"It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." ~ David Brin
My favorite author on another site is Fred Reed. If I see his name on its daily menu of new articles, I click on it first. He is highly articulate, irreverent, accurate and funny. More than once, I've used his email link to tell him, Thanks.
But once in a while, he blows it; and he never blew it worse than this week, here.
He's written against evolution before, but this attempt is long, ridiculous and ill-reasoned. The very first sentence is grammatically suspect, and it goes down hill from there; since when was “ardent” a noun? Presumably, he was trying to say – incorrectly – that “the intent of this essay is not to debate with those ardent for evolutionism...” He then proceeds for over five thousand words to try to do precisely that, and fails.
Darwin is my favorite scientist, in large part because of his honesty in following the rational, scientific method even as it was leading him away from his pre-formed world-view. He was a theist, yet his findings told him that the natural world probably had no creator, or that if it does, that creator is cruel. His theory, abundantly confirmed since, is that species mutate and that mutants survive and reproduce if suited to their environment as well as or better than their progenitors, or die off if not – usually from starvation.
Now here cometh Reed, and sayeth that he can better believe in a self-assembling A-380 than in a self-assembling baby, and his mastery of prose is matched only by his ignorance of DNA “instructions.” His resounding conclusion is that “There is Something Else involved. I do not know what.” Well, whoopy-do. Bottom line (literally): he knows of no alternative. His is the Unknown God. Irrational, to the power of N.
Just prior to the essay's long-needed end, Reed offers this swipe: “Suppose a Darwinist found out that my hobby was using a blow torch to torture to death children with severe congenital retardation—vegetables, in the unkind vernacular. He would be horrified. 'Why?' I would ask.”
Very clever. Evolution is cruel – true, and sad. So he tries to smear, as also cruel, those who recognize that the evolutionary theory is one of the best-supported in all science. What he misses is the really wonderful fact that an inherently cruel process has produced one species (at least) with moral sense far superior to that of the designer of the process if there was one – Reed's Unknown God.
So the answer to his nasty question “Why?” is that humans have developed rational ethics. Morality “needs” a supernatural morality teacher no more than the development of life needs a supernatural life-inventor.