John West can Play the Violin But Not the Fiddle

The 1920s. It was a sad, sad time in America. All the biologists got together and, inspired by Darwinian writings, embarked on a campaign to sterilize those they perceived as unfit, the campaign known to us as Eugenics. From Eugenics grew other evils, such as Planned Parenthood, Modern Evolutionary Biology, and The Nazis.Or so intoned John West of the Creationist Discovery Institute, in a talk ending just moments ago at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus.The talk itself was rather sad, not just the apocryphal topic. It was executed with a modicum, but only a modicum, of expertise. Armed with a PowerPoint Presentation on Steroids, West supplied Ken Burns style reconstructions (and I do mean reconstructions!) of historical figures saying offensive things steeped in a Darwinian mode. Whenever the recorded voice-overs of West’s PowerPoint slides mentioned either humans or animals, usually in the same sentence, sounds from the barnyard … mooing and lowing of cattle, that sort of thing, would rise in the background. (This did not impress the Minnesota audience … we are quite used to the background sound of farm animals and such. I can only say I’m quite glad the talk did not happen on the Saint Paul campus, where there actually is a substantial herd of cattle and several dozen swine and sheep, where the West’s bovine accompaniment may have provoked a stampede…..)You’ve heard the argument. Darwin. Then Darwinian Biology. Then Natural Selection Turned Into Eugenics. Then the Nazis. Then Scientists Wanting to Take Over the World by insisting that scientific opinion on such thins as Global Warming, Stem Cells and HIV as a cause of Aids matter. How dare those scientists.It was an awful talk, annoying as hell, and I don’t need to summarize it for you any further.And the audience was about half full of trained monkeys. These were the Christian Youths of the student organization that sponsored the talk, together with the usual characters who go to all the Creationists talks … and the evolutionists talks … here in the twin cities.In this photograph, PZ Myers has made a loud distrcting noise so that they could turn around for me to get a shot of them:i-5594a8fa7d352ed2081ead03c7c5c36a-staring_in_disbelief.jpgFortunately for those of us who attended the talk for masochistic reasons and an overblown sense of duty, Mark Borrello was there to take John West down a couple of notches. Mark only got ten minutes. He was supplied with a copy of the talk/paper he was asked to critique only three days ago, even though it had been available for months. The people running the show could not manage to turn off the projector, so a blue screen of death was shining in Mark’s face the whole time. And the moderator was an incompetent boob, or actually, a very sly fox pretending to be an incompetent boob so that he could cover up his errors in procedure that always favored the DI and never favored the attending Scientists. He could not get Mark’s name right. I mean, it’s true, Mark has one of those odd ethnic names and all, but he should have at least tried. And so on.Nonetheless, Mark Kicked Ass. He pointed out that West Argument only involved mention of four biologists, and that many biologists were thinking, saying, doing different things than suggested by West. He pointed out West’s cherry picking of history and his quote mining. He pointed out that the same populous that favored forced sterilization also was opposed to evolution and Darwinism, which very much undermined West’s argument.Then, after Mark got his 10 minute commentary, the audience was asked for questions. The moderator started walking towards a particular audience member even before she put up her hand .. and gave her the mike. Here is a picture of her:i-81476f3f18cf7972b1e12e35650a6e68-The_Hat_Lady.jpgWe call her “the Hat Lady” because she always wears hats like this and always shows up at these events. Clearly, this was a setup. The Hat Lady’s question:”I’d like Dr. West to respond to all of Mr. Morillo’s (sic) Points”So, for ten minutes West blathered on an on and on.But at one point, Mark could not take it any more. I mean, it was painful to watch. I saw him down there squirming in his seat, going absolutely nuts. Finally, Mark jumped to his feet and the two of them had a knock-down drag out in which John West was very resoundingly put in his place. Here is a picture of Mark kicking his ass:i-9520f084b9b8bc4e47b779e5e4fe7144-Mark_Gesticulating_In_Disbelief.jpgEventually, no matter how hard the “incompetent boob” of a moderator tried, he had to hand the mike over to … you guessed it… PZ Myers.Here’s a picture of PZ asking his question:i-b881a3554f49adaae0466a4c6901a956-PZ_And_Mic.jpgPZ actually made two points:1) “Oh, that stuff you said about what Darwin Said in the Descent of Man? I’ve got it right here on my computer … you left out a couple of things….” You can imagine the rest, and I could tell you the rest, but I’m sure PZ is going to want to blog about that the moment he gets home…and2) One of West’s evidences regarding eugenics was the effort to stem the tide of immigration in the name of Darwinian models of how society should be contorted and culled. Well, PZ pointed out that it is actually the anti-evolution right wing that has this sort of anti-immigrant policy. By this time West was tiring, and this was a knock out blow by PZ. West staggered, and fell unconscious and that was the end of the session. Here we are dancing around his unconscious, livid body:i-1fd36702c6a236ae91db3585a0d8c8f7-battle.jpgI should also mention that Kristin Hartley got in a good shot when she pointed out that John West and his colleagues appear to not understand the Germ Theory and the link between HIV and AIDS. It was great to see Kristine and also Mike.

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22 Responses to John West can Play the Violin But Not the Fiddle

  1. Dave Carlson says:

    Thanks for this very entertaining recap, Greg!

  2. Monado says:

    Thanks! I’ve been staying up with bated breath to get your early reports of this event. So they have ringers in the audience, eh? Who’d-a thunk!I hope for a little more detail about what Mark Borrello said to John West.

  3. I wanted to let you know, Monado, that several people recorded the event; including August Berkshire of the Minnesota Atheists and Reverend Barky (Bruce) of the Barking Non-Sequitir blog. It was cool sitting next to Kristine as she asked her question, because it dove a little deeper than the obstensible topic of the event. Anyway, you will be able to see Dr. Mark’s rejoinder.I am in the midst of writing my own report on the proceedings; and I know exactly what West is up to. This presentation was the gloss on the subtext of this crafty play in the anti-science game.

  4. John Lynch says:

    Sweet! Mark’s a good pal of mine and it’s good to see historians take on this crap.

  5. Ed says:

    Actually, I think you do the public a diservice by minimizeng the role of Eugenics.www.waragainsttheweak.com

  6. Serena says:

    Mark’s presentation was flawless. In 10 minutes time, he eloquently attacked West on 3 fronts. His arguments were solid, logical, and made me want to jump out of my seat and say, “Yeah!” I won’t attempt to summarize Mark’s main talking points as I doubt I could do justice to them. So I will leave that for the another commenter.I was also impressed by the questions that people asked West. One individual put West on the spot by accusing him of the “slippery slope” philosophy – West struggled unsuccessfully to squirm his way out of that. Another asked him more directly what he thought about natural selection. He dodged that by saying, “It must be viewed on its own merits…” Can’t even come out and admit his views.Then of course, PZ Meyers really pinned him down as Greg mentioned above. The oooohs and ahhhhhhs were audible in the audience.What a great way to spend a Friday night.

  7. I am done with my take on it. I am going to try to improve on it this weekend with my central point.

  8. Serena says:

    Ed,If you read Greg’s post more closely, you’ll see that he’s not minimizing the role of Eugenics. He clearly writes that West accused biologists of causing the eugenics movement and subsequent evils of society. At no point does Greg indicate that Eugenics was no big deal.

  9. Ed says:

    Good point Serena, but I would point out that Darwins cousin Galton is known as the father of eugenics and Darwin does praise his work in the Descent of Man.Face up to it, deal with it, and don’t just pass it off as saying “they weren’t responsible”.

  10. Damian says:

    Actually Ed, sorry to be picky, but Francis Galton was Charles Darwin’s half-cousin. In any case, the basic philosophy of eugenics has been around since the time of Plato, and continues to be researched today in the form of genetics.I am not quite sure what you are getting at, though. At one time, almost all non-catholic western nations adopted some form of eugenics legislation.”Face up to it, deal with it, and don’t just pass it off as saying “they weren’t responsible”".This strikes me as an attempt to misrepresent for your own ends. Please explain. Should I be feeling guilty? It can’t have anything to do with the history of eugenics because that is recorded. The ethical debate will rage on forever more.What I won’t accept is an entirely disingenuous attempt to misrepresent the potential benefits (and dangers, of course, as with all scientific research) of current research.

  11. Lorax says:

    Hi Ed,I tried to find the quote from the blog/comments that in which someone says they weren’t responsible and the only “resp” I find is the Laden’s note of the question asked by hat lady and your comment.Also, you respond to Serenea with “good point.” Her point being that Laden never suggested the eugenics movement was no big deal (see what I did there Ed, I used quotes around the words you actually wrote, but did not use quotes around my interpretation of Serena’s comment…pretty cool huh?) However, after good point, you end with “don’t just pass it off as saying” they weren’t responsible”. So you say she has a good point in regards to your original assertion and then make the same assertion. Regardless, I mean how can people trust someone who believes “its fun to kick puppies.” Wow, that was easy I used Ed’s method and made up a quote, not specifically attributed to anyone, and I inserted it in such a way that a reader will assume is something Ed said.Ill make an assumption Ed, you’re a righteous christian looking down on the rest of us because of your moral superiority which is based on your belief in heaven (where you’re going) and hell (where those who do not believe exactly like you are going). This moral superiority allows you to lie slander and otherwise act any way you choose to those whom you deem less righteous than you. Am I close?

  12. MPW says:

    Ed: “Face up to it, deal with it, and don’t just pass it off as saying ‘they weren’t responsible’.”Then make a case using historical and scientific evidence that evolutionary scientists as a group were responsible for eugenics. Because all you’re doing is asserting it.You might also want to make clear, just to avoid any misunderstanding, that you know any possible moral failings of the parts of particular scientists, and how they used their expertise, has no bearing on the factual accuracy of evolutionary theory. Because you do know that, right? Seeing as you’re so up on the issues, I mean.

  13. MPW says:

    *on the parts…Sheesh.

  14. bipolar2 says:

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUKN2922875820071129?sp=trueCheck out the URL — it reports the frightening results of a survey on Americans’ beliefs.You’re braver than I; my only thought is emigration.

  15. Ed says:

    Lorax, I am sorry, but no, you are not close. I am Jewish for one thing, and I feel we should be more conscious of the bad uses to which science can be put…it has been too easy for scientists to pass ethical issues off to politicians, and now we have a world that could be exterminated by this evening if all the tools irresponsibly provided to the governments of the world were employed. So, unfortunately, you have now become a liar.A rather judgmental liar at that.And Damian, the last I heard, a half cousin is still a cousin.And you are certainly correct that a form of Eugencis has been around since Plate. But to borrow from Dawkins, “Darwin makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Eugenicist.”

  16. PZ Myers says:

    Actually, no. Modern evolutionary biology makes it very difficult to be a eugenicist. At the time of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, you would have found people like Dobzhansky and Muller pointing out the importance of genetic diversity in any selection in populations, and that eugenics was a process that encouraged the artificial reduction of diversity in a population.I’d give more credit to agriculture for the promotion of eugenics. Eugenics was very popular in the Midwest — all that farm country, you know — where people were familiar with the power of selective breeding. This was knowledge that preceded and was independent of Darwin, you know.

  17. John Lynch says:

    I’ve a sneaking suspicion that “Ed” has been blathering on about eugenics before as “Darwin Youth” and “Christiansen” here.

  18. Monado says:

    What the hell is a “half-cousin”? Someone whose cousin’s parents aren’t cousins?

  19. Kelly says:

    From the cousin calculator http://www.searchforancestors.com/utility/cousincalculator.htmlHalf CousinFirst cousins are the children of siblings; therefore, half first cousins would be the children of half siblings. Half-cousins would have one common grandparent instead of two common grandparents.

  20. ‘half-cousin’ is a different name for ‘second cousin’

  21. meshuggah says:

    “And the audience was about half full of trained monkeys. These were the Christian Youths of the student organization that sponsored the talk..”This comment alone makes a good case for the link between modern Darwinism and Nazism.Replace “Christian Youths” with “Jewish Youths” in the above sentence. Sounds quite tolerant and PC, doesn’t it?And there you have it folks; your modern day Brownshirts have found a home in sophomoric atheistic American undergrads – hating anything and everything that savors of theism (all in the name of tolerance of course) while at the same time believing that the biological equivalent of a super computer can be made by water, rocks, and a whole lot of unobserved time.All Hail Darwin. No, wait, scratch that… since we’re talking about the magic of time and chance: All Hail Vegas.-Yours truly,A Jew

  22. meshuggah: Well, to be fair, I could compare this event with other events held on the same campus before or after by a matter of weeks, organized by the local student atheist groups.My observation that the kids at this event were trained monkeys is just that .. an observation. They were prepped, glassy eyed followers. You, My Jewish friend, would have a lot more cousins had it not been for their progenetors in Nazi Germany (or are yous a Holocaust denier?).In comparison, the kids at the Atheist events are bright eyed intelligent progressive thoughtful helpful caring loving people. They are the people who would have been the ones to volunteer to join the armed forces to liberate Europe back in those days.I love them all, although they did taser me once.meshuggah: You are on the wrong team. Don’t be crazy.

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