Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Stupid Is ...

Josh Rosenau of Thoughts from Kansas and the NCSE has a good refutation of an incredibly ignorant article by someone who, if Josh is right about this person being a liberal Christian, should have known light-years better. Let's look at one of the claims by Tony Campolo, who is described as professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University and as a pastoral counselor to former President Clinton.

Darwin even argued [in The Descent of Man] that advanced societies should not waste time and money on caring for the mentally ill, or those with birth defects. To him, these unfit members of our species ought not to survive.
Let's look at what Darwin actually said:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil.

- The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1st edition, Volume 1, p. 168-69
It is clear that Mr. Campolo either did not bother to check out what he read in some secondary source or he is being dishonest about something that is easily checked. Either way, it is hardly a recommendation of his intelligence.

Campolo is a sociologist and a somewhat liberal evangelical Christian, emphasis on evangelical rather than liberal. In other words, he lies somewhere along the middle of the Christian belief spectrum. When he sticks to sociology, he's pretty good and he's inserted some much needed compassion into a wing of Christianity where that trait is sometimes in short supply. In this case, however, he was uncharacteristically sloppy and he definitely got this one wrong.
Obviously I know nothing of the man other than this execrable piece. It certainly gives me no encouragement to become familiar with the rest of his work.
You're right. You wouldn't find much in Campolo's work to challenge you intellectually. His books are written in "popular," as opposed to "academic," style and are geared toward strengthening the faith of lay people. Pastors without seminary training like his stuff too, but I imagine seminarians would find his work shallow.
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