Supposing some scientist goes out into some wilderness area and observes the behavior of predators with a species of herd animals. He observes that the slowest and weakest of the herd animals tend to fall prey to the predators while the stronger or faster ones survive. This scientist comes back and and reports on this behavior and its effects.
A while later some politician reads this article and decides to base a political philosophy on it. Obviously, based on that article, the best way to improve the human species is to subject them to such pressure from hunting. Only in this way, he says, can we ensure that the human species continues to improve.
Which of the following behaviors would be reasonable:
- Criticizing the scientist for providing fodder for the politician
- Assuming that the scientist desired the outcome proposed by the politician
- Determining that the scientist must be wrong because immoral conclusions could be drawn from his work
- Deciding that the politician has misapplied the science
- Criticizing the politician on moral grounds irrespective of the science
I suggest that the first three are obviously wrong, while the last two are possibilities, amongst many, for dealing with the situation. Yet people err in precisely this way with respect to evolution and its relation to Hitler and the Nazis.
There’s a simple point here missed by such people as David Klinghoffer, who is (surprise!) a fellow of the (No-)Discovery Institute. He manages to point out that Hitler (gasp!) quoted Darwin. And then Joe Carter, over at evangelical outpost goes ahead and links to it as though it had intellectual content.
Come on folks, this is a lousy argument. It’s not a sensitive one; it’s just plain lousy. As in it has no merit whatsoever.
The theory of evolution is either a good scientific theory, or it’s not. Whether Hitler quoted the scientist who first proposed it is of no relevance one way or another. Even if it’s a bad theory, the fact that Hitler quoted it would add not one little bit of weight to the arguments against it. If it is a valid theory, being quoted by Hitler takes nothing from that.
It’s a scientific theory; it stands or falls as such.