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: http://darwinianconservatism.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-confusion-in-scientific-study-of.html
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.