the evolution migraine

“Believing in the explanatory power of evolution by natural selection is like a migraine, or perhaps still more like being, as it was in the old days, a ‘wise woman’. The majority of humanity seem to have difficulty accepting that the ‘oddness’ of such a believer can be real — that is, simply an oddness and nothing else. As the migraine sufferer is suspected of malingering, and the woman who is merely literally wise, of witchcraft, so the evolutionist is always suspected of covert agendas unconnected with reality or the search for truth. In despair over the unending bemusement in friends and relatives and over the stream of articles and books that still pours forth stating Darwinism to be wrong, dead, right except for natural selection, superseded by this stale or ridiculous notion or that (all of which, evidently, the public eagerly buy and read, no matter what the competence of the writer or his knowledge of the evidence); puzzled, in short, by resistance to ideas that seem vastly more obvious and intuitive than, say, relativity or quantum mechanics, which every one accepts blithely with or without understanding, the evolution sufferer sometimes comes to believe it must be he who mistaken…. At other times the evolutionist may feel like one of the stranger ‘genetic morphs’ of his own theories — mutant carrier, say, of a fourth intellectual pigment of the retina capable of raising into clear sight patterns of nature and of the human future that are denied to the majority of his fellows, or perhaps just a person bewitched in babyhood to have revealed to him through blind sight, through such X-ray eyes, all the ravishing and foreboding beauty of the world that he now endures.”

– w.d. hamilton. “Narrow Roads of Gene Land, Vol 1.” pgs. viii-ix.

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15 Comments

  1. He’s really a terrific writer,even the long sentences work for me. If only his books weren’t so expensive!

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  2. @svk – “He’s really a terrific writer, even the long sentences work for me. If only his books weren’t so expensive!”

    yes and yeah, no kidding! i just got vol. 1 and have just started reading it. an early christmas present for myself. it’s making me smile. (^_^)

    you know, you can read large parts of vol. 2 on google books (especially if you clear your cache once or twice while you’re reading it) — possibly the whole thing, i’m not sure. vol. 1 is not available there, tho. my conspiracy theory: ’cause it has to do with why “blood is thicker than water”? hmmmm….

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  3. I downloaded a pirated copy of NRoGL vol 3, but for some reason vol 1 & 2 are nowhere to be found.

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  4. Everyone in the humanities (my wife is a good example) believes in evolution, but no one believes in natural selection. They are all Lamarckians. They have to be. They are also all socialists of one kind or another (my wife is a Marxist), and natural selection and hbd are logically incompatible with socialist beliefs. In this, they are in the same camp as Protestant fundamentalists. The fundamentalists are right to attack Darwin, his theories destroy fundamentalism.

    Pollsters are forever asking people if they believe in evolution. This is entirely the wrong question. If you want to know whether someone believes in modern science and rejects superstition, ask them if they believe in natural selection, a totally different question.

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  5. Of course the take-away on Darwin has varied vastly over time. Among Progressives at the turn of the last century, for instance, there was a split over the advisability of a minimum wage and the problem of the lumpen proletariat. Both sides agreed that a minimum wage would make that bottom class permanently unemployable. The socialist “left” however (as represented by Beatrice Webb in England) thought that was a feature not a bug: they were scum and should be gotten rid of via survival of the fittest. The more conservative Progressives on the other hand thought the effect would be undesirable because it would create a permanent custodial class which would have to be supported by the rest of society. I guess they were the tea party of their day. See here for an overview.

    Meanwhile the president of Yale, Sumner by name, wrote a little book titled, “What do the classes owe each other?” He had a one word answer: nothing! That was his version of Social Darwinism, as it came later to be known.

    And then there was the Kaiser. WWI German soldiers were all supplied with a copy of Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” in their backpacks and were encouraged to think in terms of race competition. The Anglo-Saxons thought the same way. This was the pragmatic motive which caused the American Secretary of State at the time to oppose the teaching of the theory of evolution in the schools, not as a theory of life in general, but as applying to human human beings like any other animal. He thought it would undermine the moral foundations of our civilization. Silly man. His name by the way was William Jennings Bryan.

    “History has many cunning corridors, secret passages . . .” Missouri poet

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  6. @ – “you can read large parts of vol. 2 on google books (especially if you clear your cache once or twice while you’re reading it”

    Clear your cache? I had no idea. Live and learn.

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  7. @bob – “Everyone in the humanities … believes in evolution, but no one believes in natural selection.”

    they don’t know what they’re missin’! (^_^)

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  8. @luke – “Clear your cache? I had no idea. Live and learn.”

    you know, it’s probably clearing cookies that makes a difference here, not the cache. i’m pretty sure anyway. when i clear my cache, i clear everything — browsing history, cookies, the whole shebang. but i’m 98% sure the thing that makes a difference with google books is clearing cookies. (the idea is to make google’s servers believe you haven’t been reading whatever book before … that’s why it must be cookies. ok, now i’m hungry…. (~_^) )

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  9. thanks! Here I come Financial Times, NYT, and Google books. Now if someone can just tell me how to crack the Jstor firewall I will be completely happy.

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  10. @luke – “Now if someone can just tell me how to crack the Jstor firewall I will be completely happy.”

    heh. you and me, both! (^_^)

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  11. “a fourth intellectual pigment of the retina”

    False.

    The fourth photopigment is Melanopsin, which detects sunlight and regulates circadian rhythms.

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  12. is there like a, uhhh, one-stop resource for all the catching up I have to do to understand all this shit? FFS. Why couldn’t they have taught me this stuff in school and not, yanno, what color underwear Anne Frank wore on a Thursday.

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  13. @uh – “Why couldn’t they have taught me this stuff in school and not, yanno, what color underwear Anne Frank wore on a Thursday.”

    heh. i hear ya! i still have some brain cells devoted to stuff i wish i’d never learned — neurons that could be better occupied recording some more useful information. =/

    Reply

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