The Economist doesn’t understand evolution

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“Evolution and religion: In the beginning” from The Economist

One time could be an accident:

In the second camp are those, including some high up in the Vatican bureaucracy, who feel that Catholic scientists like Father Coyne have gone too far in accepting the world-view of their secular colleagues. This camp stresses that Darwinian science should not seduce people into believing that man evolved purely as the result of a process of random selection. While rejecting American-style intelligent design, some authoritative Catholic thinkers claim to see God’s hand in “convergence”: the apparent fact that, as they put it, similar processes and structures are present in organisms that have evolved separately.

Twice is a serious error:

But Benedict XVI apparently wants to lay down an even stronger line on the status of man as a species produced by divine ordinance, not just random selection. “Man is the only creature on earth that God willed for his own sake,” says a document issued under Pope John Paul II and approved by the then Cardinal Ratzinger.

Let’s be clear, “random selection” is not a short-hand for “random mutation and natural selection”. If anything, “random selection” is a description of neutral evolution.

Thus, as written, I have to join the camp that believes “that Darwinian science should not seduce people into believing that man evolved purely as the result of a process of random selection” and that “the status of man as a species [is] produced by … not just random selection”. Amen!

So WTF is wrong with the editorial staff at The Economist? They don’t seem to actually understand evolution. You can send them an email and explain it to them.

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  1. Not that often, but every once in a while, the anonymous editorial staff over there come across as a bunch of sophomoric undergrads, imo.  
    Nice find.

  2. The British school system has collapsed.

  3. Some business & econ grads I know say their profs like to bring in financial articles and get them to point out the errors; the Economist is usually first in line. Adrian Wooldridge, the Washington Bureau Chief, studied philosophy. They are really an editorial staff of Andrew Sullivans; Oxbridge educated arts/hist/pol types rather than experts in a given field.  
    I couldn’t find a bio on the Science editor Geoff Carr, but he went from science correspondent to Tokyo correspondent to science editor, an interesting evolution.

  4. they used to have ph.d.s from oxford on staff (e.g., ridley).

  5. Wooldridge seems to accept the Truth. He wrote an article in 95 about ‘Bell Curve Liberals’, left wingers who used IQ tests to subvert the class system by identifying the talented poor. He even wrote a book about it. Yet the Economist rarely mentions IQ in any discussion of education, why poor countries are poor etc. Well, unless the results are flattering, and flattering to the right groups (ie the Ashkenazi IQ study)  
    Did anyone else find that a tad cowardly, almost racist even? Like ‘it’s OK to say Jews are smarter than everybody else, but it’s not OK to say the same about any other group, even if we’ve a million studies confirming it.’

  6. Yes. Well, at least lacking in objectivity for political motive, which I think is unforgiveable, but wearyingly almost universal, it seems. 
    And there have been some indications all along that this Pope intends to backtrack on the Catholic Church’s acceptance of evolution. 
    As the dragon said in Grendel: 
    “They’ll pave roads through hell with their crackpot theories.”

  7. Wooldridge could easily be the next editor. The current editor John Micklethwait, previously US editor, has co-written books with Wooldridge.  
    It would be interesting to see how the Economist’s reportage on IQ would change with an editor who at least tacitly accepts the Truth. And the Economist is one of the most influential magazines on the planet.  
    Sullivan failed with the New Republic, but the Economist has a veil of anonymity, and its opinionators are thus less influenced by the journalistic status game. Our Anakin Skywalker? Can it be turned?

  8. When they say “random”, what they really mean is atelic, or, more precisely, not having contemporary subjective human well-being as its prior aim.

  9. Maybe the Economist uses a process of random selection to hire editors.