Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ken Ham on Humans and "Survival of the Fittest"

In a post titled, Did Humans Domesticate Ourselves, AiG's Ken Ham demonstrates why I started this blog in the first place.

So it’s survival of the fittest, except when, according to a different study, it’s survival of the prettiest, survival of the most moral, or the survival of the least aggressive (according to these studies). It’s a constantly changing story because it’s just that—a story.
Survival of the Fittest. The phrase that Darwin didn't really like and which can appear a tautology is a shorthand for how natural selection works. Honestly, it is such a shorthand, like a too-long acronym, that it is only understood if you study the subject long enough.

One would think that Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, would have spent that long, and more, studying evolution and its jargon. Apparently AiG started in 2007 but Ham has been involved in promoting creationism since the late seventies. Nearly forty years and he still doesn't understand the terms he attacks. Or, more sinisterly, he does but also understands the rubes do not.

So survival of the fittest: Google Search has this definition open in a window on the results page: "the continued existence of organisms that are best adapted to their environment, with the extinction of others, as a concept in the Darwinian theory of evolution."

Hmm. Collins Dictionary has a usage close to what Ham seems to think it means:
You can use the survival of the fittest to refer to a situation in which only the strongest people or things continue to live or be successful, while the others die or fail.
The thing is, 'fit' does not mean most physically fit, nor does it mean strongest or the best fighter.  Rabbits are overwhelming Australia but fights between them and kangaroos would involve the latter kicking the former into space. Clearly physical power is not the only measure here. For rabbits, it would be the ability to burrow and hide and the large litters they produce.

'Fitness' in humans can indeed be measured in ability to cooperate and a group that cooperates will more likely survive than a similar number of individuals.
...why are there still so many bullies? If “those who got along, got ahead,” how do you explain the many brutal dictators (such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini) and others throughout history who got ahead by killing people? Human history is not a story of increasing peace and harmony as we have supposedly learned to get along. It’s a story littered with evil and bullies...
Statistically, humans do get along better than in the past. Human history is indeed a story of increasing peace and harmony - Ham gets this wrong. Basically all forms of violence around the world have declined. Again, this is statistical, there are horrible acts of violence in many places and on many occasions, but the total number and number of victims is declining. See The Better Angels for details and many, many graphs.

Perhaps the most horrifying sentence:
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.
So it is not merely Ham's poor understanding but that of the entire organization.

Added later: At The Sensuous Curmudgeon, a commenter reminded me that AiG staff are required to believe this stuff. THey've signed a statement that they will do so.

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