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The Return of John Derbyshire

David Klinghoffer

A friend sent me a link to an online racialist journal, VDare, where I got the unpleasant surprise of seeing a screen shot of an article from Evolution News with my name on it. This accompanied a post by John Derbyshire. I should have expected it after Saturday night when an email popped up from a pseudonymous anti-Semitic and racist sicko who writes to us from time to time. I’ll spare you the content, but I guessed that someone out there on the alt-right fringe must be busy criticizing our work.

Chided for Hypocrisy

Derbyshire, I now saw, had responded to my commentary on Razib Khan, the genetics PhD candidate who took to the online pages at National Review to urge conservatives against engaging with Darwin skeptics. Derbyshire was our antagonist at National Review, blazing away at “Creationists,” some years ago. That was before he rode off, leaving mainstream conservatism behind, on a horse called “Race Realism.” His writing now appears at racialist publications including VDare, Taki’s Magazine, and The Unz Review. The last is particularly vile, but Derbyshire runs his pieces at all three. [Correction: It looks like John in fact has not had an article recently at Taki’s Magazine.]

So, down to business. He chides me for hypocrisy. I wrote against “blackballing and guilt by association,” yet says Derbyshire, I “then proceed[ed] to blackball/ guilt by association Razib because he has been ‘canoodling with the racist Alt-Right.’” I guess I should explain myself better.

Check Your Associations

If you are going to argue for turning the mute button on against those who say biology gives evidence of design, excluding them as discussion partners, you do need to examine your own associations pretty carefully. Khan, it seems, has failed to do that. He wrote regularly for the Unz website, a home to sickeningly racist and anti-Semitic material, and his name still appears on their homepage. His advice to conservatives was to embrace Darwinian theory and reject evidence for intelligent design: 

A small number of skeptical intellectuals such as [Michael] Behe, as well as the circle around the Discovery Institute, will continue to carry the torch of evolution skepticism. A number of evolutionary biologists will engage with them directly, as they always have. But looking forward, the energies of the Right are not most fruitfully spent on debating descent with modification and the common origin of life.

Perhaps I should have been clearer that “blackballing and guilt by association” are a problem when the association does NOT tell you something important about the person under consideration or about his thinking. That is, it’s unfair when it’s arbitrary. If someone is a member of the Nazi Party, where he associates with other Nazis, that’s significant. If he runs his articles at a grotesque online venue like Unz, that’s significant. (Another friend checks in on The Unz Review from time to time, out of a morbid curiosity about the alt-right, and reports that it “gets worse every time I look.”)

Not by Chance 

Khan’s association with the alt-right, and Derbyshire’s, is not by chance. The thread of what the racist Right calls “Race Realism” has never been completely absent from Darwinian theorizing from Darwin himself down to today. See our colleague Richard Weikart’s book From Darwin to Hitler for more about this persistent taint. Derbyshire calls the opposite view “Race Denial,” which is another way of saying that the “denier” rejects racism. If you want to call it that, I’m glad to be a “denier.”

It’s not by innocent happenstance that Derbyshire puts his name on a vehicle for hate. Your name is your seal; it indicates you are taking responsibility for something. Using it is a matter of deliberate choice.

Derbyshire can be a charming and interesting writer — I regret that he took the course he did. I doubt he or Khan is a hateful person. But wise? Wise enough to offer counsel to fellow conservatives about who to talk with and learn from about science? When they can’t muster the wisdom to decide how to expend the precious resource of their own names? No, their own lack of wisdom is noteworthy. It says something about themselves, but more importantly, it should be a cause for reflection about the ideology, Darwinist materialism, that they promote.

Update: As our friend Denyse O’Leary neatly puts it, “In any Darwinian scheme, someone must be the subhuman. Otherwise, there is no beginning to human history.”

Photo: John Derbyshire (center) discusses “6 Ways Race Realism Can Go Mainstream,” via YouTube (screen shot).