Pat Buchanan has been pretty much an idiot all along, but he really put his foot in it in yesterday’s column on the falsehood of evolution. Relying heavily on the book The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold, by Eugene G. Windchy, Buchanan makes the following blatantly stupid claims (direct quotes from Buchanan’s piece):
Darwin, he demonstrates, stole his theory from Alfred Wallace, who had sent him a “completed formal paper on evolution by natural selection.” “All my originality … will be smashed,” wailed Darwin when he got Wallace’s manuscript.
Yeah, like Darwin hadn’t worked for twenty years before he got Wallace’s letter and manuscript. . .
Darwin’s examples of natural selection — such as the giraffe acquiring its long neck to reach ever higher into the trees for the leaves upon which it fed to survive — have been debunked. Giraffes eat grass and bushes. And if, as Darwin claimed, inches meant life or death, how did female giraffes, two or three feet shorter, survive?
Can’t Buchanan grasp the notion of probability of death, or of relative fecundity? And — God help us — Buchanan drags out the example of Piltdown Man, failing to add that the hoax was uncovered by scientists:
Discovered in England in 1912, Piltdown Man was a sensation until exposed by a 1950s investigator as the skull of a Medieval Englishman attached to the jaw of an Asian ape whose teeth had been filed down to look human and whose bones had been stained to look old.
He can’t help himself, rolling out this old creationist chestnut:
For 150 years, the fossil record has failed to validate Darwin. “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontologists,” admitted Stephen J. Gould in 1977. But that fossil record now contains even more species that appear fully developed, with no traceable ancestors.
I wonder what he’d think of Australopithecus afarensis. Finally, Buchanan quotes Stephen Jay Gould:
In 1981, Gould had this advice for beleaguered Darwinists: “Perhaps we should all lie low and rally round the flag of strict Darwinism … a kind of old-time religion on our part.”
Buchanan, like all creationists, has failed to give the whole quote (see here), which refers to some paleontologists’ view that perhaps, for the good of the pro-evolution movement, they should mute their discussion of punctuated equilibrium:
But most of all I am saddened by a trend I am just beginning to discern among my colleagues. I sense that some now wish to mute the healthy debate about theory that has brought new life to evolutionary biology. It provides grist for creationist mills, they say, even if only by distortion. Perhaps we should lie low and rally around the flag of strict Darwinism, at least for the moment — a kind of old-time religion on our part.
But we should borrow another metaphor and recognize that we too have to tread a straight and narrow path, surrounded by roads to perdition. For if we ever begin to suppress our search to understand nature, to quench our own intellectual excitement in a misguided effort to present a unified front where it does not and should not exist, then we are truly lost.
Gould’s advice here is to not rally around the flag of Darwinism, but the exact opposite: to engage in open and honest discussion about the data.
Really, Buchanan is being more of an idiot than the IDers themselves — at least they pretend to be sophisticated. It’s distressing (but not surprising) to see a man whom many regard as a public intellectual show such willful ignorance. Somebody send him a copy of WEIT!
Thanks to Dan Dennett for calling this to my attention.