150 years of controversy

Up there with the great.

The Economist published an article in their Christmas issue commemorating the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species (and the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth on 12 February 1809) [1][2]. I was a bit surprised (or maybe not) about the fact that it still seems newsworthy to not only run a biography of Darwin, the great scientist, but to continue the debate about his ideas on a fairly basic level.

Darwin’s ideas were, and obviously are to this date, controversial despite the mountains of evidence supporting them. This is a great illustration of the wet blanket of culture that keeps us from interpreting facts and findings in a rational way.

While many people accept that we descend from the apes, many stop short of drawing all conclusions from that theory. They seem to think that evolution only affects the parts of our body that are below the neck. Instead we dedicate ourselves to wishful and utopian thinking ranging from the idea of communism to the design of schools that are not at all adapted to human cognitive and other abilities. Once we accept that the basic driving forces behind all living creatures (or rather, the driving forces behind their genes [3]) are to reproduce and (therefore) to survive, we can start to seek plausible explanations for many phenomena in the world that we today conveniently label as “evil”, “aberrant”, “unequal” etc, such as:

  • Why making more money than our neighbor is more important than just making a lot of money.
  • Why married men commit fewer crimes than unmarried men.
  • Why the criminal system is designed not only to rehabilitate and isolate but to simply punish.
  • Why men seem to be more motivated by pay and less by job satisfaction than women are.
  • Why both sexes are not equally represented in all professions.

While the theory of evolution may not be the only possible explanation and predictor of the above observations, it surely seems a probable one. But to be able to evaluate the theory objectively we need to rid ourselves of that wet blanket of political correctness.


[1] Why we are, as we are, The Economist, December 20th 2008 – January 2nd 2009
[2] The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online.
[3] Richard Dawkins. The Selfish Gene.

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