Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The defining literature of Evolution

Xunk: Evolution is obviously false!

Snikwad: What are you talking about? Evolution is an extremely well-supported scientific theory.

X: What is evolution?

S: Without going into the considerable complexity of the theory, it's natural selection working on heritable variation.

X: How is this "heritable variation" supposed to work?

S: By genes. You know, DNA, C-A-G-T.

X: Nonsense! There's nothing at all about "genes" or "DNA" in the defining literature of evolution. Search as you might, you'll find nothing about "genes" in Darwin, Wallace, or Huxley.

S: Well, we discovered genes after those pioneers died.

X: Whatever. If it's not in Darwin, it's not evolution.

S: Fine. Whatever. We'll call it something different. Would you prefer "genetic evolution"?

X: It's still got "evolution" in it.

S: How about the "New Synthesis"?

X: New Synthesis of what?

S: Well, of evolution.

X: There's that "evolution" nonsense again.

S: Good grief. OK, if it'll make you happy, we'll make up a new word: Call it "Qwghlm theory".

X: Does this "Qwghlm theory" talk about heritable variation and natural selection?

S: Well, yes, of course.

X: So it's evolution.

S: Well, yes, but...

X: What, do you think you can fool me by calling a failed theory by a different name?

S: Seriously? Are you even sane?*

*With apologies to Justin Jason

There's a point to this exercise: a commenter recently challenged me to find "in any of the defining literacy [sic*] of communism (Marx, Lenin's, Trotsky's books, your choice) any defense of democracy, individual liberties, free speech etc." Despite being completely false (there are lots of defenses of democracy, individual liberty, etc. in communist literature), the demand itself is completely absurd. It would be completely irrelevant even if there weren't any defense at all of these items in the past.

*English is not Knux's native language; his meaning is nonetheless clear.

If I talk about the social ownership of the means of production, no matter what else I say, I'm talking about communism. If I call it something else — "democratic communism", "socialism", "communitarianism", "Qwghlm theory", whatever — I would be accused — with some justice — of obfuscating what I was talking about... i.e. communism. So I call myself a communist, and I myself — not Marx, not Lenin, not Mao, and certainly not what some idiot on the internet — get to decide what I mean by "communist".

I hold the opinions I hold, and I say what I say. If you want to criticize what I actually say, then fine. Everything I have to say is freely available here on the blog. If you want to criticize what Marx said, or what Lenin, Trotsky or Mao said, or what anyone else said, find out what they actually said — most of it is freely available on the Internet — and criticize that. Accusing me of holding opinions I do not hold on the basis of what some guys said decades ago — or what you imagine they might have said — is not just ridiculous but dishonest.

It's really interesting: When they're not just lying outright, creationists focus a lot on errors and flaws (real and supposed) of scientists decades ago (Haekel's embryos, Darwin's eye, Piltdown man, etc.) If a scientist sneezed a hundred years ago, evolution is responsible for the common cold. They almost never talk about science that's happening today (except to mangle it almost beyond recognition). Similarly, every idiot critic of communism wants to talk about everything but the social ownership of capital.

There's no such thing as the defining literature of communism. The "defining literature" of communism, at least the kind of communism I'm talking about, is not found in Marx or Lenin or Mao or anyone else. The "defining literature" of communism is reality.

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