I’ve struggled for a couple of days to figure out what to say in this post. Sometimes you read things that are…well, they’re just batshit crazy. I recently read something like that. It’s batshit crazy. There is simply no other way to describe it. I would like to think that when Linda Kimball wrote “Evolutionism: the dying West’s science of magic and madness” that she was merely lying for Jesus. As terrible as that may be, it’s at least a somewhat rational action that one can understand, even if one cannot approve. But this article is so nuts, so madly over-the-top, that it’s near-impossible for me to believe that such is the case. Rather, it looks like Kimball is, instead, completely insane. That said, this is a longer post, and, in the end, I feel like I haven’t said very much. I tried to make substantive points, but it gets hard when the points to which you’re replying are, again, just crazy.
The article in question appears on Alan Keyes’ site, Renew America, so I knew going in that the tone was going to be of the far right-wing and fundamentalist Christian. Even so, that did not prepare me for what I read. Kimball begins by opining about the rise of the “occult intelligentsia” that, apparently, came out from the Renaissance. She says,
since the Renaissance, a powerfully influential occult community existing at the highest levels of society has been both the intelligentsia and the real powers behind what has been variously called the Progressive Underground, the Anti-Establishment, and the Counter Culture, the aim of which is twofold: first, the total destruction of the Old Order based on Christianity , and second, the creation of a utopian New World Order which is to rise out of the smoldering ashes of the Old Order.
So, already we have the assertion that sometime since the 14th to 16th century there has been some ruling elite who have been attempting to destroy the “Old Order,” that order, I guess, being the order from the Medieval period, since most people would consider the 1500’s pretty old at this point. Is there any way to read that? It would seem that the ruling elite, the “powerfully influential community existing at the highest levels of society,” for the past 500 years would be the ones behind the old way of doing things, but that 500 year-old order is explicitly not her complaint. Rather, they’re the ones still hammering away at the Old Order, the one preceding the Renaissance. Maybe that Old Order was feudalism? Who knows. It’s unclear on exactly what that Old Order is beyond it being Christian and Right. At any rate, it just goes downhill from there.
Kimball moves on to a discussion about how the occult intelligentsia is obsessed with magic, and ends up saying, “The return to the ancient science of magic produced two currents of animism: Eastern/occult pantheism and rationalist/materialist/secularism.” Yes, she said that rationalism-slash-materialism-slash-secularism is a form of animism, a kind of magic. I hope you’re scratching your head on this one and hoping for some clarification. I was. And here it is:
Essentiality, animism is the belief that not only is all of nature animated — including both living and non-living things — but that the animating force or spirit conveys power and influence. Western occult-pantheism speaks of animating spirit or soul while materialism speaks of miracle-producing ‘knowing’ energies that in their modern forms, animate and inform what can be viewed as either discarnate entities or ‘force and/or voice ideas’ called memes, genes, dialectical matter, chance, causation, determinism, evolution, and neurons, for example.
Yep, genes, neurons, evolution (I know, I know, the category error here is painful), and even causation are all “miracle-producing ‘knowing’ energies,” whatever that means. Though it shouldn’t be necessary, I guess I’ll point out that it is a radical mischaracterization of materialism to suggest that it is any form of magic, animism included. In fact, as we normally think of it, it is antithetical to magic. And saying that genes and neurons are considered as some kind of magical energy by those who use the terms positively is…nuts. It gets it exactly backwards. They are explicitly not magical. They are natural. That’s the point. (As an aside, dialectical matter? Really?!)
Kimball then proceeds to write some really bizarre stuff about Hegel and Marx, saying they were part of a tradition of Hermetic mysticism. She writes, without the least bit of humor,
The foundations of Hermeticism are forbidden knowledge — revelations — revealed to Hermes during an out-of-body experience. The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurias Trismegistus relates Hermes mystical encounter with The Great Dragon. Calling itself Poimandres, the Mind of the Universe, the Dragon transformed itself into a glorious being of Light and proceeded to ‘illuminate’ Hermes with the forbidden knowledge that would eventually find its’ way into Hegel’s dialectic and from there into Marx’s dialectical materialism.
Regardless of what you think of Hegel or Marx, the suggestion that they in any way believed that their work was the result of a Great Dragon Laser Beam giving them forbidden knowledge is beyond silly. It’s…well, you know.
It’s at this point that Kimball gets to her real issue: “naturalistic evolutionism”! She says,
Though taught under the guise of empirical science, naturalistic evolution is really a spiritual concept whose taproot stretches back to the dawn of history. It was then, reports ancient Jewish historian Josephus, that Nimrod (Amraphel in the Old Testament) used terror and force to turn the people away from God and toward the worship of irrational nature. Moving forward in time to the Greco-Roman world, evolution serves as the mechanism of soul-transference in metempsychosis and transmigration of souls. In the ancient East, the mystical Upanishads refine evolution and it becomes the mechanism of soul-movement in involutions, emergences, incarnations, and reincarnation. In that both rationalist/materialist/secularism and its’ counterpart Eastern/occult pantheism are modernized nature pseudo-religions, it comes as no surprise that evolution serves as their ‘creation mythos’.
I bet you didn’t learn any of that stuff in your biology classes. Who knew that evolution was about “soul-transference,” “transmigration of souls,” or had anything to do with souls at all? I think I must have been absent the day they taught us to use evolution to terrorize people, turn them away from their gods, or force them to worship anything. I’d love to know how talk of mutation and selection can bring about worship to some god-entity. Except, of course, that’s just crazy.
From here Kimball falls into the usual creationist/fundamentalist drek of using definitions of evolution that no biologist holds, claiming that science relies on Christian principles, and informing us that “many scientists have already rejected [Darwinism] as useless.” I’d like to note here that Kimball seems to criticize science throughout most of this piece, then wants it to be ok because it’s actually a Christian project, and finally attempt to appeal to the authority of scientists, most of whom, according to her earlier parts of the essay, are occultists. Yea. Even better, when she actually quotes “scientists,” she doesn’t. It’s great. Under the heading “What Some Scientists are Saying About Naturalistic-Evolution” she quotes four men: George Wald, David C.C. Watson, Robert Andrews Millikan, and T. Rosazak. Of those, Watson was an English teach with a degree in Classics, and Rosazak was an historian. Neither were scientists in any sense of the word. The other two were scientists, but they don’t work so well for Kimball, either.
The quote she takes from Wald reads thus in Kimball’s essay: "When it comes to the origin of life on this earth, there are only two possibilities: Creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved 100 years ago, but that leads us only to one other conclusion: that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds, therefore we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance." Here I want to thank the hard work of the people at the Quote Mine Project over at the TalkOrigins Archive. There’s an entry for this quote, and it turns out that it is actually fabricated. That’s right; it’s made up. The quote supposedly comes from the September, 1958 issue of Scientific American. Here is the actual quote from that article. It is quite lengthy, but quoting only part of it will fail to capture the point of the issue that Wald is addressing. It follows,
Throughout our history we have entertained two kinds of views of the origin of life: one that life was created supernaturally, the other that it arose "spontaneously" from nonliving material. In the 17th to 19th centuries those opinions provided the ground of a great and bitter controversy. There came a curious point, toward the end of the 18th century, when each side of the controversy was represented by a Roman Catholic priest. The principle opponent of the theory of the spontaneous generation was then the Abbe Lazzaro Spallanzani, an Italian priest; and its principal champion was John Turberville Needham, an English Jesuit.
Since the only alternative to some form of spontaneous generation is a belief in supernatural creation, and since the latter view seems firmly implanted in the Judeo-Christian theology, I wondered for a time how a priest could support the theory of spontaneous generation. Needham tells one plainly. The opening paragraphs of the Book of Genesis can in fact be reconciled with either view. In its first account of Creation, it says not quite that God made living things, but He commanded the earth and waters to produce them. The language used is: "let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life…. Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind." In the second version of creation the language is different and suggests a direct creative act: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air…." In both accounts man himself–and woman–are made by God’s direct intervention. The myth itself therefore offers justification for either view. Needham took the position that the earth and waters, having once been ordered to bring forth life, remained ever after free to do so; and this is what we mean by spontaneous generation.
This great controversy ended in the mid-19th century with the experiments of Louis Pasteur, which seemed to dispose finally of the possibility of spontaneous generation. For almost a century afterward biologists proudly taught their students this history and the firm conclusion that spontaneous generation had been scientifically refuted and could not possibly occur. Does this mean that they accepted the alternative view, a supernatural creation of life? Not at all. They had no theory of the origin of life, and if pressed were likely to explain that questions involving such unique events as origins and endings have no place in science.
A few years ago, however, this question re-emerged in a new form. Conceding that spontaneous generation doe not occur on earth under present circumstances, it asks how, under circumstances that prevailed earlier upon this planet, spontaneous generation did occur and was the source of the earliest living organisms. Within the past 10 years this has gone from a remote and patchwork argument spun by a few venturesome persons–A. I. Oparin in Russia, J. B. S. Haldane in England–to a favored position, proclaimed with enthusiasm by many biologists.
Have I cited here a good instance of my thesis? I had said that in these great questions one finds two opposed views, each of which is periodically espoused by science. In my example I seem to have presented a supernatural and a naturalistic view, which were indeed opposed to each other, but only one of which was ever defended scientifically. In this case it would seem that science has vacillated, not between two theories, but between one theory and no theory.
That, however, is not the end of the matter. Our present concept of the origin of life leads to the position that, in a universe composed as ours is, life inevitably arises wherever conditions permit. We look upon life as part of the order of nature. It does not emerge immediately with the establishment of that order; long ages must pass before [page 100 | page 101] it appears. Yet given enough time, it is an inevitable consequence of that order. When speaking for myself, I do not tend to make sentences containing the word God; but what do those persons mean who make such sentences? They mean a great many different things; indeed I would be happy to know what they mean much better than I have yet been able to discover. I have asked as opportunity offered, and intend to go on asking. What I have learned is that many educated persons now tend to equate their concept of God with their concept of the order of nature. This is not a new idea; I think it is firmly grounded in the philosophy of Spinoza. When we as scientists say then that life originated inevitably as part of the order of our universe, we are using different words but do not necessary mean a different thing from what some others mean who say that God created life. It is not only in science that great ideas come to encompass their own negation. That is true in religion also; and man’s concept of God changes as he changes.
Lest you miss the most important point, let me highlight one sentence: “Our present concept of the origin of life leads to the position that, in a universe composed as ours is, life inevitably arises wherever conditions permit.” Contrast that with the sentiment of the fabricated passage that Kimball presents, and you’ll see that Wald’s point is precisely the opposite of what Kimball suggests.
That leaves us with the last of Kimball’s “scientists,” Millikan. Millikan was a physicist, not a biologist, and the quote Kimball uses is from 1925. The man has been dead for 57 years. This is not exactly cutting edge stuff, here, and this is the only genuine quote from a genuine scientist. Let the weight of that sink in for a moment. Kimball brazenly asserts many scientists have rejected Darwinian evolution, and in support of this she provides a single scientist speaking 85 years ago. Nuts.
Kimball next briefly slams the environmental movement as satanic before attempting to use an article from a 1980 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer to suggest that it is really non-Christians who believe nutty stuff. If that is an attempt to insulate herself from the criticism from being nuts, it failed.
In the end, I can’t do justice to this piece. It’s too far out there. It’s so crazy that I would not even mention it, except it comes from Renew America. You might disagree with most the stuff they do and say, and I certainly do, but, hyperbole aside, they are not the blog of some emotionally and psychologically unstable individual who clearly needs medication. They are, for lack of a better description, a “respectable” source. That is why this essay is so mind-blowing. It clearly is the work of an emotionally and psychologically unstable individual who clearly needs medication, and pronto. Again, and this is also hyperbole aside, it’s crazy. Yet, it was published on a serious site. That’s terrifying.