The Latest Effort to Smear Evolution By Natural Selection

The Latest Effort to Smear Evolution By Natural Selection

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As a biographical sketch, Darwin: Portrait of a Genius is brisk and sufficient. But as an exploration of Darwin’s theory and its effect on the world, the book feels like Paul Johnson’s weird, bitter vendetta against a scientist who was always more interested in mollusks than men.

Johnson attributes to Darwin a startling majority of the 20th century’s tragedies. In the later pages of his book, we are informed that Darwin’s theory led directly to the development of eugenics and forced sterilization, and that the United States’ pre-World War II anti-immigrant policies “can be traced back to the publication of Origin.” Even more sinisterly, Darwin’s book was allegedly relied upon by the Nazis in developing their racial theories, and Marx cited it in support of communism. Johnson marches again and again up to the line of actually blaming Darwin for millions of deaths, relying on guilt by association to make his point. It’s a dirty game, and a dangerous one, for character assassination can be a much more effective way of rejecting natural selection than is flat-out denial.

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