Monday, February 12, 2007
The question always hangs in the air when evolutionary theory is being attacked: "Is there any dishonesty, any prevarication, any distortion that the Discovery Institute and its Media Misleading Unit won't stoop to?"
Invariably, the answer is "No!"
The latest is their claim that the recently restored non-lunatic-fringe majority on the Kansas State Board of Education's intended vote, to remove the unscientific and sectarian-inspired science standards installed against all good educational practice in 2005, is actually a vote on whether to delete from its science curriculum the study of the abuses of science as well as the successes. Specifically, John West of the DI is claiming that:
The board's plan [is] to whitewash the history of science ... Especially disturbing is the board's proposal--during Black History month no less--to eliminate any mention of the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment from the state curriculum, as well as any reference to the eugenics movement that targeted the disabled.The Tuskegee experiment, conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service, running from the 1930s to the early 1970s, saw about 400 African-American men with the late stages of syphilis left untreated in order to collect medical data concerning the terminal stages of the disease. It was a shameful episode in American history and the doctors and scientists who participated should be gravely ashamed. But it had nothing to do with the nature of science in general and absolutely nothing to do with "Darwinism." Therefore, it properly belongs in a history class and not a science class, particularly a class about evolution.
Only slightly more relevant is the DI's invocation of the eugenics movement. Again it was a shameful episode in American and human history that the participants, most of whom were not scientists, should be ashamed of. But it has nothing to do with "Darwinism" (other than the disingenuous attempt to blame everything wrong with society on science).
The eugenics movement wasn't following Darwin but farming -- good ol' animal husbandry and plant breeding. There was no attempt to give rise to a new species. Eugenics was simply trying to "improve the breed." And it depended on nothing more than the long-observed "micro evolution" that even benighted young-Earth creationists, such as Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis, agree happens. Add to that the fact that such eugenics (without the name) goes back at least as far as ancient Sparta and its systematic killing of weak and disabled infants and it is easy to see that blaming Darwin for any of that is no more fair than blaming present-day Christians for the Crusades. Again, eugenics is something that belongs in a history class, where the full range of the causes for the movement, far from being limited to science, can be explored.
But fairness ... and intellectual honesty ... is not what the Discovery Institute is about.