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.
"Those are Carolina Guitarman's defining characteristics."
Hi. What banned retred are you? I don't ever remember talking to you before. :)
Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) provided excellent advice for all Christians who are faced with the task of interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge. This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience.
Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.
If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.
For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]
Augustine was obviously wasn't a Real Christiantm. He was clearly a Marxist, atheist, materialist, Nazi homo.
My quote is no doubt out of context, and Augustine, in the very next sentence says something like: "Of course this doesn't apply to matters like the age of the earth."
I like your quote from Augustine, I have a few thousand others that are worth repeating.
Aquinas and Augustine are two of my favorites and if they lived today, I assume they would probably agree with the Holy See, who also accepts evidence that things are not static, they evolve. I am on a short lunch break but if if you have some point you were trying to make, I would be glad to discuss it with you when I have time.
Do you like all of what Augustine wrote or just a few things? We can delve deeply into his writings and that of Aquinas and the ante and post nicene fathers if you would like.
I'm not particularly interested in theology or philosophy. My reasons for posting here are rather shallow. I consider the anti-evolutionists on this forum to be driving away bright people who might otherwise be interested in conservative politics.
I have no interest in convincing or converting the anti-evolutionists. I'm merely here to demonstrate that there are conservatives who are not opposed to science.
Sure you don't, sure.
The lying comes real natural for you. Keep it up for all to see.
You made an accusation about O Landmark that everyone knows was a lie and you got nailed on it.
You never answered with your proof of that lie because it was plainly just another one of your lies.
What banned retred are you?
Tsk, Tsk, You might as well keep lying at a record clip, cuz you have no credibility left anyway, nada, zip, zero and everybody knows it!
Thanks you for validating what I said earlier----
Namecalling, juvenile insults, hurling false accusations, obfuscation. Those are Carolina Guitarman's defining characteristics. Glad to see him get caught red handed and exposed.
Now take a hike son.
Bye Troll! :)
Ouch, the truth hurts, post 671, total exposure PING.
Bye Troll! :)
I guess you were just doing what you do best.
Bye Troll! :)
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