The Essence of Darwinism

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Remember our dictum: the force of a correction is equal and opposite to the deception that preceded it. As we looked out over the absurd hallucinations, delusions and lies of the Bubble Years – oh, those happy days! – we warned that the coming correction “would be a doozy.”

And a doozy it is.

‘Doozy’ is a technical term we feral economists use. “Depression” is what most people call it.

“Slump worst for 50 years,” is the big headline in the Financial Times over the weekend.

“Data reveal recession worst than feared.”

And the full weight of it has yet to fall upon the economy. A correction takes times…especially when it is not merely a cyclical recession, but a structural depression. The whole structure of the world’s economy is being reshaped. The banking system is insolvent. Thousands of businesses are broke. Millions of households are upside down financially. Joblessness is rising into the tens of millions and may reach 100 million worldwide.

“One of the severest downturns in generations,” said U.K. Chancellor Alistair Darling.

The downturn is going to be tough for almost everyone, almost everywhere. The French have to learn to live with fewer tourists at home and fewer bottles of champagne exported abroad. The English have to learn to live with less revenue from financial services. The Chinese – and Asians generally – have to figure out what to do with all those TV sets that junk Americans aren’t buying anymore. Arabs wonder what to do with their oil.

Americans, meanwhile, have to figure out how to get by in a world where strangers aren’t so kind. You’ll remember what made the world go round this last quarter century. Those nice strangers made things and shipped them to Americans. The Americans paid for them with I.O.Us. The foreigners were so accommodating, they never asked for payment. Instead, the I.O.U.s just piled up in their vaults.

All that has come to an end. Trade is collapsing. And now it’s every man for himself. Sauve qui peut. Americans aren’t buying. Chinese aren’t selling. So far, the strangers are still being nice about America’s I.O.U.s. They’re politely holding onto their Treasury bonds and not insisting on payment. But they’ve made it clear that they’re not exactly looking for a lot more of them…not when the value of America’s collateral is falling so sharply. And they’ve made it clear that if the United States lets these I.O.U.s go down anymore, they won’t be very happy about it.

But what we’re wondering is whether we should add a corollary to our dictum: Yes, the force of a correction is equal and opposite to the deception that preceded it. And the measures taken to stop the correction will be just as absurd as the crackpot ideas that got the economy into trouble in the first place.

We don’t know what particular good this insight does for us. But it just shows that the show isn’t over. One hallucination may have run its course, but there are plenty more. And they have consequences too.

What the world waits to see is how long it takes these consequences to reveal themselves. No one doubts, broadly, what the consequences will be. Governments are doing their level best to create inflation. Sooner or later, they’ll get the hang of it. But when? How?

That’s the thing…no one knows. The depression is taking the stuffing out of prices. Trillions in nominal purchasing power have disappeared. Workers have been laid off by the millions. There are too many Starbucks…too many malls…too many factories. All these things are dragging down prices…even while the feds inflate the money supply. Where will the turnaround come? When will prices stop going down and begin going up?

No one knows…

*** We have come back to Nicaragua – for the first time in three years. It’s the kids’ winter vacation. But now, we only have one kid with us – Edward, 15 years old. All the others aren’t kids anymore. They’re away at college…or working.

Even Elizabeth is away at college. She is studying at the Sorbonne and can’t join us until next week. Until next week, it is just us…the sea…the sun…the tropics…and all that goes with it.

Right now, we are sitting on the veranda of the Rancho Santana clubhouse. The sun is bright and hot over the ocean…a sea breeze cools the air…the palm trees sway…the waves crash onto the shore, spinning the surfer’s head over heels.

Eat your hearts out, dear readers…

“What’s this?” Edward was pointing at a strange animal that looked like a giant cockroach.

“It’s a bug,” his father, the naturalist, answered.

Darwin seemed to have no natural enemies last week. It was the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. His theory was blessed in every account we saw. Everyone was on his side. As a result his ideas reproduced and multiplied until they were in practically every newspaper.

Commentators saw Darwinism at work everywhere. In the current worldwide financial meltdown, for example, they thought they saw not the beneficent ‘invisible hand’ of Adam Smith, but the bloody claw of natural selection. “It’s the survival of the fittest at work,” said one opinionist.

Ideas, like rats, need predators. Otherwise, they get out of hand. Seeing none to cull the weak parts of Darwin‘s pensee, we will do it ourselves.

There are two parts to Darwinism as it is popularly understood. One part is based on observation – at which Darwin was a master. The other is extrapolation – not so much on Darwin’s part, but his followers. The problem is that the part that is probably correct is child-like and obvious. And the part that is more grown up is nothing more than empty guesswork. He notes that some animals are better suited to their environments than others. If a polar bear were suddenly born to a hog here in Nicaragua, it probably wouldn’t last long. On the other hand, if a mutation produced a naked polar bear at the North Pole, it wouldn’t stand much of a chance either. Both would probably perish, leaving no heirs or assigns…and thus removing from the gene pool whatever crazy aberration that created them. Some things survive and reproduce; some don’t. The essence of Darwinism is nothing more than that simple-minded observation, as near as we can tell.

But the application of this notion far and wide is a threat to the intellectual eco-system. Because of it, people think they know a lot more than they actually know. To the question, why is the polar bear white, rather than black, they have a ready answer: because evolution made him white. But this is no answer at all…it just postpones thinking until the next question: why did evolution make him that way?

Then, the guesses begin: because he can blend into the snowy background and sneak up on seals. Oh. They tell us, for example, that he covers his nose – which is black – with his paw, so he can get closer without being spotted.

Smart bear. But you’d think if evolution could turn his whole body black it could whitewash his nose too. And what about the seals? Are they morons? You’d think those that couldn’t tell the difference between a bear with his paw over his nose and an iceberg would have been weeded out by now. Besides, why aren’t seals white?

Of course, the biologists and know-it-alls have their answers, but they are just putting 2 and 2 together in the clumsiest way. They really don’t know why polar bears are white. All they know is that nature hasn’t exterminated the white polar bears – yet.

Many of these deep thinkers also believe that Darwin proved that God didn’t create man. Instead, man arose by the process of evolution, they say, one accidental step at a time. Man is the product of pure chance, they claim. As if God couldn’t make it look like an accident, if He wanted!

Enjoy your President’s Day,

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
Bill Bonner

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Comments

  1. Stick to what you’re good at, Bill. Your ignorant religious opinions are way out of place here.

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  2. I have to agree with Warren, Bill. Quite clearly you don’t fully grasp the complexity of natural selection and evolution. But that’s ok, the concepts involved are not quite as simple as many people think.

    As well as reading your venerable Austrians, may I suggest some remedial Gould, Dawkins, and the lesser known Stephen Pinker and his associates. Believe me, evolution and you will get along just fine.

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  3. Hi Bill

    Good article. Is not all life and matter the result of chemical accident, which emanated from the birth to the universe?
    Mankind individually and collectively makes an assembly of order of this chaos, which is the result of brain evolution and incremental increase in the power of observation as new neurone pathways develop.
    In a 1000 years, if mankind survives, historians may well look back and see how rudimentary our tools were just as we look back at stone age man today.
    The only constant is change. Nature is an accident that results in systems and patterns. When we think that we are bigger than nature that is when our problems start. We will always be controlled by nature in some way. The secret is to work with her but even that is not an absolute to ensure survival of any species.
    Collectivly humanity works to ensure survival of the species. In times of crisis this program become clear to see when idividuals go to great lenghts to rescue others.
    There must be optomism and hope for the future based on our understanding of the past and present. It is that which our species intelect grasps for in time of crisis,turbulance and trauma.
    Keep up the good work. The humble reminder of no one being one step ahead keeps us connected to our nature and all that goes with that.
    Ivor Evans

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  4. Its astonishing that an individual such as you, Bill, who can write so eloquently and knowledgeably in one area can be so ignorant and misguided in another.

    Dunc.

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  5. where is the mention of gold, gold, gold in this article? I fail to see it and find it disconcerting. You are slipping dear writer!

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  6. Bill – your commentary on Darwin shows an uncharacteristic lack of logic, coupled with a lack of understanding of evolution. Evolution of a Polar Bear doesn’t start and end at any particular time, and it may well end up evolving to have a white nose in the future. On the other hand, if it was created with the wave of a Magician’s wand as you seem to propose, it would certainly be perfect from the start, white nose and all wouldn’t it. You’ve actually proven your own point of view wrong. Every day we see more solid evidence of Evolution. It’s funny how proponents of religion demand absolute proof from science, and yet offer NOTHING at all to prove their beliefs in return.
    I enjoy the financial commentary, but I think you should leave the Relgion and Philosophy alone. Cheers :)

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  7. yes I’m lining up for a shot too Bill. pow..cop that and ..that. Well that ought to do it. Won’t go anywhere near Darwin again will you Bill.Its hot up there anyway.

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  8. Warren (from first post), sorry you may have been thinking of Bill, but I think you where looking in a mirror, and for everyone else please spend 10 minutes getting a reality check –
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/hasnt-evolution-been-proven

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  9. The audience is revolting, except for Gerry who is loose in the top paddock.

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  10. that didn’t come out quite right Gerry & Bill. cheers to freedom and freedom of expression, there’s plenty up in Darwin as Gerry says.

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  11. Bill,

    One day you get in Joe the plumber to fix something and Joe says to you –

    “Mr Bonner I read all your articles and you know your logic is great, the evidence stacks up fine and I can’t really disagree with your findings – but I do. You see I happen to think that the people we have running this (insert chosen name) country , our politicians, business leaders, financiers and bankers happen to be the best there are. They are all trying to do the very best they can to help us all even at their own expense. If they appear to be going wrong its because we don’t see enough of the plan they are working to”

    “Joe” you say “believe what you like, it’s your right but if I were you I would stick to plumbing”

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  12. You people disappoint me… You come in here acting all high and mighty and enlightened as if you’re intellectually superior to the rest of the human race but at the end of day still couldn’t catch sarcasm if it bit you in the ass! And from Bill Bonner of all people, he spits out sarcasm every other sentence!! Go back to your basements and safeguard your gold, you’re no use above the surface.

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  13. A lot of strong reactions to your comments on Dawinism Bill, have to say i’m with you though, as for scientific proof, science has never been able to produce a bit of it to support Darwins theory. And much of modern science is based on the presumption of evolution which isn’t very scientific. Also i can’t get over the super scientific term “The Big Bang” and from this big bang order came from chaos and the most compicated life forms have developed with stict natural laws. Answer this anti creationists if you put all the components of an old fashioned clock into a box and shook them up in a box for many years do you think one day they might all fall into place and become a working clock? i would hate to compare a man made clock with even the most basic of our life forms, and or the actual solar system, the most accurate clock of all.

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  14. Kathy,
    Before Darwin’s theory, the science of genetics didn’t exist. But nothing in the science of genetics contradicts Darwin’s theory, but only supports it. Same with any subsequent discovery in zoology and paleontology for that matter. You don’t get much more proof than that.

    Certainly you would be very lucky to get a clock, but that’s not how evolution works. It’s more like this: Put two pieces of the clock in the box and shake it every day for a million years or until they join as required. Put in another piece and shake that every day for a million years, or until they join as required … and so on until voila! you have your clock. The analogy is incomplete but I hope you get the idea.

    And yes, you’d hate to compare the clock, because it is comparing apples and oranges, proves you’re wrong, and shows your ignorance. The person who designed a clock set out to do exactly that. Life is different, life evolves towards as it takes on any random characteristic that aids in reproducing its genes. There is no specific end-point towards which it works.

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  15. Hi Warren,

    Genetics and evolution have been enemies from the beginning of both concepts. Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, and Charles Darwin, the father of modern evolution, were contemporaries. At the same time that Darwin was claiming that creatures could change into other creatures, Mendel was showing that even individual characteristics remain constant. While Darwin’s ideas were based on erroneous and untested ideas about inheritance, Mendel’s conclusions were based on careful experimentation. Only by ignoring the total implications of modern genetics has it been possible to maintain the fiction of evolution.
    To help us develop a new biology based on creation rather than evolution, let us sample some of the evidence from genetics, arranged under the four sources of variation: environment, recombination, mutation, and creation…. for the rest of the article please goto – http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v20/i2/genetics.asp

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  16. …it would be pointless for the little bee to challenge the earth’s strategy of the tilted axis…all creatures might just as well be “evolving” to be fashionable…to clothe the earth in radiant essence however she doth recline…”And she was permitted to array herself in fine linen, shining and spotless; the fine linen being the righteous actions of God’s creatures…”…?…how about that, a god given right to be fashionable…XI..thou shall seek fashion…

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  17. Warren, give me one shred of evedence anywhere since Darwin that any mutation of the human DNA has been an improvement on the original rather than present in the form of a disability. The effects of radiation from the sun and other environmental factors have consistantly eroded at our gene pool so that in actual fact i would have to say we are devolving rather than evolving. The whole point of Darwinism is there is NO PROOF, it is just a belief system as is creationism. The church however has never claimed that creation was created fully formed in 7 days in fact she says that it really doesn’t matter, God could have made it all 7 days or 70 billion years whatever he wanted.

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  18. News.com.au newsflash 2:05 pm: Interest rates won’t hit zero – RBA.
    AUSTRALIA faces a difficult year ahead but interest rates are unlikely to hit zero per cent, says Glenn Stevens.

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  19. EvEdence? Do we have to take this back to the first inhabitants of earth? ( _HE_ wanted? Give me one shred of EVEdence that God is male, Kathy. ) …. Are you sure YOU are on the right website? I came here for enlightenment about the origin of the species, NOT investment!! :(

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  20. Kathy,

    Evolutionary theory is NOT a belief system.

    A belief system is based on something called faith, usually from “revealed knowledge” which in turn comes from ancient writings from generally unknown authors. Above all it is never ever open to change in its core principles and in some cases not even open to change in its most esoteric peripheral areas.

    Evolution, like all science and despite comments to the contrary, is based upon mountains of evidence which grows daily.

    But the really key difference is that scientists are prepared to change their minds (however reluctantly) whenever new and overwhelming evidence points in a new direction. 1000 years ago the cleverest people in the world, and people were no less intelligent then than they are now, were convinced that the sun moved around the earth and that the earth was the centre of the universe. They changed their minds when the facts proved otherwise.

    For most it was the teachings of religion that caused that mindset (ask Galileo) and if science points to a different viewpoint from a religious one then that’s it – “you pays your money and you takes your choice”.

    Since this IS an investment and money site I for one will continue to garner facts and base my decisions on these – wrong as they often are – rather than seek advice from the local clairvoyant.

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  21. Peter,

    Please dont reference the propaganda think-tank “answers in genesis”…these are people who think the earth is 6000 years old, I mean those guys are more ridiculous than Bill’s uniformed rant above!

    So yes, Darwin’s theory of pangenesis – (his attempt to explain genetics) was dead wrong, but we have moved so far beyond Mendels theory of inheritance that you need a serious reality check. To suggest that genetic theory and evolution dont mesh is so backward, I dont know how you can say it with a straight face. Please don’t study this topic with an evolutionary theory paper in one hand an a bible in the other.

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  22. Kathy,

    As Nick already explained, evolutionary theory is NOT a belief system. It actually WORKS and produces results consistently. How do I know? I use it in my area of work (IT). It’s Darwin’s theory applied to produce real world results. Genetic algorithms find application in bioinformatics, phylogenetics, computational science, engineering, economics(this should pique your interest!), chemistry, manufacturing, mathematics, physics and many other fields.

    It’s mighty interesting stuff and while experimenting with it, you can’t escape the feeling that it’s ‘magic’ happening right under your nose; the system comes up with designs & solutions that you never had thought of or that are just truly novel.

    Have a look here (http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/projects/esg/research/antenna.htm) to see how NASA is using applied evolutionary theory to improve antenna designs for their space craft. Pretty cool stuff!

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  23. Economics is an art, evolution is a science, an Intelligent Designer is a faith. You can’t prove or disprove faith with science. Evolution and creation are not necessarily exclusive. If people base their faith on trying to prove creation and disprove evolution, then what happens if the concept of evolution is proved to be true? My point: If evolution is proved to be true, that does not rule out the fact that an Intelligent Designer created the universe, so trying to prove ones faith by disproving science is illogical.

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  24. I have to admit a bias. I find the whole idea of basing ones life on faith rather than fact to be preposterous. So many times a faith is dangerous, intolerant and vicious.

    There is no virtue in faith, thankfully, for if there were the fascist followers of Hitler would have an equal right to their views and an equal right to pursue them as the adherents to the most benign philosophy that mankind has ever produced.

    Faith works because it is impossible to prove the non-existence of something be it fairies, unicorns or gods.

    All the rational mind can do is subject any faith to the ‘balance of probability test’ and if this is fairly done there is no contest in the faith v. science arena.

    The humanitarian and social teachings of any religious faith may and mostly do have real purpose but this is only because the value of such teachings stripped of their supernatural elements can be seen to be as much based on facts and evidence as any science.

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  25. Correction to my post above “…that does not rule out the fact that an Intelligent Designer created the universe…” should have been “…that does not rule out the fact that an Intelligent Designer COULD HAVE created the universe…”

    Reply

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