‘Darwin on the Palouse’ Brings Evolution to Idaho

Darwin on the Palouse is a free event that’s all about celebrating Charles Darwin’s contributions to the world — and it’s taking place in Idaho early next year.

The Humanists of the Palouse are fundraising whatever they can in order to bring in speakers and make sure this event remains free of charge — so please help them out if you can!

More information about the venue, speakers, and topics will be available on the event’s website soon!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • OldAtheist

    I’m guessing that such a celebration will leave out the parts of the Descent of Man where Darwin “proved” that women were mentally inferior to men and praised imperialism? Or Darwin’s support of the ideas that would later develop into eugenics? Or Darwin’s scientific defenses of racism?

    Ugh.

    I appreciate the importance of Darwin’s scientific discoveries, I do. But as a human being, he was loathsome.

    How about instead of Darwin, we celebrate Alfred Russel Wallace? Wallace independently discovered natural selection right around the time Darwin did. But instead of defending England’s inequality, he opposed eugenics, was one of the first environmentalist activists, opposed racism, and fought for social justice in other ways.

    He made mistakes, to be sure – his embrace of spiritualism, for one. But Wallace’s mistakes were part of his well-intentioned, compassionate character. He didn’t rally science in support of privilege the way Darwin did.

    • invivoMark

      Wallace was a great scientist and more people should know about him. Having said that, your post is riddled with false information.

      Darwin was adamantly against slavery, and wanted to see all humans treated equally. Below is linked a list of quotes from Darwin on the topic of race. The money quote, I think, is this one:

      “As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures.”
      Quoted from Descent of Man on: http://commondescent.net/articles/darwin_on_race.htm

      Was Darwin racist or sexist? Sure, at least to some extent. Pretty much everyone at that time believed that certain races and each sex tended to display distinct qualities. Wallace probably believed that, too, but Wallace didn’t write much on the topic of human evolution.

      But there’s no way in hell that makes Darwin a “loathsome” human being. That characterization is ignorant.

      Wallace’s contributions to biology and to the theory of evolution are undeniable, but there is also a lot of misinformation passed around about the man. He was not, as is commonly claimed, “cheated” out of his spot in history. Wallace had done a great deal less work fleshing out the evidence for natural selection and common descent. He also didn’t write much about sexual selection or the origins of humans, topics on which Darwin dedicated a book. And although it is probably due to his modest nature, Wallace himself largely credited Darwin for both formulating and supporting the theory of evolution.
      http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/aug/09/charles-darwin-alfred-russel-wallace?INTCMP=SRCH

      Darwin vs. Wallace isn’t a case like Columbus vs. Bartolome popularized by The Oatmeal, where the one we remember was despicable and didn’t do what we remember them for. Both biologists were brilliant, and both made massive contributions to our understanding of the world. Darwin’s star just happened to shine a bit brighter.

      • OldAtheist

        I’m not saying that Wallace was “cheated.” Just that he was a better human being, and as humanists, I think he’s more worthy of our support than Darwin.

        Lots of white supremacists opposed slavery, but Darwin’s writings against slavery were written a couple of decades after it had already been abolished in the British Empire – again, Darwin was a supporter of the status quo.

        And Darwin was absolutely, horribly sexist, and ‘The Descent of Man’ is riddled with laughably bad science – EVEN FOR THE TIME – in support of sexism. To wit:

        “Man is more courageous, pugnacious, and energetic than woman, and has a more inventive genius.”

        “The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shewn by man attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than woman can attain — whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two lists were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music, — comprising composition and performance, history, science, and philosophy, with half-a-dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear comparison. We may also infer, from the law of the deviation of averages, so well illustrated by Mr. Galton, in his work on ‘Hereditary Genius,’ that if men are capable of decided eminence over women in many subjects, the average standard of mental power in man must be above that of woman”

        Darwin was an outspoken proponent of Euorpean colonization; Wallace opposed it. Darwin was an outspoken sexist; Wallace opposed sexism. Darwin thought that social classes were a natural outgrowth of evolution; Wallace opposed classism and actively supported reforms to provide more economic opportunities for all.

        As a lover of science, I value Darwin’s work highly. But as a humanist, I loathe the way Darwin used science to support the prejudices of the time instead of working against them. Wallace was a better man who fought for better opportunities for all. Darwin supported England’s status quo of imperialism and sexism.

        As a humanist, I say let’s celebrate Wallace.

    • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      Although your view of Darwin isn’t very accurate, it doesn’t matter. We celebrate him for his scientific achievements, not his personal views. I have no problem as a humanist recognizing the contributions of people who were not humanists themselves.

      If we hold people in the past to our current standards, nearly everyone was a horrible person.

      • OldAtheist

        You don’t have to compare Darwin to modern standards. You only have to compare him to contemporaries. He knew, corresponded, and collaborated with Wallace. Wallace was a far better voice for humanism than Darwin. Darwin had the opportunity to learn from Wallace, he didn’t, and instead lent his name to the furtherance of imperialism and sexism.

        Again, great scientific achievements by Darwin. But this is a humanist event – why not celebrate an actual humanist instead of a sexist, classist supporter of colonialism?

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          I don’t expect people of his time to be humanists. Darwin was a perfectly respectable, ethical person by the standards of the time. And Darwin, for better or worse, is the guy we associate with the discovery of evolution. He’s the right voice to choose.

          • OldAtheist

            Why not? Humanism pre-dates Darwin.

            • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              So what? You don’t need to be a humanist to be a good person.

              • OldAtheist

                Yes, but this is for a humanist event. So why not celebrate an actual humanist?

  • Yogirajj

    Hemant,

    I’ve been trying to login to your message forum since the past couple of months, and no one has approved me yet. I’ve tried contacting you on Youtube, email, etc, I don’t know what else to do. I think I have run out of options. Are there any active moderators on the “friendly atheist” site? Or am I simply ignored for whatever reason?

    • CanadianNihilist

      Approved you for what?


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