ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Guest Blog

Guest Blog


Commentary invited by editors of Scientific American
Guest Blog HomeAboutContact

Beauty Pageants and the Misunderstanding of Evolution Meet….Again


Email   PrintPrint



Last week, self proclaimed "geek," Miss California, Alyssa Campanella made beauty pageant history…by default. When the interviewer posed a Theory of Evolution question, she was one of only two delegates to use the scientific definition of the word "theory" in her response.

The honey-drenched, colloquial definition that the majority of her competitors clung to was, yes, diplomatic. Miss California, now Miss USA, however, did not aim to please or to appease the 60% of Americans that a 2009 Gallup Poll concluded do not believe in Evolution. Rather than aiming to please or appease an ignorant majority, The future Miss USA delivered a response that supported an empirical evidence based definition of specified phenomena: the scientific definition of the word, "theory."

Myriad epistemological menu options were neither feigned nor relevant because the scientific definition of "theory" defines a clear set of explanations for a specified phenomena, acquired through empirical evidence. Creationist diatribe has no place in the equation because it is not relevant. Anyone who has ever used antibiotics to fight an infection has reaped the benefits of this "theory" (in the scientific sense).

Miss USA 2011 was not the first occurrence of an interface between American pageantry and pseudo-scientific misappropriation of the Theory of Evolution. At the turn of the last century, a newly formed American Eugenics Society aspired to establish a genetic Utopia.

Galton’s Laboratory.

Sir Francis Galton, the founder of Eugenics and Darwin’s half-cousin, dismissed the environmental factors that Darwin insisted were critical to natural selection in favor of an agricultural approach, based primarily on conjecture. When Charles Davenport brought Eugenics in the United States, he delineated the Eugenics Creed as follows:

- I believe in striving to raise the human race to the highest plane of social organization, of cooperative work and of effective endeavor.

- I believe that I am the trustee of the germ plasm that I carry; that this has been passed on to me through thousands of generations before me; and that I betray the trust if (that germ plasm being good) I so act as to jeopardize it, with its excellent possibilities, or, from motives of personal convenience, to unduly limit offspring.

- I believe that, having made our choice in marriage carefully, we, the married pair, should seek to have 4 to 6 children in order that our carefully selected germ plasm shall be reproduced in adequate degree and that this preferred stock shall not be swamped by that less carefully selected.

- I believe in such a selection of immigrants as shall not tend to adulterate our national germ plasm with socially unfit traits.

- I believe in repressing my instincts when to follow them would injure the next generation.

Decades before its established American presence, Miss United States, a precursor to Miss America, was a swimsuit competition that took place in 1880 at Rehoboth Beach. Thomas Edison was a judge. The organizers insisted contestants be at least 5 feet, 4 inches, weigh no more than 130 pounds and be unmarried in order to compete. The contestants were judged exclusively on their looks.

The first Miss Americas. 1921.

Looks were not an exclusive criterion for the judges of the 1908 inaugural Louisiana State Fair Better Babies Competition in 1908. Inspired by the social efficiency movement and its call for standardized homes, roads, and schools, the competition was not a beauty pageant so much as it was a means of establishing standards of child breeding.

Physicians entered designated tents to evaluate the health of contestants using the standards traditionally used for evaluating livestock, agriculture and flowers. They were given scorecards detailing height, weight and measurements and instructed to deduct points for blemished skin, stubby fingers, baby fat and uncooperative behavior with the aim of providing child breeding health standards to parents.

By the time World War I ended, critics of the Eugenics movement had pretty much debunked the movement’s core scientific justifications. It was not difficult to do, given the movement’s pedantic determinism and disregard for environmental influences. A growing understanding of the multi-gene effects of inheritance served to nullify most of Eugenicists’ supporting data. Yet, their influence continued to impact legislation.

Most states regarded forced sterilizations as a viable way of eliminating sexual, drug and alcohol crimes. Americans who suffered from blindness, schizophrenia, manic-depression, epilepsy and severe alcoholism were also routinely sterilized.

Better Babies competition.

In 1920, the creators of the Baby Health movement launched Fitter Family Contest at the Kansas State Free Fair in 1920. The initiative was backed by the American Eugenics Society’s Committee on Popular Education.

Contestants were required to submit an "Abridged Record of Family Traits" and Medical doctors performed psychological as well as physical examinations. Individual family members received letter grade determining their level of eugenic health and trophies were presented to the high scorers. Like the winning Better Baby Contestants, Fitter Family champions were invariably white and of Western and Northern European heritage.

In 1921, an Atlantic City hotel owner collaborated with the municipal Chamber to organize a small-scale beauty contest. Their goal was to extend the tourist season past Labor Day. During the first week of September, seven cities in the Northeast each sent a swimsuit clad "beauty maid" representative. Contestants were judged based on looks and sixteen year-old Margaret Gorman, Miss Washington, D.C., was awarded the Golden Mermaid statue and the title, "Miss America".

Hover over the image, to see more history of the beauty pageants and its origins in the eugenics movement.

Three years later and unencumbered by their debunked scientific legitimacy, the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor had found a new initiative to champion: the U.S. Immigration Restriction Act of 1924. Eugenics Record Office Superintendent, Harry Laughlin was instrumental in pushing through a legislation that ensured 86% of immigration opportunities were given to Northern and Western Europeans.  

Eugenics ‘tree’.

Then, in 1927, an epic Supreme Court fail: Buck v. Bell, upheld Virginia’s eugenics-inspired forced sterilization program targeting "mental defectives." The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics was founded that same year in Germany and the 1933 German sterilization law cited Virginia (courtesy of the epic Supreme Court fail) as the prototype on which their own sterilization policies were based.

When Lenore Slaughter took over the Miss America pageant in 1935, they were required to detail ancestry on a formal biological data sheet. Contestants with ancestral connections to the Revolutionary War and The Mayflower had the advantage and the rule #7 officiated that contestants must be "in good health" and "of the white race."

While the post-war realization that Nazi Germany’s "final solution" had gone from involuntary sterilizations to genocide nullified the Eugenics Creed and terminology, involuntary sterilizations in the United States continued through the 70s.

A couple of days after the crowning of Miss USA 2011, several North Carolina sterilization victims came forth to expose the horror of what had been done to them in the 1970s and request monetary compensation.

Interestingly, most of the 49 Miss USA candidates who condoned treating evolution as an elective "option," lacked the poise and clarity required to succeed in that particular segment of the competition. The relevance of this judging criterion was verified last week and assembled, along with the surrounding conversation, on Storify:

[View the story "Miss USA 2011 - Did She Win Because of Her Position on Evolution? " on Storify]

 

Recommended for further reading:

The Man Who Turned Darwin Into a Determinist

Darwin’s Connection to Nazi Eugenics Exposed

Eugenics Archive

Controlling Heredity Exhibit

High School Bioethics Curriculum

One Generation of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Is Enough

NC forced sterilization victims voice grief, pain

About the Author: Susanna Speier is not a scientist. The "ear" for layman-friendly science explanations, that The New York TImes deemed, "excellent," however, gains her ample back door access. The conversations she is most eager to listen to and perhaps engage in include: dark matter, the future of genetic technology, plate tectonics, human space exploration (its future and its past) and ice (as in the shifting as well as the melting polar caps). Sometimes conversations with scientists turn into collaborations. Five of her plays have been produced; over 100 of her articles have been published and one of her screenplays remains in liminal purgatory. She dayjobs as a freelance social media specialist and digital journalist.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

 






Comments 29 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Bonzo666 10:39 am 06/29/2011

    All that about Eugenics and they forgot about the liberal hero Margaret Sanger or that Eugenics is alive and well.
    Just Google
    "obama and eugenics "
    Eugenics is alive and well Its just got a PC makeover.

    Link to this
  2. 2. SkepticalKen 12:23 pm 06/29/2011

    Talk about diatribe! The lurching segue from creationists not understanding evolution to eugenics, which is evolution badly applied by fools, nearly gave me whiplash. A loose tie was eventually made between eugenics and beauty pageants, but the point of making the connection was well concealed.
    There was one video link to contestant’s answers, and not even a snippet of a quote from any answers, good or bad…just a poorly disguised attempt to pass off the author’s opinion as the rationale for the winner’s answer.
    This was the most poorly written pieces I’ve ever seen on this site.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Newave 1:13 pm 06/29/2011

    Sadly, she’s still an "idiot" by modern standards. I especially liked her comment about believing in the "Big Bang Theory." Since most of us refer to it simply as the "Big Bang," I can only assume she was referring to the television series, with which, I’m convinced, she is more familiar.

    Link to this
  4. 4. sculptingman 1:18 pm 06/29/2011

    Diatribe? Sounds like Ken is grinding his own ax.
    Clearly, the piece is intended to show that the entire concept of Beauty Pageants has its origin in the same misapplication of evolutionary concepts as other forms of "Social Darwinism" that led to modern concepts ranging from racial purity and superiority…thru political superiority…
    Each of them, little more than traditional racism seizing upon imaginary scientific endorsement of their prejudices.
    There is a telling irony in the question being asked of contestants, in that it reveals a woeful ignorance of the very ideas that gave birth to the pageant in the first place, and a wry twist in the notion that, with Miss California’s win, it might be seen as testing for genetic intelligence.
    Pitiful to think that the alternative is to think we select women based upon their adherence to superstitions, rather than critical thinking.
    Sadder still, that the question had a correct answer than seemingly none of them came up with, namely, that evolution, being the single most successful theory in scientific history, as well as the most misused, should be the core teaching of all students as an example of the power of evidentiary argument.

    Link to this
  5. 5. KattM 2:03 pm 06/29/2011

    I really think the line from the linked Panda’s Thumb article sums up what I would have hoped would be one of the ladies’ responses: "I guess it would asking too much for one of the contestants to say, “Actually, I’m a [scientific field] major and I know that evolution is the central organizing theory of biology, and everyone should learn it as part of a complete basic science education.” "

    Link to this
  6. 6. nccomfort 2:59 pm 06/29/2011

    SkepticalKen is right: this piece is sloppy and badly argued–not worthy of SciAm. There *is* a link between beauty pageants and eugenics, but supporting the theory of evolution isn’t it. To suggest that it is makes no sense. Does she mean to imply that we take an anti-eugenic stance by supporting Intelligent Design?

    Plus, the article is full of errors. There was no American Eugenics Society in 1900–the AES wasn’t founded till 1921. Title-casing the "American Eugenics Movement" as if it were a formal organization is absurd. It’s not "Cold Springs" it’s "Cold Spring Harbor." And so on, and so on.

    Editors: Please, exert stronger guidance or your reputation will suffer.

    Link to this
  7. 7. SusannaSpeier 4:12 pm 06/29/2011

    Skepticalken & Nccomfort: Have you spent any time with the digital interactive chronology I created? It specifies the ways in which American beauty pageants and eugenics movement milestones have intersected and overlapped over the last century.

    Link to this
  8. 8. EvolvingApe 5:16 pm 06/29/2011

    I agree that this was incredibly poorly written, incoherent and full of errors.

    SciAm really needs to lift its standards a bit.

    BTW, Miss California used the word "theory" to describe her belief in the "Big Bang Theory," not to describe evolution (which she defined as her belief in "the evolution of humans throughout time…"). Probably got the "theory" bit from the TV show. :)

    Miss Connecticut was the ONLY contestant who answered coherently.

    Link to this
  9. 9. maxsmart 6:23 pm 06/29/2011

    Is is a matter of belief?

    Link to this
  10. 10. SusannaSpeier 7:29 pm 06/29/2011

    EvolvingApe, The point of the post was not to parse the contestant’s dialog and probe their rhetoric. I made the observation that that poise and clarity came more easily to the candidates who also happened to be better educated. As your comment about the "errors" was general and not specific, I am unable to address it. I have, however, noted NcComfort’s comment about the title casing and will contact the editor to request that the correction be made. Blogs rarely have the resources to adhere to the meticulous copy standards of print journals and magazines. Scientific American Online is unique in their dedication to quality, accuracy, relevance and journalistic integrity. It is why I blog for them.

    Link to this
  11. 11. SusannaSpeier 7:32 pm 06/29/2011

    Maxsmart: huh?

    Link to this
  12. 12. SkepticalKen 10:22 pm 06/29/2011

    I see…so the title of the article was misleading…should have been "Beauty Pageants and Eugenics Meet Again". At least then I wouldn’t have bothered reading it.

    Link to this
  13. 13. SusannaSpeier 12:02 am 06/30/2011

    The title is not misleading, SkepticalKen. Eugenics is based on a misunderstanding of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Here is a link to the Dolan DNA Learning Center Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s explanation of why and how eugenics research is flawed. http://bit.ly/iTHLiv

    Link to this
  14. 14. hoamingin 3:25 am 06/30/2011

    I was startled by the statement "the environmental factors that Darwin insisted were critical to natural selection". I would like to know where, in any edition of Origin, Darwin stated that. I provide below many examples where he said exactly the opposite.

    But first, let me go to Thomas Huxley. In a letter to Darwin the day before publication, Huxley gave his support for Darwin’s central thesis of descent from common origins over long time periods, but questioned Darwin’s explanation of the mechanism, specifically the insignificant role he gave to external conditions. The day after publication Darwin replied "You have most cleverly hit on one point, which has greatly troubled me; if, as I must think, external conditions produce little direct effect, what the devil determines each particular variation?"

    Darwin deliberately decided to exclude external conditions from his explanation, Natural Selection. If anyone doubts that, I suggest they go back and read Origin. In Chs 1 and 2 Darwin argues that external conditions have an indirect role in affecting variations. In Ch 3 he describes how different species exist in different climates: "the change of climate being conspicuous, we are tempted to attribute the whole effect to its direct action. But this is a very false view". Different species were adapted to different climates not because of the effect of the climate, but because they were favoured (by their internal qualities) in a struggle for existence on those climates. Strange logic, but please read it for yourself.

    The cultural belief that internal qualities determined external outcomes can be seen in the writings of Malthus, Spencer, Darwin and Galton. These issues are in more detail in my blog http://ideasintuitionandthinking.com/blog.

    If every biology student was required to study Origin, biologists would soon recognise the logical incongruities in Darwin’s explanation. As Huxley observed, it must be read slowly, so as to understand how Darwin connected ideas (and in most cases failed to connect them). Huxley described it as "one of the hardest books to understand thoroughly that I know of".

    Huxley always held his reservations about Darwin’s explanation. In his obituary (1888) for Darwin he wrote "every species which exists, exists in virtue of adaptation, and whatever accounts for that adaptation accounts for the existence of the species". That is the opposite of Darwin’s explanation.

    Huxley was right. Darwin’s explanation was wrong, as is the reference to it in this article.

    Link to this
  15. 15. hoamingin 3:50 am 06/30/2011

    Susanna,

    If you read my post above and look at my blog, eugenics, or something similar, had to be the inevitable extension of Darwin’s explanation. Darwin decided to reject external conditions and attribute change to internal qualities resulting from variations that favoured individuals in a struggle for existence. Many people have claimed that Malthus led Darwin to Natural Selection (and Wallace led Darwin to Malthus). More probable is that Malthus Spencer, Darwin and Galton all soaked up the same cultural beliefs that an individual’s circumstances reflected internal qualities. That is all in my blog.

    What still astounds me is that current biologists claim that they operate from the belief that external conditions have major effect, yet apply assumptions based on Natural Selection, which came from Darwin’s decision that they had no direct effect.

    BTW, Darwin’s son Leonard was Chairman of the British Eugenics Society from 1911 to 1928. Darwin was a true gentleman. I am sure that if he understood the potential consequences of his decision, he would have thought twice.

    of external conditions

    Link to this
  16. 16. SusannaSpeier 5:10 am 06/30/2011

    Hoamingin: Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful response. After deliberating on whether or not to mention the fact that Darwin’s son had served as Chairman of the British Eugenics Society, I decided against. Namely, because this was way too dichotomous complex for a blog post about beauty pageants and the eugenics movement. Were this a feature story for a print magazine (which I also do my fair share of writing) I could delve more deeply. The purpose of the post, however, was to delineate the 20th century chronology of these two trends observe some of the feature that appeared to overlap.

    Galton did not share the cautious scientific temperament of his cousin Darwin, but was a forceful advocate for what he believed in his gut to be true. In 1869, he published Hereditary Genius, arguing that smart, successful people were simply "gifted" with a superior biology. In 1874, he introduced the phrase "nature and nurture" (as a rhetorical device to favor nature). In 1883, he invented "eugenics," his plan to maximize the breeding of biologically-superior humans and minimize the breeding of biologically-inferior humans. All of this was in service to his conviction that natural section was driven exclusively by biological heredity, and that the environment was just a passive bystander. In fact, it was actually Galton, not Darwin, who laid the conceptual groundwork for genetic determinism. Galton wrote:

    "Biographies show [eminent men] to be haunted and driven by an incessant instinctive craving for intellectual work. They do not work for the sake of eminence, but to satisfy a natural craving for brain work, just as athletes cannot endure repose on account of their muscular irritability, which insists upon exercise. It is very unlikely that any conjunction of circumstances, should supply a stimulus to brain work, commensurate with what these men carry in their own constitutions."

    Darwin himself later succumbed to this view, writing in "The Descent of Man":

    "We now know, through the admirable labours of Mr. Galton, that genius…tends to be inherited."

    Link to this
  17. 17. SusannaSpeier 5:15 am 06/30/2011

    Hoamingin: Oops — hit sent too early on that last post. When I meant to add after writing that first paragraph was the fact that I was about to paste an excerpt I thought you’d enjoy. The excerpt was from an Atlantic Monthly article by David Shenk. Here’s the link:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2009/11/the-man-who-turned-darwin-into-a-determinist/30807/

    Thanks again for your insightful commentary.

    Link to this
  18. 18. hoamingin 9:36 pm 06/30/2011

    Susanna,

    The point of my comments was that Darwin did not invent the idea that external outcomes resulted from internal qualities of individuals. He was raised in a society in which that view was part of the air they breathed.

    That view was not confined to England. In Germany, Nietzsche wrote about Ubermenschen (Supermen or Overmen) who, by had a natural right to control the world. When Hitler applied those views in practice, he understood that if some were Ubermenschen, others were Untermenschen.

    Would Nietzsche have agreed to Hitler’s practical application of his philosophy? Probably not. Would Galton have agreed? Probably not. Each of them seemed to believe in some form of natural nobility whose own internal qualities would, like cream, cause them to rise to the top.

    Galton naively believed that naturally noble individuals would apply their capabilities "like bees or ants, for public ends and not for individual gain". Spencer wrote that "in the ultimate man perfect morality, perfect individuation, and perfect life will be simultaneously realised". The ultimate man "in spontaneously fulfilling his own nature, incidentally performs the functions of a social unit; and yet is only enabled so to fulfil his own nature, by all others doing the like". Perfected individuals would achieve perfect individuation, while at the same time doing the same things as everyone else, like ants and bees. Darwin’s strange logic came out that milieu.

    My question is why modern scientists cling to ideas that are so obviously wrong? One biologist agreed that my comments about Darwin were valid, but that was history. Evolutionary biologists have "reformulated" Natural Selection so that it now accepts that external conditions have major effect.

    That places biologists in a state of being half pregnant. They have reversed the decision that led Darwin to Natural Selection without changing the assumptions that flowed from it. They even give their reversed formulation the same name, Natural Selection.

    If a major section of the sciences reverses a crucial decision on which all its assumptions are based, should it not re-examine those assumptions? When Darwin excluded external conditions, competition in which internal qualities favoured individuals was a necessary explanation. The unanswered question (and unasked by generations of biologists) has always been "what favours them?" and the answer has always been "the exernal conditions". There is no selective process. There is only deselection of those unable to survive in the prevailing conditions.

    Link to this
  19. 19. kegill 1:25 pm 07/1/2011

    I enjoyed your historical recap. But I have a question: who is the "other" contestant that you judged as using theory correctly? I ask in part because Ms CA (a) did not answer the question asked (should evolution be taught in schools) and (b) said nothing about ‘theory’ (she believes "in the evolution of humans, you know, throughout time").

    The first article reporting this (USA Today) was wrong in how it characterized responses; even Greg Laden’s summary (your first link) is incorrect (3, not 2, said it should not be taught). I compiled the answers — with excerpts so people can disagree or agree with how I characterized them: http://themoderatevoice.com/114102/americas-rejection-of-evolution-reflected-in-miss-usa-pageant/

    I understand the use of a current event to provide historical context. But it has been very frustrating for me to see how the initial framing (which was in error) has been perpetuated.

    Link to this
  20. 20. SusannaSpeier 1:56 pm 07/1/2011

    hoamingin: I’ve already politely redirected you to Atlantic Monthly’s deconstruction of Galton. That not enough for you? Okay, how bout you read what one of the organizations that pioneered all the crap that you’re espousing has to say for itself in retrospect. http://bit.ly/iTHLiv Now, do you really want to continue down this trajectory? REALLY?

    Link to this
  21. 21. SusannaSpeier 2:19 pm 07/1/2011

    Kegill: I believe my editor linked to Greg Laden’s post because he provided a more comprehensive run-down of each candidate’s position. There is not, to my knowledge, an official transcript available. After viewing the interviews several times, I concluded that Miss California and Miss Minnesota were the only two delegates who seemed grounded in the scientific definition of "theory." Miss California, as everyone already know, the "science geek." Miss Minnesota, however, stood equally firm in her conviction. She pointed out that evolution and Catholicism can co-exist, citing what her priest and what The Pope had said as points of reference.

    Link to this
  22. 22. ElizabethR 2:56 am 07/3/2011

    "most of the 49 Miss USA candidates who condoned treating evolution as an elective "option,""

    This is a factual error. I would appreciate it if Scientific American would STOP condoning the repetition of this inaccuracy.

    I break down the answers of all 51 contestants here: http://www.onegirlsopinion.net/2011/06/beauty-queens-evolution-and-bad.html

    The facts are:
    10 women say, without reservation or any sort of other options presented, that they would approve of the teaching of evolution in schools.

    7 acknowledge the religious side of the debate without stating in any way that they feel that side should be taught in schools, simply saying that students will be exposed to it (a very different situation, in my opinion).

    19 suggest teaching it along with "other options."

    10 make statements that are unclear but suggest teaching only part, or as you say, an "elective."

    3 are entirely unclear, including Indiana who is frequently cited as being opposed to evolution (she specifically states, "I don’t know…we should leave that up to the government."

    Only TWO contestants opposed the teaching of evolution outright.

    You can take what you want from these comments, and that doesn’t change the crux of your article. However I am dismayed at the fact that so many people have not done their due diligence in fact checking or properly representing the opinions and statements of the contestants.

    If you would like to amend the sentence to read "29 Miss USA Candidates" then you would be more in line with the actual facts as presented online by the Miss USA Pageant.

    Link to this
  23. 23. hoamingin 10:01 am 07/3/2011

    Susanna,

    You seem to have me on a trajectory that supports eugenics. Anything but. Read my posts again and you will see the opposite.

    Let me get back to the point. In your article you referred to "the environmental factors that Darwin insisted were critical to natural selection". Darwin did not insist on any such thing. In fact, he insisted the opposite. Chapters 1 and 2 of Origin clearly say that the effect of external conditions seemed to be to produce variations, which the separate process of natural selection then worked on.

    Let me quote from a letter to Moritz Wagner, October 13, 1876 (after publication of his last edition of Origin). "In my opinion the greatest error which I have committed, has been not allowing sufficient weight to the direct action of the environment, i.e. food, climate, &c., independently of natural selection". Note: this was the first time I have been able to find Darwin using the word environment. He certainly did not use the word in any edition of Origin.

    Even if Darwin had periods of doubt, just before his death he wrote in a letter to Professor Semper July 19, 1881 "I still must believe that changed conditions give the impulse to variability, but that they act in most cases in a very indirect manner".

    So I repeat: Darwin specifically excluded the effect of external conditions from natural selection: he claimed that their effect was independent of natural selection, insignificant and indirect, through causing variations.

    If you know of anywhere that Darwin wrote anything different, please reference it, because I have been unable to find it.

    As I describe in earlier posts, natural selection is based on the driver of change being not external conditions, but internal qualities that favour individuals in competitive struggle. If external factors act directly there is no need for competition as part of the explanation. If internal factors are claimed to be the drivers, competition is necessary, but the question still remains "what favours individuals in specific conditions?", a question that did not occur to Darwin and is unasked by biologists.

    My criticism is not directed at Darwin. When he was working out his theory there were many unknowns, so it was understandable that he adopted beliefs that were common in the culture of that time. (See Malthus 1798 and Spencer 1851).

    Galton invented the term eugenics, but not the underlying beliefs. He simply put those beliefs into practice.

    My criticism is of current biologists who seem unaware of the foundations of their assumptions.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Mong H Tan, PhD 3:17 pm 07/3/2011

    RE: How Darwinism has been morphed into "neo-Darwinism" of the 20th century!? — By the neo-Darwinists, sophists co-opting of their pseudoscientific natural selection reductionism (or biological determinism or biologism) and eugenics (or genetic determinism or geneticism by rhetoric or selective breeding) of the late 19th century, of course!?

    I thought your acute questioning of "evolutionary biology" (EB) or neo-Darwinism today — since the Modern Synthesis (MS) of the 1940s — may be best queried into the history of this gross misrepresentation of Darwinism as the MS in EB nowadays: as the neo-Darwinists, sophists covert derivation of biologism or geneticism or natural selection (NS) reductionism from "The Origin of Species" (TOS) since 1859!?

    In response to your critical queries above, I thought we — the general science-philosophy readers, practitioners — must now arise and be prepared to critically reevaluate all the "scientific and philosophical aspects" and the ramifications of Darwinism thereof, since over 150 years ago: especially including the misuses and abuses of NS theory in the subsequent Francis Galton’s eugenic forays; and the Thomas Huxley’s antireligious or the naturalism vs. religionism issues of the era in England!? (To be continued below)

    Link to this
  25. 25. Mong H Tan, PhD 3:22 pm 07/3/2011

    RE: How Darwinism has been morphed into "neo-Darwinism" of the 20th century!? (Continued from above)

    This is because Darwinism in TOS was solely established — albeit non-religiously; nor genetically (a term that was unheard of at the time) — whereas Darwinism was clearly drafted and based on Darwin’s own crucial scientific and philosophical worldviews: as he so thoughtfully and broadly outlined and analyzed (for over 20 years) and subsequently concluded in TOS that "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." — Whereas please note that there is nothing described about life "genesis" nor "genetics" issues, at all; but, it is only about the "evolution" of life "forms" or organism "species" that he (and Alfred Wallace and others) could have had observed, collected, and taxonomized at and of their times worldwide: the grandeur view or evolution of life species on Earth, indeed!

    Furthermore, in and by the natural philosophy terms of his time: this is clearly an open-ended theory and conclusion of the naturalism of species of the time; whereas scientifically, the Darwin’s hypothesis of NS "mechanism" or lack thereof — not of evolution the process itself; but the mechanism(s) or NS of species therein described) — is certainly now (and then) an open subject for further scientific research, investigation, and definition! Co-opting Mendelism into Darwinism as presented by the MS (and other pseudoscience or pseudo-genetic or pseudo-linguistics) is not the grandeur (scientific) mechanism of evolution, at all!

    Unfortunately, even today, most neo-Darwinists or EB reductionists and sophists have had still been unable to reexamine and train and fully distinguish the acute difference between the grandeur view of life (which is evolution) and the metaphysical view of NS rhetoric in Darwinism; as these 2 worldviews (the scientific and the philosophical) have been all blended as one in TOS, as a "branching tree of life" species hypothesis of the distinctive 19th-century masterpiece of naturalism: the natural philosophy of life species as espoused by Darwin (and his adherents thereof in England) which would have had been completely different and unrelated to the independent studies, and (To be continued below)

    Link to this
  26. 26. Mong H Tan, PhD 3:28 pm 07/3/2011

    RE: How Darwinism has been morphed into "neo-Darwinism" of the 20th century!? (Continued from above)

    …..the discovery of "developmental biology or botany" (DB) and "genetics" or the pea-plant hereditary or germ-line experiments by Gregor Mendel, elsewhere in the 19th-century Europe!

    Consequently — and especially urgent for today and beyond — all the neo-Darwinist research works in EB or geneticism as reduced by the MS above — one which insistently invokes NS reductionism or evolutionism (please see Steven Pinker 1994 "The Language Instinct") or biologism (please see EO Wilson 1975 "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis") or geneticism (please see Richard Dawkins 1976 "The Selfish Gene") etc thereof — shall call for evermore close scrutiny and rigorous criticism of the evermore neo-Darwinist sophistry literature — especially concerning the practical science-philosophy issues of today and beyond!

    Otherwise EB — or neo-Darwinism as it is propagated today: without any revision or demarcation from the true scientific DB or genetics or linguistics or neuroscience, etc — EB evolutionism will continue to confuse and corrupt evermore young students (including those beauty pageant contestants as very nicely analyzed and discussed herein above) about the concurrent evolutionism vs. creationism fallacy and issues (since the 1990s) in our education systems, including the university systems worldwide; as I recently analyzed here: http://godsgenesconscienceglobalbooksellers.blogspot.com/ — a response to "Biology teachers often dismiss evolution" — RE: It’s not their fault!? — Or, Attempting to treat Malignancy (neo-Darwinism or Darwinism as atheism fallacy) by its symptoms!? (February 4, 2011).

    Best wishes, Mong 7/3/11usct2:28p; practical science-philosophy critic; author "Decoding Scientism" and "Consciousness & the Subconscious" (works in progress since July 2007), "Gods, Genes, Conscience" (iUniverse; 2006 — http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0595379907 ) and "Gods, Genes, Conscience: Global Dialogues Now" (blogging avidly since 2006 — http://www2.blogger.com/profile/18303146609950569778 ).

    Link to this
  27. 27. hoamingin 7:25 am 07/4/2011

    Mong,

    I don’t know what to say. I think that you agree with some of my points, but to be honest, I am not sure which ones. I went to your website and saw that you wrote a book "Gods, Genes, Conscience" and I was intrigued by what you describe as a self-explanatory subtitle "A Socio-Intellectual Survey of our Dynamic Mind, Life, all Creations in Between and Beyond, on Earth–or, A Critical Reader’s Theory of Everything: Past, Present, Future; in Continuum, ad Infinitum". That reminded me of the time the Dalai Lama went into the pizza shop. When asked for his order, he replied "make me one with everything".

    Mong, I do not see grandeur in evolution. I see only the practical reality of survival in the prevailing conditions.

    Given that existing species are adapted to existing conditions, evolutionary pressure is only likely to come onto a species when there is a change in conditions. If all individuals in the species are able to survive the change in conditions, there will be no change in the species. If no individuals are able to survive the change in conditions, the species becomes extinct. Evolution happens between those two extremes.

    This view agrees with what geneticists have found. Variations do not, as Darwin believed, result directly in
    change in the species. Variations build up as genetic diversity. The genetic evidence for evolutionary change is a reduction in that diversity. Evolution does not result from emergence of diversity, but from the elimination of some of that diversity. The obvious mechanism is pressure from external conditions. Geneticists call it natural selection, even though it is the opposite of how Darwin described natural selection.

    I think you are harsh on Huxley. He was not anti-religion, he was pro-logic. To describe his position he invented the word agnostic. He often wrote that he would like the religious explanation to be true, because it would make things simpler, but he insisted on evidence.

    He always disagreed with Darwin’s explanation, but like Darwin, he lacked the information to come up with the correct explanation. As I wrote in an earlier post, even in his obituary for Darwin he wrote in 1888 "every species which exists, exists in virtue of adaptation, and whatever accounts for that adaptation accounts for the existence of the species".

    Huxley was leaving a message for future biologists that the drivers of evolution are external factors. Present day biologists agree with that, but cling to assumptions that Darwin based on the opposite belief. Can anyone explain the logic?

    Link to this
  28. 28. SusannaSpeier 10:11 am 07/5/2011

    ElizabethR: I will not amend the number for following reasons: (1) Theory is a scientific homonym. Unlike homonyms like “bat,” “stand,” “stalk,” “cart,” “read,” the different words that sound and look alike (technically speaking, these are referred to as homographs and homophones yet remain under the “homonym” umbrella) the words “theory” and “theory” are abstract and therefore easy to mistaken for the same word when in fact they area not. (2) My article posits, that only two candidates demonstrated an accurate understanding of the scientific "theory." By accurate, I mean, understanding that there is a scientific definition of theory and a colloquial one and being able to differentiate between the two. I suggest checking out this brilliant and easy to understand post, written by another Scientific American Guest Blogger http://bit.ly/jynpNd for clarification on what a scientific theory is. (3) Your meticulously transcribed interviews –which, by the way, are the most accurate, I have come across– enable me to confidently reiterate my position that Miss California and Miss Minnesota were the only two candidates to articulate a working understanding of the scientific definition of "theory." (3) I appreciate and share the concern expressed. Media often does misrepresent intelligent women who also happen to be beautiful. All the more reason for the delegates to be proactive in their efforts to learn the difference between the scientific and colloquial definition of "theory," don’t you think?

    Link to this
  29. 29. SusannaSpeier 3:45 am 07/7/2011

    hoamingin: Interesting that the articles and slideshow I posted to supplement our discussion remain unacknowledged. You criticize today’s biologists for rejecting your supremacist trajectory. Your supremacist trajectory, however, is not science — it is racism.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American MIND iPad

Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now >>

X

Email this Article

X