Darwin, Spencer, Social Darwinism and (of course) the Discovery Institute

John Wilkins does a take down of the DI (in the form of senior fellow Richard Weikart) and claims regarding Spencer, Darwin & Social Darwinism. As John points out:

[S]cholarship, since the late 70s, has shown that (i) there never was a social Darwinism apart from the ideas of one economist at Harvard, Sumner, and (ii), the myth arose in 1944 when Richard Hofstadter wrote a polemic in the guise of a historical review, which has been since shown to be of very poor quality.

Wander over to read more.

One aside made by John probably needs to be explained. He describes Weikart as a “serial denier” of being a DI fellow. That comes from an experience I had with Weikart and related recently to John. In March 2004, I was a participant at a conference here at ASU which examined Jewish responses to evolution. Weikart was a participant. In a conversation with him and Ron Numbers, we turned to discussing intelligent design and the Discovery Institute. Weikart denied knowing of the DI and its Center for (the Renewal of) Science & Culture. Both Ron and I expressed some surprise at this lack of knowledge; Ron for the reason that he felt that everyone involved with science/religion discussions should have heard of the DI. I in turn was surprised because I knew that Weikart had in fact been a fellow of the DI before this time. According to his online vita, his fellowships were in 1997, 1998-99, and 2000-01 (see here). Probably not “serial” denial but certainly evasion of the truth.

Update (6/16): John has changed “serial denier” to “occasional denier”.

Update (6/19): The Wayback Machine indicates that Weikart was a listed Fellow in February 2004 and  July 2004, the two archived periods surrounding the ASU meeting and his denial of knowledge of the DI. In fact, Weikart’s listing goes back at least to January 1997.It is, frankly, stunning that he would deny knowledge of the DI.


3 thoughts on “Darwin, Spencer, Social Darwinism and (of course) the Discovery Institute

  1. Seriously? Weikart denied knowing of the bunch that promoted his book and made him a fellow and, we might presume, paid him a stipend?

    “I don’t know, dear, the check just came in the mail. Deposit it and hope they don’t ask for it back.”

    I suppose that once one gets the virus that cause one to start denying stuff, at some point it becomes difficult to figure out what should be denied, and what shouldn’t be denied.

    Maybe he doesn’t do it on purpose. Maybe it’s uncontrollable, a sickness.

    It would be extremely sad, however, if his colleagues noticed no change in his scholarly publications and other academic work.

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