Ideas Versus People

I am surprised at the feature article “The Gentle Darwinians” from the 9 Mar 2007 issue. After reading the article, I could not help but think of it as a gigantic ad hominem attack — a sideways swipe at those who champion evolution instead of whatever label creationism is calling itself these days. Tying Darwin’s personal flaws – not uncommon in his time – even obliquely to modern evolutionary theory seems as wrongheaded as those who judge the modern Church by the Crusades or Inquisition.

Please do not mistake my position. I am quite interested in the historical figure of Darwin, and have great problems with the whitewashing of any historical figure. Our historical heroes — whether saints who were once sinners, abolitionist politicians who didn’t start out that way, racist scientists, or blind and deaf girls who became ardent Socialists — are not idealized statues. They are deeply flawed humans – just as we are – who were still able to achieve some level of greatness.

It is very human to gloss over the flaws in one’s heroes, and Mr. Quinn’s correction of that is necessary. Yet the intellectual – and spiritual – world require that we recognize the worth of ideas despite the flaws of thier originators.