Thursday 12 March 2009

A monkey sandwich

Since I mentioned it in a previous posting, a note on the ideological content of Andrew Marr's programme on Darwin's dangerous idea. There it was again - Samuel Wilberforce asking Thomas Huxley whether his grandmother or his grandfather was a monkey, and the oh so dignified answer from Huxley which made him win the argument.
It would have been an illogical question anyway, since Huxley should have had two grandmothers and two grandfathers, should he not?
And as Alastair McGrath writes in his Twilight of atheism, there was not such a brainless enmity of Wilberforce against either Darwin or Huxley.

A stroke of luck gave the Dutch the US-born author Ethel Portnoy, who invented the very appropriate word monkey sandwich for such an urban myth, which was presented as a true story backed by a real professor, in Marr's programme.

The celebration of Darwin's double anniversary is highly ideological, because it stresses the Lone Genius, whereas science is a social process. And evolution is an idea with its own evolution, which was already gaining ground before Darwin - in comparative linguistics, and even in biology (Lamarck, Linnaeus' classification). Presenting the idea of evolution without its own evolution is indeed a celebration of the F├╝hrerprinzip - I will not settle for less strong words.