AN Wilson bombs spectacularly


That fool who wrote a mess of a screed against Darwin has published his book on the subject, which means he gets a little television publicity. AN Wilson appeared on BBC Newsnight to promote his nonsense, and it was far, far worse than I could have imagined. He’s a creationist trying to argue that he’s not a creationist.

His first argument is that Darwin was a racist…which is totally irrelevant to his science. Darwin had the standard biases of the Victorian era, so it’s easy to find instances where he let hints of bigotry bubble out, but he was more liberal than the average Victorian, became increasingly progressive as he aged, and was, for instance, an advocate for the abolition of slavery. He’s not untainted, but it’s absurd to consider his views on human races to be a central problem in his work, especially when he had contemporaries like Arthur de Gobineau or Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Cecil Rhodes, in a century where America fought a great war over the issue. Darwin is simply not a notable racist.

All the boring old cliches are there. Wilson’s excuse that he still believes in evolution is that evolution only happens within a species, and that there are no transitional species. Sound familiar? Even more spectacularly, he begins to stutter out the most common dishonest distortion, the creationists’ favorite quote from the Origin, that bit where Darwin says that the evolution of “inimitable contrivances” of the eye “seems absurd”. They never seem to read beyond the one sentence to the several pages where he explains exactly how it could happen. And then Wilson protests that evolution is simple and he really does understand it, he just disagrees with it.

No, he doesn’t understand it. He’s an idiot.

The interview does also include a lecturer in evolution, Simon Underdown, who seems rather stunned to have to address the inanities Wilson spews, and it’s also a very short segment where Wilson babbles at length and constantly interrupts. It’s kind of terrible.

His book, as of this writing, has 31 reviews on Amazon. Every single one gives the book one star, often grudgingly. I’m not even seeing creationists coming to his defense; usually these kinds of books stir up a bimodal response. It’s being resoundingly dismissed.

You should at least read Adam Rutherford’s review, titled “Deranged: literally the worst book I have ever read about Darwin and evolution”. Sounds about right.

Comments

  1. latsot says

    What a – to use a phrase which has become rightly very popular today – fucking idiot. He’s spent FIVE YEARS researching this book and obviously hasn’t even read OTOOS. Well, I’m a slow reader myself, but that’s taking the piss.

    I just *knew* he was going to mention the eye. There’s such a grim inevitability about it. My reusable laminated creationism bingo card has saved a *lot* of trees over the years.

    Simon Underdown seems to have the right idea but it’s a shame Newsnight didn’t get someone who was more used to dealing with creationists, who would have anticipated every ‘point’ Wilson made and that he’d try to shout down anyone who had the temerity to be, you know, right.

  2. latsot says

    He begins by talking about the ‘orthodoxy’ in “British and American universities”. And then accuses *Darwin* of racism.

  3. handsomemrtoad says

    People who say that Darwin was right about everything are annoying and wrong. But people who say that the fact that Darwin got some things wrong implies that the Darwinian theory of evolutionary biology is also wrong, are even more annoying and wrong than those who say that Darwin was right about everything.

  4. doubtthat says

    @specialffrog

    Yes. They hang out with all of the BLM protesters who want to murder police officers, people who spit on Vietnam vets, and families who lost their farms because of the estate tax. They serve an important role in society: allowing people to say, “Look at these crazy people to my right; look at these crazy people to my left – only I have found the reasonable center!”

  5. weylguy says

    Right-wing radio host A.D. Hominem recently revealed that Darwin also had flat feet, thus disproving the theory of evolution.

  6. says

    Its all very well to leave critical comments on Amazon but unless you actually buy the crap it will be taken down. I did that with a particularly nasty piece of bile produced by the leader of the British National Front. Within 24 hrs Amazon notified me that my review had been removed. I checked the Amazon page and there were no negative reviews. Only effusive praise from his fellow stormtroopers. Can’t have the truth getting in the way of profiting from bigotry and hate can we?

  7. davidc1 says

    We can do a swop if you like ,we will take Obama ,and you can have A N Wilson ,we will even throw in Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson ot sweeten the deal.

  8. davidc1 says

    To be fair to the tithead he does say that Darwin was a great Naturalist ,i think Richard Dawkins would have, (as Americans say) torn him a new one .

  9. chrislawson says

    I’d go beyond Wilson being an idiot — he’s brazenly dishonest. He states in the interview that if Darwin had seen the famous “Am I Not A Man and A Brother?” cartoon (which of course he would have, it being both famous throughout the Western world of his time and the creation of his grandfather), he would have said “No.” But anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Darwin’s life would know that Darwin was a staunch abolitionist and he made that abundantly clear in the text of The Descent of Man

    Slavery, although in some ways beneficial during ancient times (34. See Mr. Bagehot, ‘Physics and Politics,’ 1872, p. 72.), is a great crime; yet it was not so regarded until quite recently, even by the most civilised nations.

    Furthermore, there are huge chunks of The Descent of Man where Darwin argues vociferously against the notion that different races of humans are different species. He catalogues the numerous attempts by other naturalists to divide humans into species with some going so far as to claim there are 63 separate species of human. Then Darwin goes to town on their arguments, demolishing their assumptions, and concluding that humans are all one species

    Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, etc., yet if their whole structure be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points…The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans are as different from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Fuegians on board the “Beagle,” with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate.

    (By “intimate” here, Darwin meant that he shared several personal conversations and spent a lot of time working with this particular person collecting biological specimens, not that he had sex with them!)

    Clearly AN Wilson does not have the faintest shred of intellectual honesty.

  10. blf says

    Has anyone seen AN Wilson and David Barton in the same room?

    Such a collision of the superdense would produce easily detectable gravity waves.

  11. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    From the review by Adam Rutherford in the title of which the reviewer labeled AN Wilson’s book “Deranged”:

    The pagination is excellent.

    Fair and balanced.

    Good work, my fair Rutherford. I am tipping my tea mug to you at this moment!

  12. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @blf, #15:

    Well played, blf, well played.

  13. Andrew David says

    Another curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it.
    – Jacques Monod

  14. Walter Solomon says

    Were Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and James Hutton racist? Does it matter? Ironically, the same group who would protect statues of undoubted racists would decry the Theory of Natural Selection on the irrelevant and factually faulty ground that Darwin was racist.

  15. cyrus says

    I had no idea who this AN Wilson was, what he looked like, so in the clip I didn’t immediately cotton on till he opened his mouth.
    Maybe it’s superficial, but his accent and tone is that of someone who relies on his accent and tone to sound authoritative. Maybe it’s a brit thing, but it makes me wince. I’m not sure how to describe it, well educated, posh but out of date and out of touch, no one speaks like that anymore.

  16. Owlmirror says

    The Twitter thread from Adam Rutherford starts with a complaint that Amazon would not accept his review. It turns out that the phrase “comprehensively bonkers” in the current version of the review was changed from the presumably objectionable “comprehensively batshit”. You can also see the image of the bat that Rutherford likes in the last sentence of the review.

    Just in case anyone’s interested.

    There was also a link posted to the thread about another incident, where Wilson was taken in by a hoax that pandered to his presuppositions.

    http://best-hoaxes.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/wilson-is-shit-betjeman-love-letter.html

    The telltale sign that the letter is a joke is that the capital letters at the start of each sentence spell out “A N Wilson is a shit”.

  17. chigau (違う) says

    Owlmirror #21
    Jebus. How does anyone keep up with this shit?
    I mean, there are yutub kitty videos that I need to watch…

  18. Ichthyic says

    I’d go beyond Wilson being an idiot — he’s brazenly dishonest. He states in the interview that if Darwin had seen the famous “Am I Not A Man and A Brother?” cartoon (which of course he would have, it being both famous throughout the Western world of his time and the creation of his grandfather), he would have said “No.”

    actually, his first lie was in the very first sentence he uttered, when he claimed he did not write the book with controversy in mind.

  19. Ichthyic says

    it makes me wince.

    could be also that your internal lie detector was going off.

    mine sure was.

    this guy was completely on fucking fire.

  20. blf says

    his accent and tone is that of someone who relies on his accent and tone to sound authoritative […] it makes me wince

    could be also that your internal lie detector was going off.

    Both, plus his (probable) assumption he must be correct because he attended two highly-regarded schools. I had a manager like that once whose main claim to fame is he was the first person I swore to never, ever, work with again† — I won’t even (knowingly) work for the same company, even if we have no contact.

    I believe there is an even worse form of this syndrome, where if you didn’t also go to the same (or similar) schools, and he thinks you disagree with him, then you simply cannot possibly (ever?) be correct.

      † Since then, another manager who was very Trump-like in lying frequently & never admitting a lie — I quit because of several lies he was spreading about me — has become the second and only other member of that very exclusive totalshites list.

  21. Ichthyic says

    Both, plus his (probable) assumption he must be correct because he attended two highly-regarded schools.

    it’s worse when you run into rich people who assume they must be correct about everything because they made a lot of money in real estate in the 1990s.

    I had those as clients WAY too often.

  22. davidc1 says

    @12 Darwin got into an argument with Captain Fitzroy about slavery during the voyage of HMS Beagle .
    Fitzroy was in favour ,Darwin was not.
    The Boss @10 ,the horror ,the horror.

  23. blf says

    It’s now up to 45 reviews, 41 of which are the lowest possible rating (1-star). The other four are all the highest possible (5-star), but two of those are of the form (paraphrasing) “This book is pure comedy.” The two supporting reviews are vacuous, both clearly uninformed (e.g., paraphrasing, “Darwin is a false religion”).

  24. Owlmirror says

    Another good review, from historian of science Dr John van Wyhe.

    Wilson claims: “Darwin believed that his own theory…made it impossible to believe in the Bible.” (p. 238) This is simply made up by Wilson. Darwin thought no such thing. The majority of those who accepted Darwin’s theory in the early decades were Christians.

  25. methuseus says

    What I completely don’t understand is the people who try to invalidate things like this because Darwin was racist or something like that, yet these fundamentalist ministers who molest, rape, cheat, and steal are forgiven because “they helped so many people”. So Darwin wasn’t as progressive as you or I, yet he was still more progressive than these people saying he’s wrong. Therefore they should bow down to the fact that he’s more right than they are. Too bad they don’t have any critical thinking faculties whatsoever.

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