Monday, May 07, 2007

Ok with evolution - as long as it supports my (political) ideology

Apparently this is the message that is coming out from debates amongst conservatives (in the US). But first the more scary stuff: During the first debate amongst Presidential candidates for Republicans, three of the 10 candidates indicated that they did not believe in evolution (just let go of the problem for now that one does not really believe or disbelieve in evolution). So just to make sure, the three candidates are: Sam Brownback of Kansas; Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas; and Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Thankfully, their chances for winning the Republican nomination (let alone the Presidency) are slim to none - but its still scary that 30% of Republican candidates do not accept evolution.

However, New York Times has a broader story about how views about evolution are splitting the conservatives.
For some conservatives, accepting Darwin undercuts religious faith and produces an amoral, materialistic worldview that easily embraces abortion, embryonic stem cell research and other practices they abhor. As an alternative to Darwin, many advocate intelligent design, which holds that life is so intricately organized that only an intelligent power could have created it.

Yet it is that very embrace of intelligent design — not to mention creationism, which takes a literal view of the Bible's Book of Genesis — that has led conservative opponents to speak out for fear their ideology will be branded as out of touch and anti-science.
Ok...this is quite reasonable. But wait...
Some of these thinkers have gone one step further, arguing that Darwin's scientific theories about the evolution of species can be applied to today's patterns of human behavior, and that natural selection can provide support for many bedrock conservative ideas, like traditional social roles for men and women, free-market capitalism and governmental checks and balances.
and here is a more traditional view that Darwinism is to blame for all social problems:
"The current debate is not primarily about religious fundamentalism," Mr. West, the author of "Darwin's Conservatives: The Misguided Quest" (2006), said at Thursday's conference. "Nor is it simply an irrelevant rehashing of certain esoteric points of biology and philosophy. Darwinian reductionism has become culturally pervasive and inextricably intertwined with contemporary conflicts over traditional morality, personal responsibility, sex and family, and bioethics."
The technocrats, he charged, wanted to grab control from "ordinary citizens and their elected representatives" so that they alone could make decisions over "controversial issues such as sex education, partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and global warming."

The linking of evolution to political ideologies, to say the obvious, will lead to problems. I had posted a few months back that belief in evolution in US is higher amongst political liberals than political conservatives and we have to make sure that we de-link the theory of evolution that successfully explains the biological diversity found in nature with its use for justifying political ideologies.

And who knew, that the most sensible words would in the end be coming from The Weekly Standard:
To many people, asking whether evolution is good for conservatism is like asking if gravity is good for liberalism; nature is morally neutral. Andrew Ferguson in The Weekly Standard and Carson Holloway in his 2006 book, "The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion and the Future of Democracy," for example, have written that jumping from evolutionary science to moral conclusions and policy proposals is absurd.


Ben said...

Evolution is applicable to politics, economics, and a wide variety of disciplines.

Wherever you have things with a capacity for change, a means to reproduce those changes into future things, and an environment which will selectively destroy or preserve some things depending on their features, evolution will occur. Thus, business styles, words, songs, architectural designs evolve, why not political ideas?

I would say that the evolution of political ideas is why most of the world rejects the idea of rule by "divine right" or heredity- those ideas have fallen by the wayside, hopefully to become extinct.


Salman Hameed said...

>Evolution is applicable to politics, economics, and a wide variety of disciplines.

Oh absolutely. However, there is a difference between applying evolutionary principles to politics, econnomics, etc, and using biological evolution to justify certain claims about politics, gender roles, etc. Some of the conservatives here are arguing specifically about accepting "biological evolution" based on whether it fits their political needs or not (perhaps this is too cynical, but this is what I was getting at).

What you have pointed out is indeed a fascinating area. David Sloan Wilson recently gave a talk at Hampshire college on applying evolutionary theory to religion (group adaptation model), and I will post the video of the lecture here in the next couple of days. His new book is titled "Darwin for Everyone" and follows a similar line as you are describing here.