Saturday, August 21, 2010

Should Charles Darwin Be An Icon Of Atheism?

Famously known for his various works that eventually cast doubt on the literal interpretation of Biblical Creationism, is Charles Darwin a worthy enough icon for Atheism?

By: Ringo Bones

Ask your typical Joe Public at random about Charles Darwin and 9 out of 10 of them would respond “Darwinian Evolution”. Probably an equal numerical ratio would answer “Icon of Atheism” without a second thought. Given that almost all of us – even fans of “Darwinian Evolution” – tend not to know the biography of Charles Darwin, is it safe to ask whether Charles Darwin is a worthy enough icon for Atheism?

Atheism is often defined as a disbelief in the existence of a deity. Atheism is often seen as a more humane alternative to Organized Christianity - which is often used to persecute non-Christians and darker-skinned ethnic minorities for much of the last millennia. And the Organized Christianity justified persecution even managed to gain a renaissance during the Bush Administration of the start of the 21st Century. Given the “counter-renaissance” of Atheism in the post-Bush Administration era world in order to promulgate a more just and humane global society, should Atheist keep on promoting Charles Darwin as an icon for their cause?

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) gained the ire of Organized Christianity – or other religious groups with a vested interest in the literal interpretation of Biblical Creationism, including the concept of “The Mark of Cain” and “Children of Ham” – when he published The Origin of Species by Natural Selection, which is also known as The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Unbeknown to most of the readers of this particular work, Darwin revised The Origin of Species a number of times just to gain the approval of his wife, Emma Wedgwood, which was well known at the time as a devout and practicing Christian. Even though Charles Darwin’s wife, more or less, eventually found the concept of “evolution” plausible and congruent with Biblical scripture, The Origin of Species was considered by many Victorian era churchmen an affront to the Biblical portrayal of Creation. Given that Charles Darwin “massaged” The Origin of Species to make it more or less congruent with Biblical scripture and “spousal approval”, does this mean that Charles Darwin is not – I repeat not – a worthy icon for Atheism?

The concept of an “Atheist Darwin” was probably a product of seeing the past from the prism of our contemporary society. Charles Darwin fortunately (?) never witnessed the Scopes Monkey Trial, so he probably had never witnessed first hand the inevitable political clout his “Theory of Evolution” had eventually acquired. As time went on – and the more the extremist branches and sects Organized Christianity use Holy Scripture to justify their unjustly illogical prejudices and racism – the more Charles Darwin will be inexplicably linked with Atheism. From what I know about Charles Darwin, he could have been flattered to be labeled as an “Icon of Atheism”. But Atheist should have the burden of responsibility to explain why Charles Darwin deserves such a flattering title.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pessimism: A Darwinian Survival Strategy?

Dismissed by the extreme conservative right as the root causes of cardiovascular and other psychosomatic disorders, but does pessimism pose a definite evolutionary survival advantage?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe it was those lucky coincidences in my reading roster that inspired to me to note some “bright-sided” insight about pessimism. Maybe it is one of the – if not the only – trait that allowed us humans to manage to last a few million years. From the 16th Century predictive quatrains of Nostradamus to the contemporary musings of Barbara Ehrenreich, it does seem that the human race as a whole gains much-improved problem solving skills when harboring a generally pessimistic outlook. Genetic science may yet prove the existence of a “pessimism gene” encoded into our DNA through Darwinian evolution, but there’s proof to show that there’s something to pessimism as a survival strategy.

For better or for worse, it seems like the pessimistic-flavored predictions of Nostradamus “might” had been used as a foreign policy tool whenever every Republican Party candidate gets voted into the helm of Capitol Hill. Glaringly so during the Reagan Administration where the indefinite postponement of a global apocalypse had engendered a somewhat minor – yet intransigent – conundrum of casting the Islamic World in a bad light since the 1980s.

While Barbara Erenreich’s more recent work titled Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Pursuit of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America documents how the Wall Street culture of a cavalier attitude towards financial and economic risk assessment had almost engendered a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The subprime mortgage crisis that came to light near the end of July 2007 which became the global credit crunch of 2008 could have been avoided if Wall Street fat-cats and their minions had a more pragmatic outlook on risk assessment. Especially on the inherent financial risks posed by overly complex credit derivatives. Instead of promoting an LSD-like state of inebriation called the “power of positive thinking” since the Reagan Administration. Even the US Securities and Exchange Commission could have learned a thing or two about pessimism when it comes to hedge fund due diligence. Hedge fund fraudster Bernie Madoff could have been caught early before he managed to swindle thousands of their life-savings.

From a biological perspective, humans are probably the only species of animal on Earth with predictive properties that can form highly intricate abstract mental maps when it comes to day to day survival. There are some challenges – natural or otherwise - that are just too great for the mere hard-wired instincts of lower animals to successfully tackle. Maybe it is high time for humanity to cherish our pessimism instead of burying our heads in the sand through the self-delusion handed down to us by the faulty logic of a number of organized religions.