Pseudo-Darwinism: Dr. Cartwright’s Error and Eugenics

Michael Egnor

Darwinist Dr. Reed Cartwright was highly critical of my recent observation that Darwin’s theory has nothing to do with experimental breeding of bacteria or with the biotech industry. In his original article, Dr. Cartwright asserted that Darwin’s theory was responsible for the experiments that unraveled the genetic code and for the entire biotechnology industry (!).
I pointed out that Darwin’s theory was a theory of random variation and natural selection, whereas experimental manipulation and breeding of bacteria were examples of purposeful variation and artificial selection. Darwin’s theory has nothing to do with either.
I have also noted that Darwin’s seminal contribution to medicine was eugenics. Dr. Cartwright saw the flaw in my linkage between Darwin’s science and eugenics:

Egnor has now contradicted himself because, as educated people should know, eugenics was a program, favored by many early geneticists, to selectively breed more fit humans (or better described as breeding less less fit humans), similar to how farmers had breed more fit livestock. Eugenics is therefore artificial selection and, according to Egnor’s dichotomy, absolutely distinct from Darwin’s natural selection.

Darwin’s theory asserts that all natural biological complexity arose by non-purposeful variation and natural selection. It doesn’t apply to purposeful variation or purposeful selection, which are designed.
Dr. Cartwright is right. The experimental selection of “desirable” bacterial variants is bacterial eugenics, using the same empirical principles that eugenicists applied to human breeding. Eugenics is human breeding, and is every bit as much of a misapplication of Darwin’s theory as are Dr. Cartwright’s examples of bacterial breeding.
Dr. Cartwright’s critique is sound science, but injudicious rhetoric. There’s an obvious link between Dr. Cartwright’s scientific error and the eugenicists’ scientific error. Darwin’s theory was not the scientific basis for the discovery of the genetic code or for the biotechnology industry, any more that Darwin’s theory was the scientific basis for eugenics.
Modern eugenics arose from a philosophical proposition. The basis for eugenics was philosophical materialism, which denied the inherent dignity and sanctity of every human life. Denial of transcendent ethical standards eventually leaves “because we can” as the sole ethical standard. The basis for the elucidation of the genetic code and for the biotechnology industry was biological reverse engineering, microbiology, and molecular biology. Darwin’s science played no role in either.
I’m grateful for the correction.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.