Skip to comments.Darwinian Conservatism: How Darwinian science refutes the Left’s most sacred beliefs.
Posted on 07/23/2006 8:49:26 AM PDT by PatrickHenry
An interview by Jamie Glazov with Larry Arnhart, a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, about his new book Darwinian Conservatism.
Glazov: Larry Arnhart, thanks for taking the time out to talk about your new book.
Arnhart: Its a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Glazov: Tell us briefly what your book is about and your main argument.
Arnhart: I am trying to persuade conservatives that they need Charles Darwin. Conservatives need to see that a Darwinian science of human nature supports their realist view of human imperfectability, and it refutes the utopian view of the Left that human nature is so completely malleable that it can be shaped to conform to any program of social engineering.
Glazov: How exactly does Darwinian science of human nature demonstrate the imperfectability of humans?
Arnhart: In Thomas Sowells book A Conflict of Visions, he shows that ideological debate has been divided for a long time between what he calls the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision. I see this as a contrast between the realist vision of the political right and the utopian vision of the political left.
Those with the realist vision of life believe that the moral and intellectual limits of human beings are rooted in their unchanging human nature, and so a good social order has to make the best of these natural limitations rather than trying to change them. But those with the utopian vision think that the moral and intellectual limits of human beings are rooted in social customs and practices that can be changed, and so they believe the best social order arises from rationally planned reforms to perfect human nature.
Those with the realist vision see social processes such as families, markets, morality, and government as evolved rather than designed. Darwinian science is on the side of this realist vision of the conservative tradition. The main idea of the realist vision is evolutionthe idea that social order is spontaneously evolved rather than rationally designed. Friedrich Hayek saw this. Steven Pinker, in his book The Blank Slate, shows how modern biological research on human nature supports the insight of the realist vision that there is a universal human nature that cannot be easily changed by social reform.
Glazov: Why do you think so many Conservatives and religious people have always been so afraid and disdainful of Darwinianism?
Arnhart: They associate it with a crudely materialistic and atheistic view of the worlda survival of the fittest in which the strong exploit the weak. One of the books promoted by the Discovery Institute is Richard Weikarts book From Darwin to Hitler. He claims that all the evils of Nazism come from Hitlers Darwinism. But I show in my book that Weikarts arguments are weak, because there is no support for Hitlers ideas in Darwins writings. In response to my criticisms, Weikart now says that he cannot show a direct connection from Darwin to Hitler.
Glazov: Then what do you think about a book like Ann Coulters book Godless?
Arnhart: Coulters attack on Darwinism as a threat to conservative values illustrates the sort of mistake that I want to correct. Her arguments against Darwinism as a liberal religion are shallow. Its clear that she has never read Darwin and doesnt really know what shes talking about. She has memorized some talking points from the proponents of intelligent design theory at the Discovery Institutepeople like Bill Dembski and Mike Behe. But she hasnt thought through any of this. For example, she assumes that Darwinism promotes an immoral materialism. But she says nothing about Darwins account of the natural moral sense implanted in human nature. And she doesnt recognize that conservative thinkers like James Q. Wilson have adopted this Darwinian view of the moral sense.
Glazov: Can you tell us a bit about Darwins account of the natural moral sense that is implanted in human nature? This in itself is an argument for the existence of a God right?
Arnhart: It could be. If you already believe in God as a moral lawgiver, then you might see the natural moral sense as created by God. In The Descent of Man, Darwin sees morality as a uniquely human trait that is a product of human evolutionary history. We are naturally social animals who care about how we appear to others. This natural human concern for social praise and blame combined with human reason leads us to formulate and obey social norms of good behavior. Darwin drew ideas from Adam Smiths book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, particularly Smiths claim that morality depends on sympathy, the human capacity for sharing in the experiences of others, so that we feel resentment when others are victims of injustice. Darwin thought these moral emotions of indignation at injustice would have evolved to favor cooperative groups.
Glazov: What do you make of the creation/intelligent design/evolution debate?
Arnhart: In my book, I explain why the arguments of the intelligent design folks are weak. They assume unreasonable standards of proof in dismissing the evidence for Darwins theory, and they dont offer any positive theory of their own as an alternative. But, still, I dont see anything wrong with allowing public school biology students to read some of the intelligent design writing along with Darwinian biology, and then they can decide for themselves.
The problem, of course, is whether this could be done without introducing Biblical creationism. In the case last year in Dover, Pennsylvania, school board members who wanted to teach a literal 6-days-of-creation story used the idea of intelligent design as a cover for what they were doing. In fact, the Discovery Institute actually opposed the policy of the school board because their motives were purely religious, and they had no interest in the scientific debate. In Ann Coulters book, she misses this point entirely.
Glazov: Ok, kindly expand on why you think conservatives should welcome Darwinian science rather than fear it.
Arnhart: Sure. I argue that Darwinism can support some of the fundamental conservative commitments to traditional morality, family life, private property, and limited government. For example, a Darwinian view of human nature would reinforce our commonsense understanding of the importance of parent-child bonding and family life generally as rooted in our evolved nature as human beings. Or a Darwinian view of human imperfection might support the need for limited government with separation of powers as a check on the corrupting effects of political power. Religious conservatives fear Darwinism because they think it has to be atheistic. But thats not true. There is no reason why God could not have used natural evolution as the way to work out his design for the universe.
Glazov: Can you talk a bit more about on the theory and possibility of how God may have engineered a natural evolution? And why would anyone think this is not a religious concept? Even Pope John Paul accepted the reality of evolution.
Arnhart: Yes, the statement of John Paul II in 1996 assumed that all life could have evolved by natural causes. Traditionally, Catholics have had no objections to Darwinian evolution, because they believe that God works through the laws of nature, which could include the sort of natural evolution identified by Darwin. The religious objections toDarwin come from fundamentalist Christians and Muslims who read the opening chapters of Genesis literally, so that God created everything in six days. But very few religious believers take that seriously. Even William Jennings Bryan, at the Scopes trial, admitted that the six days of Creation did not have to be 24-hour days.
Glazov: Larry Arnhart, thank you for taking the time out to talk about your book.
Arnhart: Thank you for having me.
Sure there was a ping...early this morning...but I have been gone all day, and just returned to find the mornings ping, and now I have to go through and read the whole thread...
Got my work cut out for me...
I usually shoot to the end and back track the funny ones.
I was flying all day so I am cutting corners (as I do for fly-days).
Wrong. Explain to me how evolutionists integrate Faith and science.
If you clearly cannot see the purpose of Intelligent influence in the role of Creation, then what is the purpose of said Designer?
It is easy to argue the atheist standpoint with TToE.
I recommend an adult beverage, maybe popcorn.
And a movie instead.
Politicians are stuck: Is Creatonism science? Should people in Astronomy be taught the Universe is 6,000 years old? Should Geology students be taught there was a worldwide flood? Should students in chemistry be taught alchemy as Zarostrians believe?
Creationism is NOT an alternate theory to TToE. The Universe is NOT 6,000 years old. There WAS no flood.
These things we know.
Religious precepts such as the Genesis Story can be taught in theology class (along with other Origin Stories). But they have no place in science.
I do have my adult drink with me now...its blazing hot here, and I am not used to it, so I am drinking something quite cold, and something to make me forget about the heat...
Tempting as a good movie may sound, I usually am able to get a few laughs out of these threads, so I will plod on with my reading...
God started the whole thing and set it on its way. He may interfere in individual Human events but the design was His. He exists OUTSIDE of the Universe we know. It is not His intent for use to see him in mechanics, but in our hearts.
The God of the Creationists is one that is a human -- Gandalf the Wizard writ large. He needs to tweak things or he planted things. The idea He could design this incredible Universe is too big an idea for them -- it makes a much less personal God.
Creationists limit and diminish God. Scientists, especially those who understand TToE, revel and amaze at God's Work as they unveil more and more of this unbelievably wondrous, complex and vast Universe.
The real God is revealed in His splendid work: The Universe.
It is a sin to close your eyes to His wonder. I will not insult God as you do.
Amazing. You have described an "intelligent" aspect to the world's design. That is what we call ID.
Apparently you aren't on the same page of TToE as others, and apparently you have no clue what you are arguing against.
Actually, that's not true. Academic freedom also encompasses the collective freedom of scholars to set the standards of their discipline.
That is fine -- in "critical thinking" class. I have been the most strident proponent of high school students learning comparative theology. And some philosophy.
But for the core curriculum, they need to be taught hard science, hard math, hard chemistry, hard mathematics.
Do you really want to open the door on Creation when they are learning about the red shift? That the stars we see are billions of years old, but there is a contravening idea that says they are only 6,000 years old?
Kids today are coming out of High School stupid enough with the way Liberals have ruined the curriculum with experimental ways to teach English, hating white males in history, and allowing "all ideas are OK" and "optional constructs" in English.
Do you want to apply "critical thinking" for little children to use very adult-level philosophy to try to apply silly psychobabble in looking at hard facts?
That results in the kind of thinking that we have on many of these posts -- that TToE is some sort of guesswork or, worse, a Commie plot conspiracy.
You request making kids basket-cases who would make great "Jay Walking: fodder.
What is it about "In the beginning God created[...]" that isn't "intelligent factor" to you?
Without intelligence, you assume a GODLESS state. See the problem it has with Christianity?
Actually you are the one who is off target completely....
Many who accept evolution are indeed atheists...
Many who accept evolution also consider themselves to be Christians, to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ...take note, they dont ask you who is and who is not a Christian, because your opinion does not matter...if someone says, that they support evolution, and that they also have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I take them at their word...you may not chose to do so, as throughout the thread, I have noticed your take, that certain folks who consider themselves to be Christians, apparently dont fall into the 'approved' category, of who you do and dont believe to be a Christian...as I said, your opinion of who is and who is not a Christian does not matter one bit...its only your personal opinion, and really, nothing more....
Just because someone says that they support evolution, and that they are Christians, and that they believe that God started everything, and used evolution to create, does not put that person into the ID camp...the ID camp seems to grant that God may be completely dead, or that the intelligent designer could have been aliens from outer space...I have yet to find as Christian religion which believes that God is dead, or that creation was started by space aliens..and ID requires a designer, which science and evolution do not...
Many of the evolution supporters on these CREVO threads, are indeed Christians, consider themselves so, and are in no way an advocate of the ID notions...
Apparently you aren't on the same page of TToE as others, and apparently you have no clue what you are arguing against.
Oh, I am. You don't seem to be on the same page as CR/Id'ers (see everyone how I sill use the new PC term?). TToE is silent on a Creator, one way or the other. As is all true science. It uses the Scientific Method to identify physically measurable phenomenon to explain the Universe.
Thas is NOT ID.
That may be what YOU call ID, but what the ID movement leaders like Wells, Johnson, Behe and Dembski call ID is very different. They assert that there are some aspects of life that CANNOT have developed through purely natural processes, and therefore required the direct intervention of God.
As Ken Miller points out, correctly, the phrase "intelligent design" is really a misnomer, because it identifies a movement that asserts the universe WAS NOT designed intelligently enough for life to evolve without direct divine intervention.
So, for what it's worth, yes, I (and a lot of Christian scientists) believe that the universe and its physical laws were intelligently designed so that life, as well as the human body, would eventually come about through purely natural processes.
But that is not "intelligent design" as it is defined by the leaders of the movement that bears the name.
Amazing. Evolution without ID?
These are the folks claiming to understand what is called the contemporary environment of evolution? Holy cow folks.
Main Entry: intelligent design
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: a theory that nature and complex biological structures were designed by intelligent beings and were not created by chance; abbr. ID
What is it about God created, that doesn't click with you folk?
If they "think" as well as you do, they probably swept the floors. Good for them, but now we special associations for people like that.
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