Eugenic Birthdays

A short time ago I posted a story on the celebration in London of the 150th birthday of Karl Pearson, one of the fathers of mathematical statistics and an ardent Darwinist and eugenicist. The celebration focused on Pearson’s contribution to mathematical statistics, which was substantial, but neglected his contribution to eugenics, which was substantial, too. The only word that Darwinists use less frequently than ‘design’ is ‘eugenics’. It’s disappeared down the Darwin memory hole following the Second World War because the Nazi programs that applied Darwinism to medicine made the real nature of eugenics so apparent that it could no longer be denied. So it was forgotten.

Darwinist Sleight-of-Thumb

If you want a clear example of Darwinist sleight-of-hand, read the Panda’s Thumb tirade about my posts on the relevance of Darwinism to modern medicine (here). My interlocutors, between puns on my name, insults and obscenities, raise off-point topics that evade the central issue: is Darwinism, which is the assertion that all biological complexity has arisen by random heritable variation and natural selection, relevant to the practice of medicine? Several bloggers raised the standard Darwinist trope about bacterial antibiotic resistance. This issue is an important source of misunderstanding about the application of Darwin’s theory to medicine.

Darwin, Mendel, Watson and Crick, and Al Gore

Is Darwinism indispensable to genetics? Darwinists claim that their theory, which is the assertion that all biological complexity arose by random heritable variation and natural selection (“chance and necessity”), is indispensable to modern medicine. What was Darwin’s role in genetics? He played an important role in classical genetics, in a negative way. In 1865, an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel presented a scientific paper called ‘Experiments in Plant Hybridization’ at meeting of the Natural History Society of Brno in Moravia. Fr. Mendel found a remarkable pattern of inheritance in experiments on plants in his garden in his monastery. The experiments suggested that heritable factors were, in some cases, particulate, could remain hidden for generations, and sorted according to simple mathematical Read More ›

Is Darwinism Indispensable to Comparative Medicine? Meet Galen, Vesalius, Harvey, and Linnaeus.

Is Darwinism indispensable to modern medicine? As I noted in an earlier posts here and here, Darwinists usually use three arguments to assert that Darwin’s theory of random variation and natural selection is indispensable to medicine. They claim that Darwinism is necessary for comparative medicine, or that it is necessary for molecular genetics, or that it is necessary for understanding bacterial resistance to antibiotics. All three fields of medicine are obviously important, but Darwinism, understood as the theory that all biological structure arose by random variation and natural selection, is not necessary to understand any of them. In this post, I’ll deal with the first question: is Darwinism essential for an understanding of comparative medicine and comparative biology? No, it’s Read More ›

Darwin and Eugenics: Happy Birthday, Karl Pearson

On Friday, March 23, 2007, the Royal Statistical Society, the British Society for the History of Mathematics, and the British Society for the History of Science will sponsor the Karl Pearson Sesquicentenary Conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of the founders of mathematical statistics. The papers to be presented are a cornucopia of praise. The abstracts describe Pearson as a “Renaissance man” who created “the modern world view.” Yet several of Pearson’s most important contributions to the modern world view get no notice at the conference.