A common attitude among scientists is that they are not responsible for what people do with their discoveries. Facts are facts, after all, and nuclear energy can be used to power a city as well as destroy it. Is this a truism or a half-truth? Are there cases where a scientist is responsible for what he or she proclaims as a fact about the world? In its continuing celebration of Darwin, Science magazine printed an article about “Darwin’s Originality” by Peter J. Bowler.1 This philosopher from Queen’s University of Belfast described how Darwin’s theory of evolution had “disturbing” ramifications. “In this essay,” he began, “I argue that Darwin was truly original in his thinking, and I support this claim by addressing the related issue of defining just why the theory was so disturbing to his contemporaries.” He used the word disturbing five more times. Bowler elaborated on what was most disturbing. It’s not that Darwin invented or discovered evolution – evolutionary thinking was already in the air in Victorian Britain. “Most thinkers—including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and [Robert] Chambers—took it for granted that the development of life on earth represents the unfolding of a coherent plan aimed at a predetermined goal,” he said. Darwin was different. Darwin attributed all the “unfolding” (which is what evolution means) to result from the environment. His critics understood what this implied:Darwin’s world view was profoundly different because he argued that the adaptation of populations to their local environment was the sole cause of transmutation. Many people found it hard to see natural selection as the agent of either divine benevolence or of a rationally structured cosmic teleology. Selection adapted species to an ever-changing environment, and it did so by killing off useless variations in a ruthless “struggle for existence.” This did not seem the kind of process that would be instituted by a benevolent God, especially because its essentially “selfish” nature meant that a parasitic way of life was a perfectly natural adaptive response in some circumstances. More seriously for the idea of cosmic teleology, Darwin’s supposition that the production of the individual variants in a population was essentially undirected ruled out any possibility that evolution could be shaped by a predetermined developmental trend. There was no obvious goal toward which it was aimed, and it did not produce an orderly pattern of relations between species. The accusation that the theory depended on “random” variation indicated the concerns of his opponents on this score. As Darwin himself made clear, variation was certainly caused by something (later identified as genetic mutations), but it was not aimed in any one direction and, thus, left adaptive evolution essentially open-ended.Bowler delved into the history behind this idea, the responses of Darwin’s contemporaries, the battle over natural theology, the Victorian mindset, motivations and influences in Darwin’s life, the 19th-century debates on teleology vs the undirected character of natural selection, and the reluctance with which Darwinism became accepted in the scientific community. The reader might be tempted to ask whether the discussion is merely academic. If, after all, this is the way the world works, all Darwin was doing was lifting a corner of the veil. This is reality. Mankind will just to have to learn to deal with it. In his final section, “The Struggle for Existence,” Bowler is not so keen to let Darwin and the modern Darwinists off the hook with a “Get out of jail free” card just for being scientists. In the first place, the Malthusian idea of struggle for existence, which was pervasive in Victorian England, could have been applied in different ways. Bowler argues that Spencer applied it to individual effort to succeed. “Much of what later became known as ‘social Darwinism’ was, in fact, Spencerian social Lamarckism expressed in the terminology of struggle popularized by Darwin,” he claimed. What Darwin did, though, was make this struggle metaphor something ruthless and impersonal:This point is important in the context of the charge raised by modern opponents of Darwinism that the theory is responsible for the appearance of a whole range of unpleasant social policies based on struggle. Darwin exploited the idea of the struggle for existence in a way that was unique until paralleled by Wallace nearly 20 years later. Their theory certainly fed into the movements that led toward various kinds of social Darwinism, but it was not the only vehicle for that transition in the late 19th century. It did, however, highlight the harsher aspects of the consequences of struggle. The potential implications were drawn out even more clearly when Galton argued that it would be necessary to apply artificial selection to the human race in order to prevent “unfit” individuals from reproducing and undermining the biological health of the population. This was the eugenics program, and in its most extreme manifestation at the hands of the Nazis, it led not just to the sterilization but also to the actual elimination of those unfortunates deemed unfit by the state. Did Darwin’s emphasis on the natural elimination of maladaptive variants help to create a climate of opinion in which such atrocities became possible? It has to be admitted that, by making death itself a creative force in nature, Darwin introduced a new and profoundly disturbing insight into the world, an insight that seems to have resonated with the thinking of many who did not understand or accept the details of his theory.Darwin himself, of course, could not have known what was coming. Lest anyone misunderstand, Bowler states clearly that “Darwinism was not ‘responsible’ for social Darwinism or eugenics in any simple way.” In fact, some eugenicists and social Darwinists denied the mechanism of natural selection. The Nazis did not want to believe that Aryans had evolved from apes. There were a variety of views about evolution and the struggle for existence. Nevertheless, Bowler is not ready to let Darwin off the hook so easily:But by proposing that evolution worked primarily through the elimination of useless variants, Darwin created an image that could all too easily be exploited by those who wanted the human race to conform to their own pre-existing ideals. In the same way, his popularization of the struggle metaphor focused attention onto the individualistic aspects of Spencer’s philosophy.This brings us back to the original question: can scientists distance themselves from their findings? Keep in mind that Darwinism goes beyond a discovery of facts about the living world. The Origin did not really catalog any new facts of biology that were not already known. What he did was put them together into “one long argument” that presented an entire history of life, a world view, that generated all the variety of living organisms via selfishness and struggle. When any scientist proposes to change the way we think about the world, Bowler argues that he or she must be willing to take responsibility for the consequences. Let’s listen to his closing paragraph, where he generalizes the Darwin saga to all of science.Modern science recognizes the importance of Darwin’s key insights when used as a way of explaining countless otherwise mysterious aspects of the natural world. But some of those insights came from sources with profoundly disturbing implications, and many historians now recognize that the theory, in turn, played into the way those implications were developed by later generations. This is not a simple matter of science being “misused” by social commentators, because Darwin’s theorizing would almost certainly have been different had he not drawn inspiration from social, as well as scientific, influences. We may well feel uncomfortable with those aspects of his theory today, especially in light of their subsequent applications to human affairs. But if we accept science’s power to upset the traditional foundations of how we think about the world, we should also accept its potential to interact with moral values.Let’s apply what Bowler just said to another current issue. Robert Roy Britt wrote on January 6 in Live Science that man may be causing “Reverse evolution” by culling the biggest trophy animals out of populations. Forward and reverse, however, only makes sense within a concept of progress. “Survival of the smallest is not exactly what Darwin had in mind, but in some animals species, humans may be forcing a smaller-is-better scenario, and the ultimate outcome may be species demise.” It’s a macho thing to go for the big trophy. Britt seemed to dodge the question though, whether in evolutionary terms this is good or bad, though he spoke of elephant poaching as a “dastardly” form of selection. His article relates to a paper in PNAS that shows “Human predators outpace other agents of trait change in the wild.”2 The authors warned that human trophy hunting eliminates the big animals, and “might imperil populations, industries, and ecosystems.” National Geographic news chimed in, asking if hunters are speeding up the evolution of trophy prey. It seems they can’t decide if evolution is going in forward or reverse. Either way, there seemed to be an implicit call to do something moral about it. One natural history museum curator said that sustainable management “requires that people stop preferentially removing the larger and most [fertile] animals from populations, and focus more on a strategy that preserves the historic size-structure of the species.” He left it unexplained why a theory of undirected change over time in a struggle for existence and the pursuit of fitness would require one species to care about another species on which it does not depend; see the 11/21/2008 entry.1. Peter J. Bowler, “Darwin’s Originality,” Science, 9 January 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5911, pp. 223-226, DOI: 10.1126/science.1160332.2. Darimont et al, “Human predators outpace other agents of trait change in the wild,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Published online before print January 12, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0809235106.First, regarding the hunting article, care for the ecology makes perfect sense to Christians, who believe humans are God’s stewards to care for the animals and plants, because they display God’s creativity and sovereignty. It makes no sense in a Darwinian world view. Trophy hunting just shows that humans are more fit. Lots of animals get smaller through evolution. So what? If you believe in an undirected process, with no morals and values, who cares if the big bucks are on the decline? Must be consistent. No fair borrowing Christian ideals. Remember what Fern Wickson told Nature? (11/09/2008) “If nature is somewhere that humans are not, we lose sight of the fact that we are just another species intimately intertwined in the complex web of biological systems on this planet. However, if we place ourselves within a definition of nature, the definition then becomes essentially meaningless by extending to everything on Earth.” Now, regarding Bowler’s essay, wow. Did you get that? The Darwin Party officials usually turn beet red when anyone tries to link their beliefs to the Holocaust. They became unglued when Expelled drew a connection. Now, this philosopher, writing in Science, said the same thing. Understand that Richard Weikart and the other commentators in the film did not make any kind of simplistic linkage. They did not blame Darwin for the Holocaust, or say that Hitler’s primary motivation came from Darwin’s book, or any such thing. They said that Darwin’s world view in which nature ruthlessly destroys the “unfit” in an unending struggle for existence was used by later political leaders to justify their atrocities as a rational outworking of the laws of nature. That’s what Bowler is admitting here. Come on, Eugenie and Ken and Barbara and all you other Darwin attack dogs: unleash your venom on this guy, too. He doesn’t understand what a sweet, gentle, loving theory Darwinism is. Notice that Bowler called Darwinism a world view, not a scientific theory. He spoke of Darwin’s supposition that the world operated in an undirected manner. He depicted Darwin applying a metaphor of struggle in a particular way. These are instances of the use of scientific rhetoric, not empiricism. The rhetorical character of Darwin’s presentation of natural selection in The Origin has been described in an excellent interview by John Angus Campbell, PhD in Rhetoric, one of the founders of a post-Kuhnian discipline called the Rhetoric of Science. The recorded interview is available from Access Research Network and is well worth watching and thinking about. It will give you a whole new understanding of the Darwinian revolution. The slogan ideas have consequences is so commonplace, we won’t harp on it. Instead, we’ll offer the hard core Darwinists a proposition. We know you are never going to change your world view, but like it or not, you know that Darwinism was used by some of the worst despots in the 20th century to wipe out millions of people. We know you don’t want that to happen again. To save the world from the next Pol Pot, Mao or Stalin, how about joining with us in promoting Christianity as an antidote to the selfish tendencies of humans? You don’t have to believe it, but certainly you can see in retrospect that mankind needs such a world view to provide a moral foundation for the life, liberty and happiness that you enjoy so much. After all, even Richard Dawkins admitted he would rather live in a Christian society than a Darwinian one. You guys are obligated to think Christianity provides fitness, because you believe religion evolved (05/27/2008, 10/26/2008). So here’s our proposition: join a Christian missions team and help spread the gospel. 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Matjididi Mokono (centre) is an example of active citizenship in motion. She opened up an orphan centre in 2002 to feed and educate children in the village of GaMagoa in Limpopo. Active citizenship in South Africa has risen in recent years. (Images: Shamin Chibba)More than 10 years ago, when Matjididi Mokono was a primary school teacher, she looked at her community in GaMagoa, Limpopo, and saw its children struggling to live. They were not being fed well enough, many lived with their grandparents, and they were trying to get by in an environment rife with crime, alcoholism and drug abuse.Mokono did something about it. She left her post as a teacher and started Mponogele Le Iterele Orphan Centre under a tree. The initiative was meant to feed and educate the local children. “I wanted to help the children and support their family members who feel overloaded too,” she said.So successful was the project, Mokono started receiving support from the likes of Eskom, Brand South Africa and even overseas funders. Today, the centre has moved from the tree to a property with a small hall, a kitchen and even a computer room.It is people like Mokono who are pushing up South Africa’s score on the active citizenship index, which currently sits at 68%.The index forms part of Brand South Africa’s Domestic Perceptions Survey, which measures both active citizenship and social cohesion. It also contributes to developing an understanding of how South Africans perceive the nation brand based on national pride, attitudes, values and beliefs. On the whole, the survey found South Africans to be positive and optimistic about the future of the country.“South Africans tend to speak badly about themselves,” said Brand South Africa’s research manager Judy Smith-Höhn. “There’s a general tendency to say things are terrible. But what we are able to do is tell the positive story. We’re not looking to cover up challenges.”ACTIVE CITIZENSHIPWhile the active citizenship score was considered good, Smith-Höhn said there was still a lot of work to be done to take it to a level that was considered strong.The score implies that more than half of South Africans participate actively in their respective communities. But the study sample showed that 29% were involved community members who were always willing to contribute to their communities. The bulk of the sample, 53%, would like to be involved members but did not always have the time or money to do so.Level of involvement by percentage. (Images: Brand South Africa)The above graph shows the extent of the respondents’ involvement in their communities. (Images: Brand South Africa)SOCIAL COHESIONSouth Africans were starting to feel they belonged to the country and that they wanted to be here, said Smith-Höhn.The country’s social cohesion score was 73 out of 100, which was a healthy sign, she said. “We have a very high social cohesion index, which is surprising if you think of where we come from as a country.”Based on questions posed to all respondents, research findings revealed that almost half of South African citizens had a strong feeling of cohesion (45%) while 21% had a good sense of cohesion.A breakdown of the social cohesion index. (Images: Brand South Africa)Social cohesion in the Brand South Africa context refers to the degree to which people are integrated in society. Furthermore, it looks at how society’s solidarity finds expression among individuals and communities.In a country with diverse histories, cultures and religions, people feel their living environments are improving. There are fewer feelings of inequality, exclusion and disparity. More than half the respondents felt they were always part of the bigger South African community, and only 10% felt they were always excluded. The remaining 36% said they were sometimes excluded.The above graph indicates the respondents’ feeling of inclusion as a South African citizen. They had to pick one of the above three statements that best described their feelings as an individual living in South Africa. (Images: Brand South Africa)Despite the good vibes South Africans were emanating, the Domestic Perceptions Survey noted that lower income earners were showing some frustration. “The slight dissatisfaction among South Africans around the feelings of inclusion are, in fact, the reason why social cohesion is ‘good’ and not ‘strong.’”According to Brand South Africa, social cohesion improves a country’s economic performance because a more equal society and environment correlate with positive outcomes such as good health, child development and labour market adjustments.The above graph broke down the feelings of inclusion by income levels. A high level of respondents (57%) felt they were part of the bigger South African community. (Images: Brand South Africa) Social cohesion forms a large part of the social sustainability element in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index. Even Mo Ibrahim, the billionaire Sudanese-British mobile communications mogul, emphasised the importance of social cohesion at the 11th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in 2013.The National Development Plan (NDP) has made social cohesion one of its priorities for the 2014-2019 electoral mandate. According to the NDP, its objectives are to reduce inequality of opportunity and enable the sharing of common space.ACTIVE CITIZENRY LINKED TO UNITYThe Domestic Perceptions Survey linked active citizenship and social cohesion. It found that an active citizenry was a key component of a more socially cohesive society. “Citizens need to help shape the development process and hold the government to account for the quality of services it delivers.”The report offered two recommendations: promote youth participation as a way to enhance active citizenship and promote inclusiveness among marginalised groups to enhance feelings of cohesiveness.