Brett Williams's Reviews > Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science

Darwin Day in America by John G. West
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did not like it
Read 2 times. Last read October 14, 2021 to July 26, 2022.

Having read and reviewed the old version of this book, this updated version comes with a chapter on the rise of “totalitarian science,” which sounds like an oxymoron in a Trumpian age of very much anti-science totalitarians. And in the age of Covid, with the Darwinian evolution of its many variants to boot. It also has an afterword, “Scientism in the Age of Obama.” Before even page one, I felt comfortable knowing that the politicization of science would more closely conform to the normal perversions we’re used to in America. And we get all the relevant buzzwords to reinforce that: dismissals of “elites,” “experts,” and lots of “they”; “they told us,” “they said,” “they urged.” We find “they” often come from the social “sciences,” which are not science, much of it anti-science or pseudo-science.

While I previously focused on the trees, this reread of Darwin Day made the forest clear. The author, John G. West, claims not to be anti-science, as does one of his partners in arms, the UCLA feminist theorist Sandra Harding who labels science the product of “Eurocentric, white male, patriarchy.” But like her, West wants science to be something else. Harding wants to expel men and create a completely different “feminist science”; West wants to expel reason and inject God. Neither result can be science: a description of nature as it is and responsible for all the devices on earth that work just as science designed them to work. That Thales in the 6th century B.C. would conceive of a source of knowledge about nature that allowed only natural causes, not supernatural, and that this source, built on reason, not revelation, would become peerless in its effectiveness and utility are West’s and—without the revelation—Harding’s central grievance. That science gives credit to the laws of nature, not God, galls West, not Harding.

As this book and Merchants of Doubt about science-denial for profit (e.g., fossil fuels) and Higher Superstition about anti-science of our postmodernist Left in the humanities at university all make clear, science is under siege in America where it once won WWII, put men on the moon, and defeated smallpox. Science is, however, safe in China. Way to go, John.


Those hoping to save science in the free world should read this

Science in America is under assault from the Fundamentalist Right and Fundamentalist Left. In the case of John West’s Darwin Day In America, Creationists on the Right are getting better at what they do. West’s book may be diced in any number of ways, but this reader sees it as five-pronged. 1) establish Darwin’s theory as ultimately immoral, 2) claim immorality of scientists practicing materialistic, non-directed science (i.e., not directed by God), 3) breed doubt about evolution and science in general, 4) portray the “truth” of Creationism as underdog against massive institutional odds, 5) offer the solution of Intelligent Design with instructions on “teach-the-controversy” approach (because they have no evidence against evolution). Ground the reader; inspire them; call for action.

First, it’s important to recognize who writes this book. West is a Creationist for the Discovery Institute—promoters of teaching religion in science class. However, this alone does not make what West claims as incorrect. A careful reading finds West is right about some matters, wrong about others. Mixing them in the manner of talk radio makes the wrong appear right. He’s close to spot on when it comes to materialistic perspectives humans have applied to themselves in the modern era, attempting something like what Romanticism did in response to Enlightenment. West elaborates this in his sections on Crime And Punishment and the obvious oddities of Alfred Kinsey’s sexual perspectives. The black eye delivered science by eugenics straddling the last two centuries is noted throughout the book, over and over, to make sure we didn’t miss it the 100th time. Recall, Sparta killed what they considered weak infants 2300 years before Darwin. Neither Darwin nor his followers invented the concept as West tells it—nor does this moral issue refute the scientific fact of evolution. A sizable fraction of that which West is right about is not so much an indictment of science as it is of scientific illiteracy. As a political “scientist” (which is not a science) he parades a significant amount of his.

As a religious Conservative, West is unaware of how like Postmodernist liberals he is in his opposition to science. While West and team target science as a source of moral evil, Postmodernists target science secondarily as a source of power for the moral evils of Western Civilization. And yet, after all the agendas, science is about describing nature as it is, not how we want it to be. Sociology, psychology, cultural studies, Creationism, Intelligent Design, Critical Analysis (of evolution) are not science though they pretend to be. Both sides want the cachet of modern science as their defender, but to do so, they must transform it into something else, as both Creationists (in high schools) and Postmoderns (in university humanities departments) have done to varying degrees of success. In the end, though, neither side is able to refute science, so on the Creationist side, West is forced—as Creationists must always be—to satisfy themselves with fabricating controversy, which becomes real in the public mind with their marketing and media machine. West’s book goes far in furthering that project.

Under the first prong of “Darwin’s evil,” the tactic of taking remarks out of context is employed. “We are nothing but a big fruit fly;” “We’re more like worms than we ever imagined;” “The worm represents a very simple human.” Are we to believe those quoted actually mean this? Does West? The Bible says we are like worms (Micah 7:17), foxes (Job 13:4), wolves (Ezekiel 22.27). Do these literally mean that? Perhaps West should assign guilt to the Bible as it far precedes Darwin in materialist thinking. On the other hand, if genome findings show “we share 99% of our genes with mice and we even have genes that could make a tail,” it’s West who then says we are mice, not Jane Rogers who published the mouse genome. And what are we to do with such data? Classify it because it might make some people squeamish? West blames Darwin for perversions in his name long after his death, much as Jesus gets associated with the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, and witch burning. In West’s book, Darwin is blamed even for the hideous sham of modern art!

For his second prong of West’s assault, he quotes Neal Gillespie, noting that scientists have used materialistic models of causality, rejecting supernatural and theological factors. Yes! The very core of science—only explainable causes that provide testable predictions are allowed. West notes that evolution is “purposeless and non-directed” (like fusion, oxidation, or the spontaneous emission of photons), and that this materialistic perspective makes science immoral. Instead of the strength it is, this is a cold and heartless fact to West. Since faith cannot be submitted to the rigors of science, what does West expect science to do? Should there be Christian science in America, Hindu science in India, Buddhist science in Nepal?

Brewing doubt, West spends most of his calories on the tactic of elucidating real or invented inconsistencies in evolution, just as there remain shortcomings in Newtonian theory of mechanics, Einstein’s theory of Relativity, and theory of quantum mechanics. Yet these “theories” work well enough to create GPS, semiconductors and every machine humankind ever built. Are these accurate models of nature or not? No scientific theory is born fully grown. For West and the postmodernist Left, this is an indictment of science, “proving” how flawed something that begins incomplete must be. Given the myriad disagreements about the nature and life of Jesus resulting in the many denominations in existence today, would West and his Creationists comrades then assert that Jesus did not exist? Or that he did live, but his teachings were incorrect? Outside Discovery Institute / Michael Behe’s offering that the intelligent designer may be a space alien, West never once provides a scientific argument opposing evolution. No testable model, no measurements, no data on anything. And for good reason. Creationists know full well that such an approach glazes the eyes of our TV/Internet generation. Better to market their message with slick campaigns and sound bite logic.

Finally, we get to Intelligent Design (ID), where we find West is not without humor as he tries to convince us ID goes all the back to Greece and Rome. In other words, “We didn’t just make this up to circumvent Supreme Court decisions.” While West claims complex systems in nature are “best explained as products of an intelligent cause,” can he test that? He might as well say complex systems are best explained by Scientology’s King Xenu, but can he test it? This has all been done before when in the 16th-century natural theology created a “God of the gaps”—a term created by theologians as something to avoid. For everything as yet not understood, God was assigned responsibility. The problem being that God—by man’s doing—was forced to retreat from each knowledge gap eventually filled by science. That there remain systems too complex for us to yet fully understand proves one thing, that our knowledge remains incomplete. Hardly does it prove there is an intelligent force behind nature.

No matter how much West slanders Darwin, evolution has been found to be a fact of nature in everything from astronomy to zoology, remaining one of the great achievements in human discovery. But the future of science in America remains as uncertain as it was for the Islamic Empire when it turned away from rational thought for zealotry and fundamentalism, condemning itself to the dustbin of history. In an era when China embraces science as America retreats, West and his Creationist comrades, in unexpected concert with their enemies, the Fundamentalist Left, threaten to wreck those great hopes of our Founders with Enlightenment science in their bones. As Hayek said of freedom, so too for science in the modern era, it must be fought for and won, over and over again in the same place.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 1, 2010 – Finished Reading
September 12, 2015 – Shelved
October 14, 2021 – Started Reading
July 26, 2022 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Dr (new)

Dr Jerry This review is irresponsible. To start Dr. John West is not a creationist and not does not support teaching creation but has openly come out against it. Williams has an very biased view of this subject.

message 2: by Eclaghorn (new) - added it

Eclaghorn Williams also seems highly invested in opposing West, hence the length of his diatribe. He might be more convincing if he wrote less, and read more of West, and other Discovery Institute writers, like Denton and Berlinski, hardly Creationists... I would recommend West's critique of Williams' religion, Scientism, or Roy Clouser's "Myth of Religious Neutrality".

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