Richard Weikart on How Darwinism Fueled Scientific Racism

Mammals. Monkeys in the wild.

On this episode of ID the Future, historian and Cal State Stanislaus emeritus professor Richard Weikart speaks with host Michael Keas about the dark history of “scientific” racism. Racism, of course, long pre-dated Darwinism, but as Weikart argues, Darwin and Darwinian evolutionary theory greatly fueled racist thinking in the late nineteenth century and even down to the present. Weikart notes that Darwin himself was “intensely racist,” writing (The Descent of Man, 1871) that “at some time the civilized races of man will exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” Darwin didn’t merely predict this; he thought it would advance human evolution. His cousin Francis Galton, a strong proponent of eugenics, agreed, as did Margaret Sanger a few years later. (Part 1 of a 2-part conversation.)



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New Origin-of-Life Proposal Revives a Hopeful Monster

Golden bubbles of sludge gas on a swamp

On this episode of ID the Future, host Eric Anderson talks with scientist and fellow engineer Rob Stadler about a recent origin-of-life paper and how the authors paint themselves into a corner. The context for the paper is this: Decades of research have undermined the three great hopes for a purely naturalistic origin of life — scenarios starting with some sort of metabolism, scenarios starting with some kind of membrane, and scenarios starting with RNA. All three are necessary for cellular life; none seems able to have come ahead of the others. So now some recent work described in an article in New Scientist suggests it all happened at once in a sort of “chemical big bang.” It’s the return of an old idea long ago dismissed as too improbable. Is this “hopeful monster” plausible after all? As Anderson and Stadler show, there are numerous hidden assumptions and imaginary entities lurking in the proposal, which when surfaced, call its soundness into question.



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The Origin of Life and the Materialism of the Gaps

On this episode of ID the Future, host Eric Anderson speaks again with medical engineer Rob Stadler, co-author with molecular biologist Change Laura Tan of the new book Stairway to Life: An Origin of Life Reality Check. Here in Part 2 of their conversation, Stadler says that following the Miller-Urey experiments in the mid-twentieth century, researchers were optimistic that a purely naturalistic explanation for the origin of the first life was just around the corner, but since then the field has run into one obstacle after another. The challenge to mindless origin-of-life scenarios is now far greater than it was 60-70 years ago. And yet many in the field still cling to the belief that life must have arisen by some set of purely blind, material forces, no intelligence allowed. Why? Stadler says it’s the “materialism of the gaps,” a dogmatic mindset undeterred by the growing tide of evidence in the opposite direction.



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