February 7, 2012

"The witches’ brew of predator-prey arms races: eye of newt, fenny snakes and resistance to a deadly poison."

The title of a lecture, one of many events here at the University of Wisconsin campus this week — in observance of the birthday of Charles Darwin. (We do a whole week for "Darwin Day," apparently. The great man's actual birthday was February 12, 1809.)

My mind is dragged back to the fascinating story in the previous post. Trent Arsenault has the ideal Darwinian strategy, doesn't he? He's perfecting and maximizing his genetic material and its distribution, including the likelihood that his offspring will be healthy and well-protected and well-reared to adulthood.

If you do come to Madison this weekend, perhaps to take in some Darwin-related things, make sure to drop by the Chazen Museum and see the Art Department's faculty show. Meade and I loved it. I couldn't do photographs of that exhibit, but there's a slide show at the link. My favorite thing was "Stoney's Tiny Tattoo" ("a painted-wood structure by Assistant Professor Fred Stonehouse... Inside, graduate student Ben Grant tattoos himself"). No one was doing tattoo performance when we were there. I just loved all the faux-primitive drawings inside the booth.

But wait! Why am I talking about Darwin's birthday today? It's not the 12th, it's the 7th. And it's not a big centenary birthday for Darwin. That was 3 years ago. Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of another great Charles D: Charles Dickens. And the reason I noticed this is the usual reason people these days notice things like that: I saw a mysterious Google Doodle and clicked on it. I've read a lot of Dickens, but there's only one Dickens book I've read twice:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way....
Oh, yes... that reminds me, it's just about exactly the 1-year anniversary of the start of the Wisconsin protests, our own special Wisconsin season of darkness/spring of hope/winter of despair.

If you're coming to Madison for Darwin Day Weekend — and maybe the faculty art show — you can also sojourn in and around the protest commemorations. I don't know what's in store, but check out the Capitol Square for some hope and despair and epochal belief and incredulity.

22 comments:

rosebud said...

A Week for Darwin, but what for that other Feb 12, 1809 guy, Abraham Lincoln?

Hoosier Daddy said...

A truly great man's birthday was yesterday.

MadisonMan said...

Happy Belated Birthday Hoosier :)

YoungHegelian said...

There are some Western thinkers who have had the misfortune to be labeled as progenitors of National Socialism, e.g Nietzsche, Hegel. Or, that Nazi antisemitism is really just a variant of Christian anti-semitism.

What you don't hear much of is who the Nazis themselves thought were their spiritual daddies. At the top of that list was Charles Darwin.

I wonder how many of the nitwits around DC with the "Darwin fishes" on their Volvos are aware of that fact?

Dead Julius said...

I've read a lot of Dickens, but there's only one Dickens book I've read twice...

Incidentally, you can get an excellent free audiobook version of that from loudlit.org here. Here's the iTunes page. I starting listening to it to see if I liked the performance. Then I became enthralled and did lots and lots of exercise so I could have a reasonable reason for listening to it at the exclusion of doing anything else. I would run 10 miles and then do strength training while the beautiful drama raged on!

edutcher said...

As rosebud notes, Darwin and the Railsplitter share the exact same birth date.

Two men who shook the world in 1860.

Sounds like two other people who are shaking the world today.

PS By all means. Hoosier. Many Happy Returns...

Michael Haz said...

In the interest of fairness and diversity, shouldn't there be a University-sponsored Creationists Weekend? Seriously, not a joke, shouldn't there be?

U of W is all about the diversity, isn't it?

Or does it want to send the message that students and faculty who don't belived in Darwin's theory are considered second-class members of the university community?

YoungHegelian said...

Of my six standard dinner party friends there are three February birthdays.

A February birth means a May conception. I think it's just Spring and the sap rises.

I'm one of those three with Feb. birthdays. I turned double nickels today.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Thanks MadMan but alas I can't make a claim to greatness. I can only admit with a certain humbleness that I fall in the pretty good category.

William said...

Darwin, Marx, Freud. It turns out that Darwin was the only one whose thought has been validated by further knowledge and experience. Those who make fun of the creationists should reflect on the fervor with which the Marxists and Freudian embraced their superior, absolutely scientific body of knowledge.

roesch/voltaire said...

And while in Madison check out the exhibit "Inside at Night-Origins of an Uprising" at Tamarack Studio and Gallery to see an interesting collection of photos from the Anti-Walker movement.

ricpic said...

Evolutionists, being pure materialists, can't explain anything that they would call superfluous: like art; like humor; like Elvis.

MikeR said...

Who would you send to the guillotine if you could? If you wouldn't send anyone, who do you know who would and who would they send?

(I know the last phrase should be, "whom would he send?", but just leave me alone, okay?)

Robert Cook said...

I haven't read a lot of Dickens, but, of the Dickens I've read, Hard Times is the one I would (and plan to) read again.

The greatness of his opening for A Tale of Two Cities is that Dickens' description of the age applies to all ages

Gabriel Hanna said...

What you don't hear much of is who the Nazis themselves thought were their spiritual daddies. At the top of that list was Charles Darwin.

Which is why they banned and publicly burned his books!

As Adolf Hitler put it, "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.

In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. "

Gabriel Hanna said...

So we have here in Hitler a guy who believes in a Creator, that man (or at least Aryan man) is the highest image of the Lord, and who says that is it impossible for one species to evolve into another. Sounds just like evolution!

Mein Kampf, vol 1 Ch 8:

"What we have to fight for is the necessary security for the existence and increase of our race and people, the subsistence of its children and the maintenance of our racial stock unmixed, the freedom and independence of the Fatherland; so that our people may be enabled to fulfill the mission assigned to it by the Creator."

Vol 1 Ch 11:

"This urge for the maintenance of the unmixed breed, which is a phenomenon that prevails throughout the whole of the natural world, results not only in the sharply defined outward distinction between one species and another but also in the internal similarity of characteristic qualities which are peculiar to each breed or species. The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. The only difference that can exist within the species must be in the various degrees of structural strength and active power, in the intelligence, efficiency, endurance, etc., with which the individual specimens are endowed."

"In short, the results of miscegenation are always the following: (a) The level of the superior race becomes lowered; (b) physical and mental degeneration sets in, thus leading slowly but steadily towards a progressive drying up of the vital sap. The act which brings about such a development is a sin against the will of the Eternal Creator. And as a sin this act will be avenged. "

Vol 2 Ch 1:

"Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise. "

So we have here a guy who believes in a Creator, that man (or at least Aryan man) is the highest image of the Lord, and who says that is it ismpossible for one species to evolve into another. Sounds just like evolution!

Darrell said...

So Hitler is just like Obama in feigning Christian beliefs in order to secure more power? Good point. Fucking Lefties!

YoungHegelian said...

@Hanna,

Are you saying that Hitler was a Christian? Are you saying that the leaders of the Nazi party were Christians? Because if you are, you better come up with some proof. the same as you might want to do with the Darwin book burning claim. National Socialism was stridently atheistic in it doctrines. Remember the quote by Rommel -- "What's the difference between a Wermacht and an SS division? The SS division has better equipment and no divisional chaplains".

My claim on Hitler-Darwin:

Lenin, Stalin & Hitler -- Robert Gellately

page 219

"...Hitler did his best to allay fears and win over the seven to eight hundred who showed up to hear him talk about topics dear to his heart like teh Darwinian "struggle for survival" and "the threat of Bolshevism"...

or

page 16

"There would be no brotherhood of man, but what Hitler imagined as an inevitable and endless Darwinian struggle of the superior to fend off the inferior"

I don't really see how one can deny the links between National Socialism & Social Darwinism. Darwin may not want to claim the Social Darwinists, but they certainly want to claim him.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Young Hegelian:Are you saying that Hitler was a Christian? Are you saying that the leaders of the Nazi party were Christians?

Hitler was raised a Catholic but I don't think even he knew what he believed from one day to the next--he told his people what he thought they wanted to hear. The vast majority of the Nazi rank and file were Christians.

the same as you might want to do with the Darwin book burning claim.

Principles for the Cleansing of Public Libraries:"Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism."

Remember the quote by Rommel

who was not a Nazi leader, but a general,

"The SS division has better equipment and no divisional chaplains."

and had "God Is With Us" on their belt buckles.

My claim on Hitler-Darwin:

is totally bogus. It is easy to cite Hitler saying something that sounds like evolution by natural selection if you don't know what it is. But Hitler never quoted Darwin's works or mentioned his name. Instead, he appealed to the Christian anti-semitism endemic in Germany since at least the days of Martin Luther, and eugenics goes back to Plato and Sparta.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, creationists gotta lie.

YoungHegelian said...

@Hanna,

Hitler was raised a Catholic but I don't think even he knew what he believed from one day to the next--he told his people what he thought they wanted to hear. The vast majority of the Nazi rank and file were Christians.

No, I think Hitler knew exactly what he thought. Mein Kampft was a perfect example of "plan the work -- work the plan" and was much more predictive of his reign than any work of Stalin's ever was. But, you are right -- he was speaking to a nation of German Christians and he wanted to bring them as GERMANS into the world that his Third Reich would make, so he had to speak their language.

On your link to the cleansing of Darwinist books, don't you find the opposition of "primitive Darwinism and Monism" strange? Doesn't this strike you as an ideological term of art? I mean, if they wanted to ban Darwin they could have banned Origin of Species, but they didn't.

The "Gott mit Uns" showed up on not only Waffen-SS insignia but also on Wehrmacht, etc. It is somewhat of a Germanic commonplace.

Read the quotes I excepted again. Hitler spoke on topics dear to him -- such as the struggle of the fittest. Gellately is not an historian on the fringes.

I don't see why you have such trouble with seeing how Social Darwinism would fit into National Socialism, or why you have trouble with seeing the influence of 19th & 20th century eugenics on the movement(Sparta, really?). They seem like natural fits. And while Christian anti-semitism definitely was in the mix, all of Europe was affected by Christian anti-semitism, but only one country decided to try genocide as the answer, so the Nazi's defintety added something new to the mix.

You've read Goldhagen, haven't you? That's the only historian I know of who's so rabid on this score.

"Creationists gotta lie"

Are you fucking insane? Where did that come from?

rcocean said...

Hurrah for Darwin, the man who inspired Hitler, Lenin, Marx, and Rebecca Watson.

Truly a figure to be celebrated.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Young Hegelian:

The reason I say "creationists gott lie" is because everything you have said today is found on the Index of Creationist Claims, which you may peruse here.

CA002.1 is "Evolution leads to Social Darwinism." CA006.1 is "Adolf Hitler exploited the racist ideas of Darwinism to justify genocide."

These claims are endlessly recycled by creationists. They are bogus, but even if they were not, they would have no SCIENTIFIC merit anyway. Nazis applied the ideal gas laws in killing Jews, after all: without thermodynamics the Holocaust would have been impossible.

But, you are right -- he was speaking to a nation of German Christians and he wanted to bring them as GERMANS into the world that his Third Reich would make, so he had to speak their language.

Nice to see you walk back the "Nazis were pagans" claim. After all, they had their own Christian church movement with millions of followers, and in addition they unified the Protestant Churches of Germany into the official Reich Church. I am aware that no true Scotsman would join a Nazi church, but millions of Germans who considered themselves Christians did and did not perceive Nazism to conflict with Christianity as they desired to practice it.

Hitler spoke on topics dear to him -- such as the struggle of the fittest.

The "struggle of the fittest" is not Darwinian evolution. It is a comic-book level distortion. Natural selection does not weed out the "weak" in favor of the "strong". It has no normative content whatever. Stupid and weak organisms outcompete smart and strong ones all the time, for many reasons.

What the Nazis were practicing was eugenics--artifical selection, the literal opposite of "natural selection"--and eugenics is as old as civilization, since it is the simple application of the principles of breeding livestock to humans That's why I pointed to Plato and Sparta. And so did Hitler:

"The abandonment of sick, puny and misshapen children by the Spartans was more humanitarian and, in reality, a thousand times more humane than the pitiful madness of our present time where the most sickly subjects are preserved at any price only to be followed by the breeding of a race from degenerates burdened with disease."

This is purely stock-breeding. There's nothing in the theory of evolution about "degeneration". Populations evolve to do reasonably well in their environments, or they go extinct, but there is no normative standard by which they can be said to be "degenerate". Cave fish, for example, have not lost their eyes because they are "degenerate" or "deevolved", but because having eyes carries a cost and in a cave environment provide little benefit.

The germ theory of disease was a metaphor Hitler used often. Let's blame the Nazis on Pasteur.

"The Western democracy of today is the forerunner of Marxism which without it would not be thinkable. It provides this world plague with the culture in which its germs can spread."

His Jew hate is literally medieval--endemic in the Catholic world all through the Middle Ages, but Luther's "On the Jews and Their Lies" had great influence on Germany. Let's blame Nazism on the Reformation.