It had to happen: ID advocates and the Finnish school shooting

I just subjected myself to a post at Post-Darwinist by ID advocate Denyse O’Leary and it looks like Denyse is to be first cab off the rank in connecting the awful Finnish school shooting with evolution.

I just got done rejecting a large number of comments from people who claim to enjoy this blog but nonetheless consider the report last evening of the Darwinist sympathies of the Finnish school shooter to be in poor taste.

(I suppose the Finns didn’t know they were supposed to suppress that part of the story, so that it would only be discovered thirty years from now by a gutsy researcher … )

Typical creationist rhetoric. “Evidence of links between Darwinism and violence are censored by the media.” People who accept the evidence for evolution see no need to hide the fact that Pekka-Eric Auvinen spoke about being a “natural selector” and for good reasons. But I’ll get to that soon.

…if people honestly think that the boy’s social Darwinism played no role in his shooting spree, I assume that they also think that toxic religious beliefs play no role in Middle Eastern-directed suicide bombings.

Well of course what people believe effects the way they act, but it can be demonstrated that what people like the Finnish school shooter (and suicide bombers) believe is ludicrous. The belief of suicide bombers that their actions please a guy in the sky and will bring them untold rewards in the afterlife are based on no evidence. The school shooters belief that he was ‘helping out evolution’ demonstrates that he also has lost a grip on reality.

The main problem with O’Leary’s post (and no doubt what will be the problem with many similar posts by ID advocates in the coming weeks) is that she fails to differentiate between evolution and social Darwinism. Evolution is an explanatory framework for biological diversity, whereas social Darwinism is the idea that the theory of evolution can be extended and applied to human societies. If one accepts the theory of evolution by natural selection, it does not follow that they believe human societies should adopt policies that would ‘weed out the weak’. It’s a naturalistic fallacy – evolution explains how things are, not how they ought to be. Talk Origins also explains:

The source of social Darwinism was not Darwin but Herbert Spencer and the tradition of Protestant nonconformism going back to Hobbes via Malthus. Spencer’s ideas of evolution were Lamarckian. The only real connection between Darwinism and social Darwinism is the name.

O’Leary continues:

While we are here, I think that – while individual atheists can be highly moral – materialist atheist creeds in the twentieth century were demonstrably more likely to exterminate vast numbers of people than any traditional orientations. There are several good reasons for that, but the most obvious is this one: The materialist atheist does not believe that there is any underlying mind, meaning or purpose in the universe.

Here we go. “If you’re an atheist then life has no meaning”. Sorry Denyse, but atheists do derive meaning from their lives, even if you personally can’t imagine a meaningful existence without a sky-daddy. But this approach also begs the question: Why should we feel we are owed meaning and purpose? Why should the universe have underlying meaning or purpose? If it’s comforting for you to believe there is, that doesn’t constitute any evidence that that is, in fact, the case.

In principle, then, it is not true that humans are of more significance than tent caterpillars. And if they are a problem, the materialist atheist who is in power need not have any compunction in dealing with them in the same way as a gardener deals with tent caterpillars. He faces no judgment if he is wrong. He will someday be a corpse just like the ones he surrounds himself with.

Ask yourself this Denyse: If the religious don’t surround themselves with corpses merely because they fear judgment, what does that say about the religious? Ethics and morality can stand by themselves – they don’t need to be propped up by religion.

Yes, of course, an atheist may choose to behave differently from that, as most do – except that materialist atheists do not in fact believe in free will.

They don’t? That’s news to me. Maybe I didn’t get the memo.

Someone mentioned Ann Coulter to me recently, and I happen to have her book Godless out of the library.

Well I’m pleased to hear you didn’t actually buy a copy. Do other members of your library a favour and don’t return it. There are plenty of good books out there and that sort of crap shouldn’t be taking up precious shelf space.

It all goes (further) downhill from there as O’Leary goes on to quote Coulter at length trying to establish links between Darwin and Hitler. I won’t repeat any of it here so if you want to read it you’ll have to follow the link over to Post-Darwinist, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I never thought social Darwinism made sense, being more in Stephen Jay Gould’s anti-social Darwininst Mismeasure of Man camp myself. But most Darwinists thought it did make sense, and that is very well documented.

Really? By who – Coulter? Weikart? Please.

An extremely rhetoric laden and poorly reasoned piece of commentary, and unfortunately I think we’ll have to put up with a lot more of this sort of rubbish in the next couple of weeks.


~ by Sammy Jankis on November 8, 2007.

3 Responses to “It had to happen: ID advocates and the Finnish school shooting”

  1. Evolution is an explanatory framework for biological diversity, whereas social Darwinism is the idea that the theory of evolution can be extended and applied to human societies.

    One is descriptive; the other is prescriptive. One is science, the other is not.

  2. Heh. I read the same blog and for some reason my reply was rejected. I wonder why?

  3. Well said!

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