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Charles Darwin: Fair Target of Creationist Antipathy?

on October 30, 2010

PhysOrg: “Get Off Chuck’s Back!Is Charles Darwin a fair target of creationist antipathy? Or is the iconic scientist unfairly singled out for criticism?

When it comes to criticizing Darwin, we’re as “guilty” as the next creationist group, having produced in recent years everything from a special magazine issue to a DVD series to a book to a pocket guide that all focus on Darwin’s life and his ideas. Of course, much of that was in response to the widely celebrated 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth (1809), and the materials are not ad hominem potshots but instead carefully researched analyses of his life and controversial ideas.

“[W]hen the topic [of evolution] is debated, cynics attack the man rather than the concept.”

For Michigan State University paleontologist Danita Brandt, however, “It’s time to get off Chuck’s back!” A news release from the university reports Brandt’s concern over recent statements by a political candidate that since we don’t see apes evolving today, Darwin’s theory on the origin of man is disproved. (Answers in Genesis has long explained why this reasoning is flawed.)

Brandt named other reasons why she finds popular vilification of Darwin unmerited: he didn’t invent the idea of evolution, he didn’t coin the phrase “survival of the fittest,” and he was “a spiritual person.” But—according to the news release—“[W]hen the topic [of evolution] is debated, cynics attack the man rather than the concept.”

Is it all so—do creationists ignore the truth about Charles Darwin? Brandt is certainly right that Darwin didn’t invent the idea of evolution; but we, too, have pointed that out on many occasions (e.g., in Creation in the Making). She’s right that Darwin didn’t coin the phrase “survival of the fittest”; but we, too, have pointed that out (e.g., in A review of the new Darwin exhibition [. . .]). As stated above, we have long warned about the fallacious argument that evolution isn’t true because apes aren’t evolving (into humans) today. And as for the argument that “cynics” like us “attack the man rather than the concept,” look for yourself at the “attacks” News to Note has leveled against evolution. How many even bring up Darwin, let alone attack him?

Lastly, when it comes to Darwin being a “spiritual person” (because he “once studied to be a minister,” the release notes), Brandt is either distorting the truth or needs to do more research. The inclusion of a quotation in which Darwin identifies himself as an agnostic is closer to the truth; he actively rejected both Christianity and any belief in a personal or knowable God. Thus, calling Darwin “spiritual” is akin to saying that vociferous atheist Richard Dawkins is “on the fence” about religion.

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