Cardboard Darwinism

My recent review in Nature of Nicholas Wade‘s, Michael Yudell‘s, and Robert Sussman‘s new books criticizes all three. The first comes out of the political right wing and is slyly allied with the racist, Pioneer-Funded scientific camp; the latter two identify with the Left’s argument that race is purely a cultural construct. Wade’s argument is far more dangerous than Yudell’s or Sussman’s, but I didn’t like any of the books. It is just as wrong-headed to argue that science proves that race isn’t genetic as it is to argue that it is.

Interesting, then, that the Orwellian HBD crowd, whose newspeak renders white power as “biodiversity” and anti-racism “new creationism,” is jumping down my throat for criticizing their current darling but ignoring my criticism of their antagonists. Since the piece came out, I’ve fended off attacks on Twitter and on white-supremacist sites (Nature wouldn’t let me call them that; it’s good to get it off my chest) such as Stormfront (I refuse to link to them; you can Google it if you want).

And then this missive from Larry Arnhart, a not-quite Dead White Male political scientist:

Dear Professor Comfort,
You might have some interest in my blog post on your Nature review:

Very little, in fact. The gist of Professor Arnhart’s argument is that he doesn’t understand mine. Actually, I’ll give him that much–his commentary makes it abundantly clear that he can’t follow the thread of my reasoning. But that’s a pretty weak rhetorical position, n’est pas? If the book reviews in Nature are over his head, perhaps he should stick with lighter fare.

Arnhart’s basic stance is typical of the people who like Wade’s book. Darwinism, they say, is inherently a politically conservative ideology. This is laughable. Shall we start with those ardent Darwinians Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels? From them forward, a thick cord of Leftist Darwinian thought courses through the history of evolutionary biology, down through Richard Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould.

A cord of right-wing politics, similar in girth, twines around it. You have your Herbert Spencer , your William Graham Sumner, your Charles Davenport, etc., on up to Jared Taylor. But really, are those the kind of people you want to associate with?

One important difference between Marxist Darwinians and right-wing Darwinians is that the Marxists don’t use Darwin to justify their politics the way the right-wingers do. The HBD types wrap themselves in the flag of Darwinism–and anything one says against them is taken as unpatriotic to Darwin and to science.

You can use science, just as you can use history, to support any ideology you want. But Darwinism has not been kind to right-wingers–it tends to make them look like ignorant bigots.

The HBDers hide their faces behind a cardboard Darwin stapled to a stick. They make that gentle and egalitarian soul stand for hatred, arrogance, and xenophobia. It must be the most cynical appropriation of science I’ve ever seen.

6 thoughts on “Cardboard Darwinism

  1. It’s hard for me to understand what your “argument” actually is.

    It is just as wrong-headed to argue that science proves that race isn’t genetic as it is to argue that it is.

    So: race is real and race is genetic, but that does not mean that race is ‘really’ genetic.

    So race is neither genetic nor not genetic? If you had a deeper argument there I must not be able to see it. All I see is lawyery evasion techniques. That, along with personal attacks. Where did Wade argue global warming was good?

    • If you read more carefully I might be able to respond in more depth. To repeat: Race is real because Ferguson. Because Eric Garner. And on and on. The genetic evidence for race is real, but it doesn’t mean anything, because the genetics of race is inherently a meaningless question. So: race is real. Genetics is real. But race is not “really” (as in truly) genetic.

      And there is not one single personal attack in that piece. It has been lawyered out the wazoo. It is an attack on his argument, not his person.

      You and whoever wrote about me on David Duke’s website are the only people who claim to not be able to understand my argument. Nice company.

  2. “Debates over the genetic reality of race, then, are not mainly scientific, but social. They deploy the cultural authority of science — considered society’s most objective way of understanding the world — as a fig leaf for positions motivated explicitly or implicitly by ideology.” That is brilliant.

    I confess that I have been in the “race as social construct” camp, but of course I understand that humans still evolve and that different genetic markers arose in different populations as a result of their paths out of Africa. So it exists and is mutable, and you object to simplistic advocacy masquerading as, or employing confirmation bias via, science, and “science” in service to ideological structures, am I right? (It makes no sense, for example, to fashion a society “in accordance with the law of gravity” when in fact gravity functions perfectly well when ignored.)

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