Darwin & Shelby

Darwin & Shelby

Darwinism Slams The 3rd World

As I make my way more slowly than usual to Kenya, I’ve stopped in London to visit the Darwin exhibit at the British Museum. While flying over, the World Bank issued a report that for the first time since WWII the world economy is expected to post a decline, and that the hardest hit will be the Third World: Seven hundred billion (external, i.e. AID) dollars, the Bank said, will be needed by the Third World this year just to continue to exist.

The Darwin exhibit at the British Natural History Museum is a slight redo of the same exhibit that was earlier at the American Natural History Museum in New York. Much is the same, but I noted specially an emphasis here on documenting America’s romance with creationism and in one of the mini-theater videos, a scathing reproof of creationism by a long list of scientific talking heads. I guess New York didn’t dare.

And at the same time, too, there was a slightly extended version of Darwin’s own reticence to publish what he believed: natural selection. It was nearly 20 years after he compiled the data and most of the theories before he actually dared to publish. It’s widely presumed now that he did so because of a younger upstart, Alfred Wallace, who told Darwin he was going to do so. Wallace was an impoverished adventurer who had to spend his life collecting species and selling them back at home to fund his journeys and research. Darwin was upper class, raised with a silver spoon and able to cogitate his theories for 20 years as a gentleman hobby farm at his estate, the “Down.”

Wallace corresponded much with Darwin. There’s a debate raging and fine tuned by David Quammen’s Song of the Dodo that without Wallace Darwin would neither have had the copious evidence nor the motivation to ever have published. Even before these two there were “evolutionists”, including Robert Chambers who in 1832 published a natural selection theory before being ridiculed out of existence by the then theologians cum-scientists.

The original acceptance of Darwin’s natural history theories led quickly to men of stature postulating social Darwinism, and it was a hop, skip and jump from there to eugenics. It’s remarkable how truth is coopted by the politics of the moment.

And so I worry that Senator Shelby, among others, who would like to see the normal demise of Citicorp and GM and hundreds of home owners — because that is what the status quo untouched would do – will likely thumb his nose at the Third World’s need for its own bailout.

Shelby leads the pack of invalid thinkers who believe that the weak should be abandoned by the strong, a not so far-fetched analog of social Darwinism. And so in the midst of the worst global economy of nearly all our life-times, we celebrate Darwin’s birthday, laud his science and begin this misalignment of natural selection to the contemporary world order.

It made me realize that Darwin was an imperial scientist, that Wallace was the people’s man, and that society’s lack of compassion for the less privileged impeded science in Darwin’s day, coopted it to justify the Holocaust and now is likely to abandon the Third World.

Often since evolution was fully understood, we’ve come to realize the interconnectivity of species, and even of species and inorganic but fragile parts of earth like special geological and weather systems. We learned that ecology is the compassionate explanation of evolution. Science has demonstrated that allowing the reduction of species – the contraction of our incredibly varied planet – ultimately reduces ourselves: makes us sick. As a science it’s mundane and exact, but its broader incorporation into social planning leads to heart-felt policies.

We are all interconnected. How on earth we’re going to fund all the bailouts we need is beyond this one man’s comprehension, but I fear greatly the powerful’s inclination to protect any but themselves.