Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Conservative Darwinism?

The New York Times has an interesting article regarding a philosophic link between Darwinism and conservatism. While liberalism has a somewhat utopian vision of human nature (we're all equal, and so on), conservatism seems to recognize what I suppose some might call "social Darwinism," perhaps without realizing it. After all, many Americans are quick to note that Nazism was a byproduct of social Darwinism, but when we really think about it, so is a free market economy. So is support for traditional gender roles. So, oddly enough, conservatives, who tend to reject Darwin in a biological sense, are more Darwinian than their liberal counterparts.

So what?

That's where this article is lacking. It raises an interesting point, but it doesn't answer the most important question: so what? It attempts to. It states:

Policies that are in tune with human nature, for example, like a male military or traditional social and sex roles, he said, are more likely to succeed.

In other words, acceptance of a Darwinian understanding of human nature would strengthen conservative positions. Instead of saying "tradition is good because it's tradition," conservatives might say "tradition is good because it represents the truth of human nature."

But again, so what? I don't think anyone would be swayed by the latter. I can't see a liberal buying into the argument that men are "naturally superior" to women or that the poor are naturally weak and do not deserve government assistance.

But that's the thing: the Darwin debate isn't really about Darwinism. It's about religion. Acceptance of Darwinian biology by conservatives will not help them when it comes to social policies. It will simply harm them when it comes to support from their base. This isn't a debate about philosophy, or even biology for that matter. It's about religion. Plain and simple.

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