Meet the Materialists, part 6: Lydston, Hoyt, and the Miracle Cure of Castration

Note: This is one of a series of posts adapted from my new book, Darwin Day in America. You can find other posts in the series here. From the 1890s into the early years of the twentieth century, a growing number of American doctors advocated castration as a solution for habitual criminals as well as rapists and murderers. Proponents of castration like Frank Lydston derided the failed rehabilitation efforts of the “sentimentalist and his natural ally, the preacher,” and argued that “asexualization” surgery would produce results by preventing criminals from passing down their criminal tendencies to their children, by striking fear into non-castrated criminals, and by changing the personality of the castrated criminal. “The murderer is likely to lose much Read More ›

Bah! Humbug! From the Cranky Sounds of Darwinists, It Must Be Christmas

You can tell when the Christmas season is approaching—by the nip in the air, and by the jump in the level of crankiness exhibited by Darwinists in the blogosphere. This year Christmas apparently has come early for internet Darwinists, who have been raising a kerfluffle on their blogs about Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski’s usage of a clip of some Harvard-commissioned animation of the cell in a few of his lectures. In typical high dudgeon, Darwinists have accused Dr. Dembski of all sorts of nefarious violations of intellectual property law. Some have even claimed (as usual, without an iota of evidence) that Discovery Institute supports the disregard of copyright laws or even had something to do with Dr. Dembski’s Read More ›

Larry Arnhart Tackles a Straw Man (Again) [Update]

“John West’s book is a deep and comprehensive study of scientific materialism’s morally corrupting effects on American public policy. Although some readers (like me) will not find his attack on Darwinian science persuasive, anyone who wants to think about the moral and political implications of modern science will have to ponder his arguments.” —Larry Arnhart, Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University and author of Darwinian Conservatism Larry Arnhart is the most articulate defender of the idea that Darwinism supports conservatism, and I have enjoyed interacting with him over the past couple of years (we debated again tonight at Seattle Pacific University). Unfortunately, Arnhart has a habit of mischaracterizing my actual positions, and so he often ends up attacking Read More ›

Meet the Materialists, part 5: Clarence Darrow

Note: This is one of a series of posts adapted from my new book, Darwin Day in America. You can find other posts in the series here. Perhaps the most celebrated defense attorney in the first half of the twentieth century, Clarence Darrow is best known for his role at the Scopes “monkey trial” in the 1920s. But he also was an early champion of the idea that criminals should not be held responsible for their crimes. Darrow’s debunking of criminal responsibility was based squarely on his worldview of deterministic materialism. Darrow once told prisoners in a county jail that there was no difference whatever in the moral condition between themselves and those still in society. “I do not believe Read More ›

Meet the Materialists, part 4: Cesare Lombroso and the New School of Criminal Anthropology

Note: This is one of a series of posts adapted from my new book, Darwin Day in America. You can find other posts in the series here. By the end of the nineteenth century, American scholars were already talking with excitement about the “new school of criminal anthropology” that sought to use modern science to identify the causes of crime. Leading the way was Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), whose book Criminal Man (1876) remains a landmark work in the field of criminology. Lombroso and his disciples contended that criminal behavior could be explained largely as a throwback to earlier stages of Darwinian evolution. According to Lombroso, infanticide, parricide, theft, cannibalism, kidnapping, theft and anti-social actions can all be found Read More ›