Home > History & Philosophy > Eugenics: It’s not just for Darwinists anymore.

Eugenics: It’s not just for Darwinists anymore.

April 28, 2008

With much time being now spent by ID supporters on the Darwin/Eugenics meme (as opposed to any actual research), it is worth while revisiting this essay by Dennis Durst which discusses the engagement evangelicals had with eugenics between 1900 and 1940. Durst notes:

[O]n the whole the evangelical mainstream in the decades following the turn of the century appeared apathetic, acquiescent, or at times downright supportive of the eugenics movement. In this article, I argue that the evangelicals often accepted eugenics as a part of a progressive, reformist vision that uncritically fused the Kingdom of God with modern civilization. [emphasis mine]

Those damned Darwinists. I mean evangelicals. Uh, nevermind.

(As a sidenote, the Durst article appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Ethics and Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal. Which is more than can be said for the current attempts at historical research by cdesign proponentsists.)

  1. Dennis L. Durst
    June 22, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Hey John,
    As you know, in scholar-land any mention is a good mention (for the most part). As a result of googling my own name (always a dicey thing to do!) I came across your comment. Thanks for directing folks to the full article.
    You may be disappointed that I am in general a proponent of ID (though on some fine points I think everyone, even those sympathetic, have some quibbles & qualms). Some of ID’s critics are correct (I assume you are included) that more publications need to occur in the peer-reviewed literature. There are people pursuing that path, but you can imagine it is an uphill battle. I am sure you realize that ID-friendly submissions are under instantaneous suspicion today in the scientific world–so my earnest question is: how could someone set forth (let us even say, in a very tentative, even theoretical, cautious, non-dogmatic way) the POSSIBILITY of ID and get the notion a respectable hearing today? I suppose that is the fundamental frustration of many in the ID camp when the “peer-reviewed” argument is raised. So, while I do not want to de-legitimize that sort of argument entirely, can you see our point too?
    I am sure you know your Thomas Kuhn, and that the history of science is replete with ideas that were laughed to scorn for decades before some breakthrough occurred, followed by a grudging and gradual (or fairly rapid) acceptance. It is quite possible that sort of breakthrough will not occur for ID, but where’s the harm in letting the chips fall where they may? It seems to me that Darwinism has a pretty secure cultural position in science, so there isn’t really anything to fear, right?
    The bit you quoted from my article was meant to nuance the historical discussion, and even there I did not nuance it enough (written in 2001, now its 2008, and I have read a lot more in the interim!!!). The term “evangelical” is fairly difficult to define; and was a much broader term (I think) circa 1900 than it is today. Even those identified as “evangelical” (not always by their own pens) chafe at the term (I don’t, but then I still struggle with the definitional questions). See D. G. Hart’s intriguing treatment, _Deconstructing Evangelicalism_. It is the “ism” bit that is trickiest–in reality, it is a very diffuse concept today, and a term very much debated internally! I guess scientists tend to fear it because they assume it is monolithic, but it really isn’t (witness Francis Collins and other theistic evolutionists stirring the pot).
    Well, I do not wish to eat up bandwidth here on the blog spot, so if you wish to engage in an e-mail conversation via e-mail, I am at durst@kcu.edu. Thanks for your time.

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