldview thus remains unaddressed at Peaceful Science. While social Darwinism is an ideology, it is also something most natural scientists (& native-English philosophers) know next to nothing about. The danger is in naive adoption of ideologies by natural-physical scientists themselves, which we see playing out in practise in the Swamidass + Lents partnership. Does this bother or worry anyone here? Since most are atheists, agnostics & anti-theists here, probably 1) few people will respond other than to defend Swamidass’ scientism, 2) nobody will call out D.S. Wilson in clear & unequivocal terms, & 3) social Darwinism & neo-eugenics will only be superficially treated, and *not* as ideologies, a word which many biologists fear (for historically good reasons!) to utter.
Reference: Young, Robert M. (RIP 2019). “Darwinism Is Social.” The Darwinian Heritage, edited by David Kohn and Malcolm J. Kottler, Princeton University Press, 1985, pp. 609–638. www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztrtb.25