D. James Kennedy’s killer legacy


This might be a better topic for another blog I have in early creation stages — except that the difficulties with the anti-science program broadcast this weekend by D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries are exactly the same difficulties the same group has with history, and the concerns about revising history textbooks and history classes — to make them inaccurate and militantly polemic — also come from the same groups. The history errors alone in Kennedy’s program justify discussing it here. There are too many errors in the program for one post. Kennedy’s bizarre claim that Darwin caused the Holocaust is an insult to good history and good economics (Kennedy’s claims would mean, for example, that Milton Friedman’s economics are all wrong, and that Ronald Reagan was an idiot for thinking that the U.S. could beat the Soviet Union in an arms race, since the Soviets, according to Kennedy, were driven by Darwin, not economics). The explanations are long, though, and the errors are myriad. In the end, the responsibility for the grotesque claims of the program rests with D. James Kennedy himself.

A churched American cannot help but wonder what sort of governance exists at Coral Ridge Ministries to allow such sloppy scholarship broadcast in the name of any church. Is there no board of elders, no board that oversees the congregation? In the Disciples of Christ, for example, a respected, nationally-known minister lost his positions and job after he borrowed sermons from another, uncredited. Plagiarism is enough of a crime for most American Christians to require a minister to step down. The slander and calumny of “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy” are more serious than plagiarism.

A few quick points: 1. In the first sentence — the very first sentence — Kennedy described evolution as a “random” process. Kennedy doesn’t have a clue, nor, it appears, a dictionary. “Selection,” as in “natural selection,” is the opposite of random.

2. The program relies heavily on Ann Coulter. Considering that the evolution jabs in her latest book have been so thoroughly discredited, one wonders why. Considering the rather well-documented notes of plagiarism against her, one considers the depths to which Coral Ridge Ministries had to reach to try to make their case. Were there no non-plagiarists available? No biologists?

3. Repeated attempts to link Darwin to racism are quite despicable. P. T. Barnum-wannabe Ken Ham relates stories of museums sending hunters to Australia to bring back specimens of aboriginals for display. Ham is from Australia, and may know something I have been unable to document, but considering that Darwin specifically argued that Tasmanians were superior to Europeans, in Tasmania, and considering Darwin’s lament of the damage Europeans with guns had done to aboriginal cultures Downunder, it’s odd that Ham would copy Darwin’s arguments while claiming Darwin went the other way. It’s an odd sort of dishonesty, trying to steal the moral position of one’s opponent.

Kennedy fails to even mention Darwin’s powerful opposition to slavery in the British empire, or the Wedgewood family’s combined efforts to bring it down. Kennedy fails to mention Darwin’s endorsement of Christian values as the underpinnings of society, completely ignoring Darwin’s life as a loving and faithful husband and doting father to his children.

4. Kennedy trotted out the old “communism grew from Darwin” canard, too. In short, Kennedy is blaming both Nazi-ism and its philosophical nemisis, communism, on Darwin. It is curious that a rather free-market patrician like Darwin could have spawned both totalitarian disasters of the 20th century — and unlikely. In the case of communism, however, considering the active campaign Stalin ran to eradicate Darwinian influence in Soviet science (ending in the disastrous crop failures of the early 1950s), one might be justified in asking Kennedy for better documentation than a bizarrely obscure claim that Marx once wrote Engels a letter saying Darwin’s book supported their economic ideas. Kennedy appears to ignore the larger part of history in his desperation to blame Darwin for some evil.

5. Kennedy offers a simplistic version of history at every point — simplistic and usually wrong. The claim that Hitler was inspired by Darwin runs counter to Hitler’s own claims. Kennedy claims that “Darwinism” appears throughout Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but my searches in the English and German versions fails to turn up a single mention of evolution in biology, and no mention at all of Darwin. Hitler does talk about evolution of political movements, social movements, and national identities — but not about evolution of species as Darwin described it. More, Kennedy’s simplistic view ignores the effects of economics such as the collapse of the Weimar Republic’s economy that produced Big Bang-style inflation in 1923 (a loaf of bread cost billions of marks), the effects of the world-wide great depression, and the lingering political effects of World War I. Kennedy blames Darwin for the Holocaust as if World War I had never happened, and as if economics of the time was completely meaningless. It would be like blaming the Great Depression on a decline in demand for apples sold on the streets by people out of work.

Others have fisked the piece more deeply — here and here, for example. It will be most interesting to see whether Kennedy will correct any of his gross errors, or if he will defend his errors as he has done in the past.

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2 Responses to D. James Kennedy’s killer legacy

  1. DavidD says:

    I suppose the key to understanding why Kennedy said that “Darwinism” is so much a part of Mein Kampf is to know what Kennedy means by “Darwinism”. I have a feeling that is as slippery as what anyone criticizing Kennedy might mean by “Kennedyism”.

    I spent a few hours yesterday following links about this general subject, through your link on ID, through others that brought me to this amazingly bad book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, which says science is wrong on evolution, stem cells, AIDS, global warming, DDT, other environmental issues, even homeopathy. OK, I was with him until that last one. So close.

    I used to be content calling all this propaganda, but I realize it is more specific than that. It’s the same pattern again and again of terribly overgeneralized and oversimplified conclusions based on very few “facts”, without the slightest admission that this might be wrong, either during the presentation or when challenged later on. Then the counterattacks that conservative Christians make again contain very little data, but are heavily about philosophical terms like “straw man”, with accusations of poor reasoning that just seem like knee-jerk reflexes. After all how could anyone who disgrees with them know anything?

    This is sophistry, not just any old propaganda. If there’s a better word, I’d love to hear it. I was looking up “sophist” and “sophistry” this morning. My dictionary includes “self-serving reasoning” as something a sophist does. Yes, that’s it exactly. I don’t suppose “right-wing sophist” will be as popular on the blogs as “wingnut”. I just need something for myself, something better than “Kennedyist”. Of course at my most frustrated, I just call these guys “dead men walking”, because I think that’s what they’ve chosen to do with their lives, but I think “sophistry” captures what actually goes on the best. And that’s been going on for thousands of years, so I guess it will go on some more.

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  2. elbogz says:

    We are beginning to pay the price for a generation that was passed though the school system without the ability to read, or ever required to learn science or history or social studies. They were past on year to year, and now have that great job at the mall. We are beginning to see the effects of home schooling and a level of fundamentalism that says they must live separate and apart.

    The congregation is no different than the rest of American Society. They probably couldn’t find Germany on a map. The sum of everything they know about WWII comes from watching Pearl Harbor and Saving Private Ryan. Why would they challenge the pastor? They have no knowledge that the world is different than what he says.

    People want to believe Darwin was wrong. People want to believe the entire history of the world was written in the bible. Then they don’t have to be challenged by conflict. When a pastor comes along and says don’t worry, it’s all a big fat lie. They can wipe their brow and say, whew! Thank goodness. It’s what people want to hear. That’s why he gets away saying it.

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