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.
No, you assume God-neutral.
Just like atronomy. If you take Genesis literally, you better get ready to defend a 6,000 year old Earth. Which nothing in any science that deals with anything historical (astophysics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, anthropololgy, agronomy, archeology) agrees with.
Amazing, most conservative boards ban the likes of you. I guess Freerepublc isn't conservative, but a very weak strain of moderatism.
There is no difference between micro and macro evolution. Macro evolution is nothing but accumulated micro evolutionary changes. This is articulated quite clearly in the SToE.
What 'norm' are these 'idiot' Christians breaking?
"You are foolishly trying to have me state the wrong ideology that the two cannot go hand in hand together, and you foolishly fail to recognize that they cannot go hand in hand together because of flawed moral dillemmas.
So, the 'wrong' ideology is that the two cannot go hand in hand? Why then do you follow up by stating that they cannot go hand in hand? Are you admitting that you adhere to the 'wrong' ideology?
Your idea that there is a logical contradiction between Evolution and religion is based on a poor understanding of the SToE. Evolution needs a preexisting species to create a new species. It does not suggest that a new species originates from nothing. It says nothing about the origin of life.
"Again, you fail to recognize what I had written. I think this is because you fail to understand what it means to be a Christian. Catch up on basic religious knowledge, then get back to me."
I can only go on what I read. If you insist on equivocating your terms I can only surmise you are having trouble getting your thoughts straight.
I come from a long line of creationists. My father married into a whole family of re-born Christians. I have a fair idea of what it means to be a Christian.
Sure it's intelligence, but that's not what ID is.
ID, at least as proposed by the leaders of the movement, has nothing to do with the beginning. It's all about the supposed inadequacy of evolution to explain what happened AFTER the beginning.
If you wanted to write some ID scriptures, they'd sound a lot like this:
It's more like this:
"200-300 million years after the beginning, the designer thought it would be really cool if bacteria could swim. Unfortunately he also saw that they were having trouble evolving their own means of locomotion. So the designer, in all his benevolence, decided to give them irreducibly complex flagella.
"After another 3 billion years or so, the designer decided that natural evolution was failing to produce enough phyla for his liking. So he set to work desiging all kinds of new body plans, resulting in the Cambrian explosion!"
ID: bad science, bad theology and, above all, bad philology.
You can take over for me. I have to take off for the evening.
Hello? Who said most Christians do not take such as is?
The last time I read my highschool biology textbook on evolution, it said "in the beginning there was a cosmic explosion, caused by such and such particles because of such and such properties, because of such and such dimensional workings". Not once did it say "God".
Who is to say God did not desin Earth to look 4.5 odd billion years old? Amazing how evolution removes such theories from the picture.
You are pretty firm in your opinions of how FR should be run, for a newbie (2006-05-08).
You a retread?
You know, FR as a conservative site, has allowed the CREVO debates for years, so long as they remain, as much as they can, civil...
There have been others before you, that have whined and complained that, "Gee whiz, this cannot be a really conservative site, they allow atheists and those who support evolution"...and Jim Robinson has completely answered such whinings and complaints....
If you so object to who is and who is not allowed on FR, maybe you should take it up with the authorities here, and see what occurs...
One of their common tactics. The more blocks and tackles you have to make on the fly increase your odds of error...Which allows them shovel even more $^%! your way enabling even more gloating and misdirection.
Still, you're pretty impressive for a rookie. Welcome to one of the few bloody trenches on Free Republic.
So? That doesn't make the SToE inherently atheistic.
The SToE is religiously neutral.
a theory that nature and complex biological structures were designed
I have no problem that nature itself was designed. Lots of scientists believe it. It's the second part that I take issue with: the idea that complex biological structures were designed.
Why do I take issue with it? Because there's strong scientific evidence that complex biological structures evolved.
This isn't about whether God created. I firmly believe he created. It's a question of HOW.
OH, thanks...not sure about how up I am for arguing these same points, over and over and over and over and over again...its never ending, isnt it? Ah, but there are other posters and lurkers watching, and they matter a great deal, as they are no doubt watching this debate...
Have a very good evening...I had my fun during the day...
I'd be tolerably surprised to see a title, author, or publisher named for this mystery text.
"One of their common tactics. The more blocks and tackles you have to make on the fly increase your odds of error.."
Translation: Creationists can't stand the heat.
"Still, you're pretty impressive for a rookie."
The odds are that this ain't no *rookie*.
Is Mystery Text, something like Mystery Meat?
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