Refutation of Harun Yahya’s, “The real ideological root of terrorism is Darwinism and Materialism”

0
137

Media Monitors Network

…..where truth prevails

Toll-free: 1 866 MediaNet

E-mail: [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

About MMN

Resource Center

Letters to Editor

Report to MMN

Write for MMN

Perspective

Disclaimer

Archive

Columns

Platform

Literature

Charities

Photos

FAQs

Feedback

Contact us

Home


Services

Support MMN

I. Misconceptions surrounding the phrase “Survival of the Fittest”, and the contradictory notions of Science and Morals

My main motive for assembling this refutation to Harun Yahya’s, “The real ideological root of terrorism is Darwinism and Materialism” is that his article is rooted in faulty logic, primarily the fact that he interchanges the precepts of Science, (if we may refer to evolution as a science, but we’ll get to that shortly) with that of Morals, (or obvious lack thereof in the 20th century) and hence, he does severe injustice to both.

We shall begin with some definitions, which will serve in understanding both our articles.

Social Darwinism: An extension of Darwinism to social phenomena; specifically: a theory in sociology: socio-cultural advance is the product of inter-group conflict and competition and the socially elite classes (as those possessing wealth and power) possess biological superiority in the struggle for existence. [1]

Materialism Philosophy: A theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter. [1]

Idealism Philosophy: A (1): A theory that ultimate reality lies in a realm transcending phenomena (2): a theory that the essential nature of reality lies in consciousness or reason B (1): a theory that only the perceptible is real (2): a theory that only mental states or entities are knowable. [1]

Dualism Philosophy: a philosophical theory based on the idea of opposing concepts, especially the theory that human beings are made up of two independent constituents, the body and the mind or soul. [2]

I. Misconceptions surrounding the “Survival of the Fittest” and the contradictory notions of Science and Morals

I’ve chosen the following piece on the misconceptions surrounding evolution from Encarta Online for two reasons, 1. It comes from an encyclopedic source that also contains a comprehensive article on Creationism, helping to make this article as unbiased and uncontroversial as possible. 2. It is well written and put simply.

For more than 100 years, scientists have sought-and found-evidence for evolution. The fossil record demonstrates that life on this planet was vastly different millions of years ago. Fossils, furthermore, provide evidence of how species change over time. The study of comparative anatomy has highlighted physical similarities in the features of widely different species-proof of common ancestry. Bacteria that mutate and develop resistance to antibiotics, along with other observable instances of adaptation, demonstrate evolutionary principles at work. And the study of genes, proteins, and other molecular evidence has added to the understanding of evolutionary descent and the relationship between all living things. Research in all these areas has led to overwhelming support for evolution among scientists.

Nevertheless, evolutionary theory is still, in some cases, the cause of misconception or misunderstanding. People often misconstrue the phrase “survival of the fittest.” Some people interpret this to mean that survival is the reward for the strongest, the most vigorous, or the most dominant. In the Darwinian sense, however, fitness does not necessarily mean strength so much as the capacity to adapt successfully. This might mean developing adaptations for more efficiently obtaining food, or escaping predators, or enduring climate change-in short, for thriving in a given set of circumstances.

But it bears repeating that organisms do not change their characteristics in direct response to the environment. The key is genetic variation within a population-and the potential for new combinations of traits. Nature will select those individuals that have developed the ideal characteristics with which to flourish in a given environment or niche. These individuals will have the greatest degree of reproductive success, passing their successful traits on to their descendants.

Another misconception is that evolution always progresses to better creatures. In fact, if species become too narrowly adapted to a given environment, they may ultimately lose the genetic variation necessary to survive sudden changes. Evolution, in such cases, will lead to extinction. [3]

Misconceptions surrounding “Survival of the Fittest” work well for Harun Yahya’s <http://www.harunyahya.com> purpose. It is commonly misunderstood to mean a willful, conscious, and ruthless exploitation of the weak. We must make clear, however, that there is a distinction between the science and the morals of this phrase.

Science

The phrase “Survival of the Fittest” was coined in 1849 by Philosopher Herbert Spencer, but did not actually take hold until Darwin’s “heap of facts” landed on evolution’s table. As Darwin meant the phrase to be understood “Survival of the Fittest” through Natural Selection represents a reflexive mechanistic operation in nature. There is no correlation between this mechanistic view and the willful view contained within the idea of Social Darwinism.

Another man, Alfred Russel Wallace independently adopted the same hypothesis a few months after Darwin. This indicates that the notion of evolution was already established, thanks to the renewed vigor of Materialism. Evolution immediately grabbed public sympathies, especially in the academic community and was considered just one more building block helping to unite physical science, Materialism, Realism, and Positivism.

However, Although some scientists are convinced that Natural Selection is the “cause” of Evolution, there are two others: Lamarck’s use and disuse of environmental influences. And Darwin’s work The Decent of Man, an 800+ page book concerning Sexual Selection. This creates a thick state of affairs that one must endeavor to suffer through in attempting to understand evolution: and it is these conflicting beliefs’ regarding the actual explanation of evolution, which lays the hypothesis bare to its inconsistencies. [4]

Morals

During the 19th century the thoughts of Social Darwinism, (not having anything to do with Darwin himself), gave rise to notions that were already prevalent, but without the proof it needed to go forward as an idea until Darwin’s work came along. Applied to politics it bred doctrines that nations and social groups struggle endlessly in order that the "fittest" would survive. Reactions against the validity of religion spread across Europe as quickly as smallpox in the America’s. David Strauss in 1835 Germany for instance, published his famous treatise, The Life of Jesus: secularizing the life of Jesus and explaining the miracles within the Bible as myths. [5]

Within this cultural context we see the nascent beginning of a two-fold culture: one that rebels against this idea of evolution and the heartlessness people saw within it, causing them to look inward at what morals really were and an opposite feeling of delight for this data, which would do well in justifying so many previously un-Christian like things.

This brings me to the Harun Yahya’s preposterous assumption that the subtitle of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life has anything to do with Human races. Had the author bothered to read the book, he would find no reference by Darwin to Humans at all and in fact, what is meant by Favored Races is breeds of species; such as breeds of dogs, pigeons, horses, and so on. However, there were others in that day and age that did apply Favored Races to Human beings and in fact looked back to Tacitus’s work, titled Germania in117 AD, to get some bearing on where to begin classification – and classify they did. Celt, Saxon, Teuton, Nordic, Negro, Aryan, etc. began to take hold of Natural Science discussions. There was a prevalent sense of superiority in certain “races”, (depending of course on which race you asked) which justified the exploitation of another people. These were the days of craniometry and biological determinism within an anthropological setting and pioneered by such scientists as Paul Broca and Louise Agassiz. [6]

II. Evolution in the air

Biological evolution was made increasingly plausible during Darwin’s time in 19th century European society as the world was being increasingly analyzed as progressively visible. From the 1820’s onward, past accounts were interpreted as growth, the development of some idea or institution.

It is well known that Darwin was not the first to propose the concept of evolution. Generally, the individual usually credited as the earliest evolutionist, was a Greek Philosopher in the 500s BC named, Anaximander. Closer to our era, however, a 1844 anonymous work titled, “The Natural History of the Vestiges of Creation,” caused a major stir within the religious circles of Victorian England by suggesting that the planets and stars had their origin in a blazing fire-mist and that life on earth had evolved. [7] The British statesman and human rights orator, Edmund Burke set this standard some decades previous after having written eloquently in claiming society as organic and consisting of a living chain that, although perishing as individuals, is always renewed as the "Human Race". [8]

What Darwin brought to the table was a passive mechanistic view of evolution. Before this, evolution had been explained as the result of some action on the part of the creature and this meant an intrusion of the Will, even if unconscious, in the workings of nature. (It is amusing that this interpretation of evolution before Darwin is now the misconception surrounding Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection) Within this framework of cultural thought are the obvious seeds of evolution implanted within society. Darwin and his mass piles of examples and argumentations helped the European ideas of imperialism and its consequential effects of racism, colonialism, etc., take root, however, where we should draw the line here is between the science of evolution and the morals of the day.

III. Malthus’s influence on the Theory of Evolution proposed by Darwin

Once again, the author plays musical chairs between Science and Morals by defining Malthus’s theory as a “Theory of Ruthlessness”. Malthus’s actual “Theory of Population”, as put forth in An Essay on the Principal of Population 1798 is the simple fact that population seems to increase much faster than the food supply available. (Within the context of an Industrialized society. Hunter – Gathering societies are actually much more aware of their carrying capacity.) Thomas Malthus was a man extremely worried about the working poor because of their tendency to produce more children than can be supported and realized quickly that famine, disease, and war resulted. These three things are obviously what is ruthless in this world of ours and Malthus’s position is actually preventative. So to clarify, nowhere in Malthus’s work does he advocate what Harun Yahya presumes, which is that some people have to die for others to live.

Other people have made brutal claims by using Malthus’s work, but the science behind Malthus’s theory and the morals displayed by people exploiting his theory as an argument against improving conditions of the poor are totally separate. Should we not condemn Mr. Bin Laden’s exploitation of Islam as well?

Concerning Darwin and the influence he received from Malthus’s work in focusing his theory of evolution; keep in mind the Macro view of evolution. Darwin simply applied the above-mentioned Theory of Population to plants and animals and explained the how behind the population levels of certain species. Darwin never claimed that there was a war going on among plants and animals nor did he invite humans to abandon religion for his Theory of Evolution. [9]

IV. An example through Nietzsche

Since I feel that Yahya has misinformed the public on the intentions of Malthus and Darwin, I will propose Friedrich Nietzsche as one example of a person during that era, who unapologetically believes in aspects of Social Darwinism, which is a societal implementation of Natural Selection with certain modifications. Nietzsche’s ethical system is seeped in the concept of evolution; however, his interpretation of it departs from the widely accepted Darwinian hypothesis of passive and mechanical adaptation to the environment, while Nietzsche finds true meaning in evolution with an aggressive “will to power”; to dominate the environment. On top of that, Darwin’s passive evolution has no set goal, other than mere survival, if we may infer that much, but Nietzsche’s view of evolution manifests itself in a blind striving for power over, well, everything.

Nietzsche’s ideas seem to coincide much more with Yahya’s interpretation of evolution, for with Nietzsche, you find a brutal destruction of all morality, save that which speaks of hard existence: the weak are of course meant to be overpowered as he states in the following selected quotes:

I teach people to say Nay in the face of all that makes for weakness and exhaustion. I teach people to say Yea in the fact of all that makes for strength, which preserves strength, and justifies the feeling of strength.[10]

It is impossible not to recognize at the core of all these aristocratic races the beast of prey; the magnificent blond brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory; this hidden core needed an outlet from time to time, the beast must get loose again, must return into the wilderness. [11]

Following this quote from Nietzsche, I’d like to clarify a common misconception, which is that he provided some sort of Philosophical support for the Nazi movement. Some themes of his may support Nazi doctrines, but there are fundamental differences – for example, in the opposition of Nietzsche’s principle of radical creative individualism to the Nazi principle of the priority of the state over the individual. [12]

Thou shalt not steal! Though shalt not kill! – These words were once held to be Holy; in front of them knees were bent, heads bowed, and shoes removed. But I ask you: has the world ever seen better thieves and killers than these Holy words? Is life not full of stealing and killing? And that these words were held to be Holy – did that not kill the truth itself? [13]

These ideas of Nietzsche correlate much closer to the opinion of Yahya than Darwin’s ideas did. The confusion made between science and morals is a precarious thing because we loose track, of which is which. Gunpowder produces bullets and fireworks; that much is scientifically valid, but whether we believe bullets or fireworks to be moral is not the function of science. And to claim that science seeks to destroy religion is ridiculous at best; dangerous at worst. Darwin never set out to destroy religion, in fact, any biography of him must find it delightful that Darwin set out to be a clergyman for the Church of England, but we’ll save that for the end of this piece.

V. Harun Yahya and his faulty understanding of Darwinism

The latter half of Yahya’s article, Terrorism is Darwinism is hard to analyze because of the mixture of information. He cites and quotes differing people about WWI and WWII, Fascism and Communism, then with those facts he proceeds to blame both Darwinism and Darwin. I hope that anyone who’s read this far in my article can distinguish between Social Darwinism the idea and Charles Darwin the man, because Yahya seems far from capable of it. To blame Social Darwinism for the destruction wrought by WWI is certainly valid, but to hold Darwin and his scientific findings responsible is not. (Even if you don’t consider Darwin’s findings as “scientific”, they certainly don’t encourage violence of any kind)

For example, he says, “The ideological root that dragged all of that generation to destruction was nothing else than Darwin’s concepts of the ‘struggle for survival’ and ‘favored races.’ ” Once again, ‘favored races’ does not mean favored Human races, but species that are breed by Humans and the ‘struggle for survival’ does not mean a European and a Yir Yuront tribesman from Northwestern Australia battling for supremacy, although Social Darwinism may justify both those concepts.

VI. In defense of Charles Darwin

Question: What was Charles Darwin’s first published work? This revolutionary evolutionist, this inventor of the current scientific milieu, published his first work in the South African Christian Recorder in 1836, a joint article with Beagle skipper Robert FitzRoy on “The Moral State of Tahiti”. FitzRoy and Darwin wrote this work as a defense of the good missionary being done in Tahiti and New Zealand at the time.

Charles Darwin, who entered Cambridge intending to be a clergyman for the Church of England was certainly no materialist. More than likely, the man was a dualist, an advocate of both the material reality of this physical world and an idealist, who believed in God and the everlasting soul. He was an avid believer in missionary work and the “civilizing” of native peoples as he states here, in his Voyage of the Beagle:

Before we laid ourselves down to sleep, the elder Tahitian fell on his knees, and repeated a long prayer. He seemed to pray as a Christian should, with fitting reverence to his God, without ostentatious piety, or fear of ridicule. At daylight, after their morning prayer, my companions prepared an excellent breakfast of bananas and fish. Neither of them would taste food without saying a short grace. Those travelers, who hint that a Tahitian prays only with the eyes of missionaries are fixed on him, might have profited by similar evidence. [14]

Most importantly, good Tahitian qualities were substantially fostered by missionary activity. They were a dubious lot, Darwin asserts, before Western civilization arrived.

On the whole, it is my opinion that the state of morality and religion in Tahiti is highly credible… Human sacrifices, – the bloodiest warfare, – parricide, – and infanticide, – the power of an idolatrous priesthood, – and a system of profligacy unparalleled in the annals of the world, – have been abolished, – and dishonesty, licentiousness, and intemperance have been greatly reduced, by the introduction of Christianity. [14]

What is obvious in Darwin’s outlook is the “primitiveness” of these natives. He seems to feel he knows what’s good for them, through destruction of their native ways and with an introduction of Christianity, forcefully if necessary. Darwin did not greatly revise his views on non-Western people as he matured, it can only be said that he traded his traditional Christian argument for an evolutionary one. He held a basic belief in a hierarchy of cultural advance, with white Europeans on top and natives of multiple colors on the bottom.

To use a quote, which Yahya provides us, taken from The Decent of Man, Darwin writes:

At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the saves races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes… will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla. [15]

What are we to make of this strikingly racist passage? To give some background on it that Yahya omits; Darwin is arguing that discontinuities in nature do not speak against evolution, because most intermediate forms are not extinct. Just think, he tells us, how much greater the gap between apes and humans will become when both the highest apes and the lowest humans are exterminated.

However, to provide this as your only quote on the “evilness” of Darwin as Yahya does, is to fall into the trap of selective quotation. For every “racist” one, there are many more humane quotes from Darwin. Are we to simply label Darwin a racist and have done with it? I don’t believe so, and hence, will plead for Darwin on two points.

First point:

May we castigate someone for repeating the standard assumptions of their age, however much we may deplore such attitudes today?

Second point:

Attitudes are one thing, actions another. What did Darwin do with his “racial” attitudes? With an examination of it, I think most people will find Darwin extremely admirable.

To start with, Darwin was not a believer in biologically fixed inequality. Although he wished to eliminate certain un-Christian like cultural practices, he still believed in the constant possibility of improvement. For example, he attributed the limits to the possible cultural evolution of Fijians to their harsh surrounding climate and hoped, in his Christian way, for their eventual improvement, (Westernization). He wrote in his Beagle Diary for Feb. 24th 1834:

Their country is a broken mass of wild rocks, lofty hills and useless forests, and these are viewed through mists and endless storms… How little can the higher powers of the mind come into play: what is there for imagination to paint, for reason to compare, for judgment to decide upon? To knock a limpet from the rock does not even require cunning, that lowerest power of the mind… Although essentially the same creature, how little must the mind of one of these beings resemble that of an educated man. What a scale of improvement is comprehended between the faculties of a Fuegian savage and a Sir Isaac Newton! [16]

In the Decent of Man he recalls some time he spent with three Fijians whom he came to like:

The American aborigines, Negroes, and Europeans differ as much from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Fuegians on board the "Beagle", with the many little traits of character, showing how similar their minds were to ours. [15]

I will not even allude to the many heart-sickening atrocities which I authentically heard of; – nor would I have mentioned the above revolting detains, had I not met with several people so blinded by the constitutional gaiety of the negro as to speak of slavery as a tolerable evil. [14]

Refuting the customary argument of the day, for benevolent treatment with a telling analogy from his own land, Darwin continues:

It is argued that self-interest will prevent excessive cruelty; as if self-interest protected our domestic animals, which are far less likely than degraded slaves to stir up the rage of their savage masters. [14]

And perhaps his most powerful prose lies in these closing lines:

Those who look tenderly at the slave owner and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter; what a cheerless prospect, with not even a hope of change! Picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children-those objects which nature urges even the slave to call his own-being torn from you and sold like beats to the first bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbors as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on Earth! It makes one’s blood boil, yet heart tremble, to think that we Englishmen and our American descendants, with their boastful cry of liberty, have been and are so guilty.[14]

What I feel stands up for Darwin and his compassionate views, regardless of his work on evolution, is summed up in the following lines from the slavery chapter of Voyage of the Beagle:

If the misery of our poor be caused not be the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. [14]

Does Harun Yahya claim to call this very Darwin evil, simply because he does not agree with Darwin’s scientific findings regarding the theory of evolution?

What has science to do with the morals of a man!

Note:

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary online

[2] Encarta Dictionary online

[3] “Evolution,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

[4] Norman Macbeth, "Darwin Retried", The Harvard Common Press, 1979

[5] David Strauss, The Life of Jesus, 1835

[6] J. Barzun, Race: A Study in Superstition, AMS Press, 1978

[7] James A. Secord, "Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation", Univ. of Chicago Press, 2001

[8] Jacques Barzun, "From Dawn to Decadence", Harper Collins, 2000

[9] Thomas Malthus, "An Essay on the Principle of Population", Thoemmes Press, 1999

[10] Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Will to Power", No. 54, Random House, 1987

[11] Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Genealogy of Morality", First essay No. 4, Hackett Publishing Company, 1998

[12] Denise – Peterfreund – "White, Great Traditions in Ethics", Chapter 16, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999

[13] Friedrich Nietzsche, "Thus spoke Zarathustra", Part 3 ‘On the Tablets’, Penguin USA, 1978

[14] Charles Darwin, "The Voyage of the Beagle", Penguin USA, 1989

[15] Charles Darwin, "The Descent of Man", Prometheus books, 1997

[16] Richard Darwin Keynes (Editor), "Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary", Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001

Related Article (s):

Buy the related book (s) now:

From Dawn to Decadence : 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun

  Darwin Retried: an Appeal to Reason by Norman Macbeth   Victorian Sensation : The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation by James A. Secord

An Essay on the Principle of Population (Oxford World's Classics) by Thomas Robert Malthus

  On the Genealogy of Morality : A Polemic (Hackett Classics) by Friedrich Nietzsche, Maudemarie Clark, Alan Swensen   The Will to Power by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, R. Hollingdale, Walter Kaufmann (Translator)

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

  Thus Spoke Zarathustra : A Book for All and None (Modern Library) by Walter Kaufmann (Translator), Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche   Great Traditions in Ethics by Theodore Cullom Denise (Editor), Sheldon P. Peterfreund (Editor), n White

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin, John Tyler Bonner (Introduction), Robert M. May (Introduction)

   Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary by Richard Darwin Keynes (Editor)

Source:

by courtesy & © 2001 Omar Rehan

 
by the same author:

 

              More in ‘Perspective’ or ‘Archive’

 

Copyright © 2001 Media Monitors Network. All rights reserved.  
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
 

Back to Top 

 

 
 
 

 

What I feel stands up for Darwin and his compassionate views, regardless of his work on evolution, is summed up in the following lines from the slavery chapter of Voyage of the Beagle:

If the misery of our poor be caused not be the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin. [14]

Does Harun Yahya claim to call this very Darwin evil, simply because he does not agree with Darwin’s scientific findings regarding the theory of evolution?

What has science to do with the morals of a man!

Note:

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary online

[2] Encarta Dictionary online

[3] “Evolution,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001 http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

[4] Norman Macbeth, "Darwin Retried", The Harvard Common Press, 1979

[5] David Strauss, The Life of Jesus, 1835

[6] J. Barzun, Race: A Study in Superstition, AMS Press, 1978

[7] James A. Secord, "Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation", Univ. of Chicago Press, 2001

[8] Jacques Barzun, "From Dawn to Decadence", Harper Collins, 2000

[9] Thomas Malthus, "An Essay on the Principle of Population", Thoemmes Press, 1999

[10] Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Will to Power", No. 54, Random House, 1987

[11] Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Genealogy of Morality", First essay No. 4, Hackett Publishing Company, 1998

[12] Denise – Peterfreund – "White, Great Traditions in Ethics", Chapter 16, Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999

[13] Friedrich Nietzsche, "Thus spoke Zarathustra", Part 3 ‘On the Tablets’, Penguin USA, 1978

[14] Charles Darwin, "The Voyage of the Beagle", Penguin USA, 1989

[15] Charles Darwin, "The Descent of Man", Prometheus books, 1997

[16] Richard Darwin Keynes (Editor), "Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary", Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001

Related Article (s):

Buy the related book (s) now:

From Dawn to Decadence : 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present by Jacques Barzun

An Essay on the Principle of Population (Oxford World's Classics) by Thomas Robert Malthus

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin, John Tyler Bonner (Introduction), Robert M. May (Introduction)

  

Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary by Richard Darwin Keynes (Editor)