Something always puzzled me about a number of learned evolutionists and their followers:  They tend to be leftist in their politics.  Why?  I wondered why they hadn’t thought through
the ramifications of evolutionary theory, the spontaneity of it, the lack of
planning, its anti-teleological aspect, and the possibility of progress without
a mastermind.  I also wondered why they
never considered the strong implications offered by evolutionary theory for the
nature of human beings and their societies, and the resulting implications for
political philosophy and ideology.


 


I’m not the only one with such thoughts.  A philosopher named Larry Arnhart has devoted his scholarly career to the carefully thought out linkages
between biological evolution and cultural evolution.  By so doing, he has determined that conservative
thought naturally flows out of biological evolutionary thought. 


 


Leftism, by contrast, more closely resembles religious thought.  Not by assuming the existence of God or gods or the supernatural, but by assuming
that if things exist and persist in the human realm, they must be carefully
planned by some sort of central authority.


 


Is it possible for non-believers to develop a strong, consilient, conservative evolutionary philosophy?  I believe so.  We can start here at Atheist Nexus, building
it with a great deal of help from Arnhart.


 


Larry Arnhart writes one of the best blogs in the observable universe, IMHO.


 


Here is his summary of his beliefs:


 


“The Left has traditionally assumed that human nature is so malleable, so perfectible, that it can be shaped in almost any direction. Conservatives object, arguing that
social order arises not from rational planning but from the spontaneous order
of instincts and habits. Darwinian biology sustains conservative social thought
by showing how the human capacity for spontaneous order arises from social
instincts and a moral sense shaped by natural selection in human evolutionary
history.”


 


He is the author of a book with the same name, “Darwinian Conservatism,” published in 2005.  Here are the names of the chapters:


 


Chapter 1: Three Sources of Ordered Liberty 
Chapter 2: The Moral Sense 
Chapter 3: Men, Women, and Children 
Chapter 4: Property 
Chapter 5: Limited Government 
Chapter 6: Religion 
Chapter 7: Intelligent Design 
Chapter 8: Emergence 
Chapter 9: Social Darwinism 
Chapter 10: Biotechnology 


 


He uses his blog as a means of publishing a number of learned essays on evolutionary theory and political conservatism (in the American sense of the word, not in the European
sense of conserving aristocracy and clericism). 
Here is a portion of one:


 


“Most people assume that one big problem with Darwinian science is that it denies that life has any meaning or purpose. After all, to find
meaning--to see our lives as part of some enchanting cosmic drama--don't we
have to look to some religious or transcendent vision of the world that goes
beyond the materialism of Darwinian science? If we are just animals produced by
a natural evolutionary process that doesn't care for or about us, and if like
all other animals, we live for only a moment and then die, how can human
life--how can
 my life--matter? Unlike
other animals, it's not enough for us that we exist, we need some reason for
our existence. Otherwise, what's the point? (That's the question raised in a
good scene in the new George Clooney movie
 Up in the Air, where a
bridegroom gets cold feet just before his marriage because he foresees his
whole future life played out without there being any point to it all.)



Owen Flanagan thinks we can find meaning in a
Darwinian world. In his book
 The
Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World
 (MIT
Press, 2007), Flanagan argues that Darwinian naturalism--with its fundamental
conclusion that we are animals in a purely material world--allows us to find a
natural meaning to our lives without any resort to supernatural mystification.
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Replies to This Discussion

People have voluntarily voted in dictatorships, believing they were doing the moral thing. Unintended consequences happen. This is why I"m firmly against a government-controlled health care system. The unintended consequence of taking control of 1/7th of America's economy will be an overwhelmed government bureaucracy which couldn't possibly deal with the oceans of data private markets handle as a matter of course every day.

This point fits in very nicely with evolution-mindedness. Consider the Earth's biosphere, operating day after day, year after year for millions of years, with individuals born and dying, species born and dying, speciation happening continuously everywhere. Such a process is not linear: A then B then C. It's massively parallel. Just so in cultural evolution. Doctors, nurses, basic biological researchers, pharmaceutical researchers, medical technology engineers, etc., are working in a massively parallel process, developing new treatments and techniques every day, changing the health care system every day. There is simply know way a "health care czar" could ever pretend to master what he has to master in order to make the kinds of decisions that will improve things. Instead, the system of innovation and care Americans have learned to expect will grind to a halt.
you do realize that a "health care" czar wouldn't have to do the things you're talking about? he (or she) would be no different than the head of a health insurance company. the hospitals would still do their things. medical researchers would still do their things.

have you ever noticed how much is going on in the intelligence world? terrorists here, terrorists there, espionage, blah blah blah. there's no way an intelligence czar (or director of homeland security, etc.) could ever pretend to master all of that knowledge...

or how about how complex the american society and government is? there's no way a president could master all the things going on in the marketplace, sciences, military, etc., that everything would just grind to a halt if we let the govt. have the presidency rather than letting the marketplace do it!

in other words, you're reasoning is poor.
The unintended consequence of taking control of 1/7th of America's economy will be an overwhelmed government bureaucracy which couldn't possibly deal with the oceans of data private markets handle as a matter of course every day.


Just like what happened in Western Europe...oh wait no they handle it just fine. And of course it is government health insurance, not government health care.
There is simply know[SIC] way a "health care czar" could ever pretend to master what he has to master in order to make the kinds of decisions that will improve things. Instead, the system of innovation and care Americans have learned to expect will grind to a halt.

Yes, because the plan was for one person to sit about making decisions about all of our health care needs.

You know, just like how Medicare and Veteran's systems don't work. Oh, that's right, once again you've ignored the actual evidence to make an argument from credulity.

It is just so BIG! No one could understand it! Therefore, it can not be understood by anyone, any group or anything. Except, of course, it is understood. By people like insurance company adjusters. Which would still exist, maybe with competition from the government health insurance. And of course if the government health insurance can't compete, it won't last. If it can, you are proven wrong.
Yeah, I love the blazing illogic of people who sincerely believe that government can never do anything as well as the private sector, yet complain that a government health insurance plan would drive private insurers out of business because they wouldn't be able to compete with it. Huh?
I take it you do not accept medicare?
I would just like to 2nd Rusty & Michael
it seems like this guy is using definitions of liberal and conservative that suit his thesis, definitions that he's creating explicitly for that purpose. i've never heard liberal or conservative described this way before, nor do i think his definitions really apply to the groups he's putting them on.

even ignoring that, the manner in which evolution works really doesn't have anything to do with religious or political thought. trying to have the process of evolution inform conservative or liberal thought is like saying that engineering or germ theory informs conservative or liberal thought. it really don't think it follows.
Evolution and conservative thought relate at two different levels: 1. Allegorical. 2. Evolutionary Psychological.

1. We observe certain evolutionary processes, trends, and see that they are not commanded by a mastermind, a planner, a dictator. As such, biological evolutionary processes are grassroots in nature, developing on their own. Likewise, American conservatism sees cultural evolutionary processes proceeding in very like manner, the generations of human beings go by, they develop habits, customs, institutions, languages, governments, and hardly any of the things thus generated were ever masterminded by any one particular person. To use von Mises' term of contrast, cultural evolutionary processes proceed in response to human action, not human design. 18th century economists and biologists learned a lot from each others' disciplines, so similar they seemed to them.

2. Evolutionary psychology deals with human responses and behaviors that are universal in nature. In other words, things that we feel and do throughout the world because we inherited them from our common ancestors. We can call the collection of these things human nature. American conservatives believe that human nature is not very malleable, that it does not respond well or at all to government programs and government sanctions. Evolutionary psychology, thus, describes in scientific terms what conservatives have long asserted, that there can never be "the new Soviet man," or "the New Age man," or any other utopian sort of human being. We are stuck with what we are, and we had better, if we desire reasonably good results, arrange our affairs around the notion that we will not change ourselves all that much. Conservative thought takes the real human being, warts and all, as central to what we do when we engage in political philosophy, and evolutionary psychology gives us in some detail what that real human being is like and how that human being came about.
Your first point here is parallel to this: Plants photosynthesize, thus Congress should photosynthesize. You are applying surface similarities in two unrelated realms. My father once said that the knife, fork, and spoon represented The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. No. Just because two things have something in common, that doesn't mean they are related at all.

Your second point fails because it ignores the ubiquitously demonstrated power of organization. People can achieve much more in concert than they can as individuals. The New Soviet Man doesn't make sense because you can't hurry biological evolution (well, we haven't been able to so far), but neither does the Marlboro Man, because that's just "every man for himself". If we all act as rugged individualists, we will end up with feudalism. Government allows us to do more together than we could separately, and provides a social safety net that voluntary charity never has been able to achieve. That's because conservatives say "enlightened self interest" but think "self interest". Don't try to justify your self-centered approach to life by insisting that everybody else is just the same, or that it's somehow noble. It's not. It's just the usual myopia. Why would you want to celebrate that?
Something always puzzled me about a number of learned evolutionists and their followers: They tend to be leftist in their politics. Why? I wondered why they hadn’t thought through
the ramifications of evolutionary theory, the spontaneity of it, the lack of
planning, its anti-teleological aspect, and the possibility of progress without
a mastermind. I also wondered why they
never considered the strong implications offered by evolutionary theory for the
nature of human beings and their societies, and the resulting implications for
political philosophy and ideology.


I understand the ramifications of evolutionary theory well and its impacts on the human society and political philosophy. But I don't think we should leave all of our own social and political organizations to the hands of natural forces. Evolution is a supremely capable, reactive force that excels and polishing structures for maximum reproduction. However, for human society this is not always a good thing. For one, we don't need a maximum amount of people. Secondly, a reactive force, like evolution, does not plan ahead. Additionally, evolution, like many conservative ideologies, makes its living at the expense of the "less fit."

As a humanist, I find it objectionable that we should try to build a society at the expense of a portion of the population. As we are intelligent beings, we should find a cooperative way to ensure the best quality of life for all members of the society. I find it acceptable to not have a top tier success group (like billionaires) if that means we can keep from having a group in grinding poverty. Conservatism, on the other hand, has no problem with a billionaire and a poverty stricken family being neighbors. To me, it is immoral to allow such suffering when the tools of its eradication or at least reduction are in our hands.

Just because we've evolved to have instinctual morals and society doesn't mean we can't also use our evolved, planning brains to improve upon the situation. Remember, in evolution we get for what we select for, and our history has selected for our survival, not our quality of life. Now that we understand the forces at play, we can mold our own societies.
What I am suggesting here is that we have very little choice in the matter. Can you, as one person, know enough about millions of people to be able to orchestrate their lives wisely? No? If not, then the alternative is to accept what we've got, a society in which the millions of people orchestrate their own lives, cooperating through impersonal cultural evolutionary processes, such as language, prices, customs, and markets.

The comparison between biological evolution and cultural evolution, I find, is a very instructive one with respect to questions of centralized and decentralized decision-making systems.

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