It was great to see Richard again yesterday and introduce him at the event sponsored by the BHA and organised jointly with the Humanist and Secular Liberal Democrats. The room was packed out beyond its 350 capacity and Richard gave a fascinating talk with readings from the new book – you can read more about the event on the BHA site. It was the highlight of the great time we have had at the conference so far.
Today a huge number of people came by the BHA stand to say how great the event was but two people separately objected to one of the things Richard had said about those who deny the reality of evolution – his comparison of them with holocaust-deniers. The two people who objected seemed to think it was an unfair and inflammatory comparison.
I’ve thought about this, but I think Richard is right. The Nazi holocaust happened, and we have all the evidence we need to prove to an intelligent and reasonable person that it happened. Those who deny the historical reality of the Nazi holocaust do so either for ideological reasons (modern Nazis, for example, for whose narrative of hate it is an inconvenient truth) or they do it because they genuinely do not know of the evidence for the Nazi holocaust having happened, have never sought out the evidence nor had it presented to them. Sometimes, of course – in fact, very often – people are holocaust-deniers for both reasons, allowing their prior ideological convictions to prevent them from seeking out evidence and being open to it when it is presented to them.
I don’t see that this isn’t anything other than a totally appropriate direct analogy with those who deny the fact of evolution. Many of these people do so because of their prior ideological convictions, mostly to do with religious belief, don’t allow them to accept the evidence that is presented to them, or because they genuinely do not know of the evidence for evolution having happened, or don’t understand it. Again, it is often a mixture of the two causes. The one difference is that, in the case of evolution as opposed to the holocaust, it is more likely to be ignorance rather than ideology that causes people to deny its reality.