Monday, February 27, 2006

Its the Panzers again

NRO contributor John Derbyshire complains on the Corner of "Left" and "Right" creationsts. By this, he does not mean people who believe in the Genesis creations stories (although some of the people he calls right creationists do), but people who believe that human beings have not continued to evolve. The left creationists are apparently particularly sensitive to the idea that different racial and ethnic groups might have evolved in ways that leave them with different capabilities and right creationists are most concerned with - well, he really doesn't explain that very well. But he has no tolerance for either:

Both the LC and RC positions are threatened by (a) a growing pile of evidence that human evolution has been chugging merrily along this past 50,000 years, and (b) that we shall soon be able to lend a hand, changing innate human nature in ways both desirable and not. These are the things that need our attention, and that we ought to be talking about. LCs and RCs, however, prefer to busy themselves with organizing cavalry charges against the oncoming Panzers.

Using Panzers as a metaphor for those who think we think we "ought to lend a hand" is rather appropriate. The Nazis were all for giving evolution a shove in the back. When we start talking about building the New Man, we might remember that we've seen those tanks before and they made a bloody mess.

We might also remember that we've got our own history in the US of trying to create a master race. We were less insistent about it than Hitler, but still managed to break quite a few eggs without getting anywhere near an omelette. Harry Brunius recounts the story in his new book, Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America's Quest for Racial Purity Sally Satel reviewed it in in yesterday's New York Times.

I appreciate that Derbyshire isn't suggesting that we fire up the eugenics movement. (At least I hope not.) Still, my guess is that he regards those who pretty much reject out of hand the notion that we embark on a program of human improvement as obscurantist and anti-scientific. But if science is, in part, the process of basing judgments on empirical observations, then those who argue that we are far more likely to do harm than good when we start to "help evolution along" seem to have the facts on their side.

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