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.
Send me the bill for your Excedrin. It's the least I can do.
He sure challenged you and said he could prove it was just an opinion that you were expressing. That was the purpose he gave you. It was to prove you wrong.
You should have taken the challenge to answer the question and then point out the flaws in his arguments as he presented them. It could have gotten interesting, at least more interesting than name-calling.
It still looks like you were afraid to answer the question at any rate.
What? Old Landmarks just kept asking you questions, he didn't call you names.
You repeatedly tried to insult him, but he didn't call you any names that I saw.
"What? Old Landmarks just kept asking you questions, he didn't call you names."
Um, yes he did.
"You repeatedly tried to insult him."
No, he repeatedly insulted me by implying I was a coward for not directly answering his silly question. When he asks an intelligent question, I will answer it directly.
What bugged him so much was that I saw through his question as being the diversion it was and refused to play along with his game. As many other people tried to answer the question, and he didn't answer them, it was obvious he was trolling me. Let he stew in it. I really don't care.
And now I will do the same with you. The game is over. Good night.
Um, yes he did.
No he did not.
Show me the post and the name he called you. I'll be waiting.
As many other people tried to answer the question, and he didn't answer them...he was trolling me.
No, try again. He went after you because you were the one offering the opinion he wanted to expose, not the others. Oh please, you were obviously trying to offend and he took you up on it and ignored your buddies who tried repeatedly to get you off the hook.
I doubt he is stewing, I know I wouldn't be, especially since he went unchallenged.
Bye Troll, I'm not playing your game. :)
This is untrue. I answered his question in post 485
He did not answer me but continued to ask the same question of others. Why did he bypass my direct answer to his question and continue to act as if it had not been answered?
Courtesy ping to CarolinaGuitarman and Old Landmarks.
"Courtesy ping to CarolinaGuitarman..."
Appreciated, but I'm getting out of this thread. The troll ratio is getting too high to take.
I called you on your false accusation that Old Landmarks called you names, he did not call you a name.
Twice now, you have said he called you names, now show me the post where he called you a name or admit you just made that false accusation up.
Last time. Bye Troll. :)
OL's challenge was to the one who was offering the opinion, Guitarman, and that challenge for Guitarman to answer the question and then test his opinion went unchallenged. Glad I could clear up the minor semantics.
What do they propose scientifically as responsible for the lack of chaos in this intelligible universe? If you want to hear the sound of crickets, just ask.
Those are Carolina Guitarman's defining characteristics. Glad to see him get caught red handed and exposed.
Yet you refuse to define 'organized matter' and specify the functions this matter performs. You also avoid explaining how self organizing systems that perform specific functions are different than your 'organized matter'.
I spent a great deal of time not all that long ago trying to get you to tell me how to determine if a given chunk of matter is organized or not, and what kind of function is 'specific'. I never did get an answer.
After watching the Chugabrew ball randomly bounce off the walls, all the while carefully avoiding my questions, I decided conversing with you is no different than conversing with a Turing testbot.