Is Darwin right?
No matter how stupid our election race will end up in terms of the pollies saying anything to get our votes, it could be worse. Recently all the Republican presidential candidates were asked if they believe in evolution. The problem is not so much that three confirmed they didn??t (and kudos to the Washington Post subbie who came up with Eager to Be Reagan??s Heir, but Not Bonzo??s Cousin) but the idea that the fact of evolution is still a controversy in the 21st century.
However an interesting new skirmish has broken out in the US over evolution but this time it is not your usual suspects involved.
It is the conservatives fighting over Darwin now, with some arguing that they should look to evolution to support conservatives politics.
Which is utter bilge as evolution does not support the politics of the right nor of the left (yes, I??m looking at you Singer). Evolution is simply the story of who we are and how we came to be; one of the greatest intellectual achievements of all time. But the explanatory power of evolution is extraordinarily seductive and hence the attempts to claim evolution as supportive of various beliefs over the years.
Which is a little strange as evolution is simply a story of descent with modification. Homo sapiens simply one branch of many on the grand bush of life. It is a scientific explanation for life on earth, not a prescription for ethics and morality or a political manifesto.
While it is great to see that elements of the right are waking up to the need to deal with reality (and I point out the traditional battlegrounds over evolution have never been an exclusively left v right conflict - just so many anti-evolutionists come from the right side of politics given the constituency they seek), it is amusing to see some commentators take to evolution with a misguided zeal.
Take the remarkably efficient combination of arrogance and ignorance called Dinesh D??Souza:
First, Darwin gives a dark and selfish view of human nature, which is why we need a tough foreign policy to deal with bad guys who cannot be talked out of their badness?Ceven if U.N. cocktails are served. In addition, the selfishness in human nature warrants a system called capitalism which channels this self-orientation toward the material
betterment of society.
Darwin, and evolution, have no such view of human nature. A lot of how evolution is interpreted is rooted in 19th century notions of progress and politics. And even if evolution, via evolutionary psychology, did give us such a view, it is not a guide to international politics. Don??t just take it from me. PZ Myers does delightful dissing of D??Souza worth reading.
Whether evolution belongs to the right or the left is a nonsensical argument. Simply evolution belongs to us all as we are all one part of the chain of life.