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A remarkably similar title to Darwin's classic

These sometimes get linked because they both have their deniers. I am ignoring those silly people who actually blame the holocaust on Darwin.  Here I want to compare them as phenomena supported by immense amounts of converging evidence.

In ’The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution’, Richard Dawkins compared the denial of evolution to the denial of the history of the Roman civilisation. There is good evidence for both and yet some people seem to think it is OK to deny evolutionary science while accepting the existence of the Roman civilisation.

Same with the Holocaust. As Dawkins pointed out the evidence for evolution is as good as, if not better, than that for the holocaust. But there are still people who accept the Holocaust as a fact while denying evolution. ( actually I did come across someone the other day who disagreed with Dawkins because while he found the evidence for evolution convincing nhe denied the evidence for the Holocaust. Almost a mirror image).

No observers!

Recently I raised this with two local evolution deniers. If they were consistent surely the arguments they used against evolution could also be used to deny the Holocaust. While they squirmed both justified their position by appealing to first person observers.

” I do believe in the holocaust . . . . to imply that the nature of the evidence for each [evolution and the Holocaust] is just the same is merely stupid. People in my generation know/knew people who actually saw the holocaust.  . . . . . The holocaust was directly witnessed, so your comparison of the two is just bizarre.”

And:

“I have yet to see anyone who was a first hand witness to evolution, the reason is that evolution takes billions of years. The reality is that the two cases [evolution and the Holocaust] are not on par epistemically and the insistence they are is exaggerated.”

Yes, I know, the theologically inclined tend to be evasive on this issue. They are afraid to admit they accept evolutionary science because a significant proportion of their brethren actually reject it. Hence the waffle. On the other hand they don’t want to be seen treating the Holocaust the same way so they attempt to deny the similarity. But consider therclaim that people “observed the Holocaust” but no one has “seen evolution.”

The fact is, no one “saw the Holocaust” as such. They saw events. Any specific “observation of the holocaust by an individualrelates to limited specific events. A specific concentration camp. A specific atrocity. We can build up a theory of the complete Holocaust, its history, its overall actions, reasons for launching it, its effects etc., by the normal scientific procedure. This involves research into documents, interviews, etc., as well as testimony of individual witnesses to specific events. It will lead us to considering the Holocaust to be a fact. However, our account is inevitably not the exact or complete truth. It gets closer to the truth as we accumulate more evidence, etc.We have a “theory of the Holocaust,” overwhelmingly supported by facts. No one actually “saw the Holocaust” but we can be sure it happened.

Same with evolution. Creationist attempts to divide evolution into micro and macro- evolution is like saying: “Yes we can find evidence that a particular atrocity was perpetrate in Byelorussia or Poland. That a particular camp existed, or that certain individuals observed certain things. But that this doesn’t prove there was a Holocaust! That the German government and leaders had a policy to eradicate Jews, Homosexuals, Russians and Communists”.

Overwhelming evidence for both

When we look at all the evidence, uncover the documents, conduct interviews, etc., we establish the Holocaust as a fact. Yet there will always be a few deniers who admit to existence of a particular concentration camp, specific murders, etc., but still deny the Holocaust.

Similarly no one has ever “seen evolution.” But researchers have observed specific evolutionary events. We have seen the evolution of new enzymes by bacteria (eg. nylase). There is the work where changes in populations of bacteria over about 20 years has been followed. We have seen changes in populations isolated over decades. We have the evidence of Dawin’s Finches in the Galapagos Islands (see How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches). And so on. These are examples of evolution, facts which fit into the overall unifying theory of evolution. Just as the atrocities observed by individuals are facts fitting into the overall concept of the Holocaust.

Just as with the documentary evidence for the Holocaust we have the genetic record of species. This provide an amazing amount of information on the evolutionary history of life. And of course there are the fossils.

So – no one has “observed evolution” or “observed the Holocaust.” Any individual has only seen bits and pieces. But we can be sure that the Holocaust did occur just as we are sure that evolution did occur and is occurring.

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