Conservatives miss the entire point of evolution. Twice.

The apparent conservative debate over whether evolution is a real thing, and if so, whether it helps their movement, would be side-splittingly funny if it weren’t itself a real thing. Apparently three of the 10 candidates for the GOP nomination are now on record as saying it’s all bunk, this evolutionary theory. Which, btw, they’re trying to re-brand as “Darwinism,” presumably because a) “evolution” sounds like too much like progress, a good thing and b) one guy named Darwin surely can’t be as right as that God fellah.

But there’s a split within the conservatives themselves, with one branch sticking to their guns and supporting creationism or intelligent design, and others saying this Darwin chap just might have something to say about family values and same-sex marriage, women staying in the home, etc.

A particular nutter is George Gilder, once viewed as a respectable futurist, though that’s a bit like calling someone a well-dressed kleptomaniac. He’s head of the intelligent design school, and is currently starring as chief illustration of Godwin’s first law, or at least its prime corollary (Whoever first compares an opponent to the Nazis has lost the argument). Here’s Gilder, from the NYT:

Skeptics of Darwinism like William F. Buckley, Mr. West and Mr. Gilder also object. The notion that “the whole universe contains no intelligence,” Mr. Gilder said at Thursday’s conference, is perpetuated by “Darwinian storm troopers.”

“Both Nazism and communism were inspired by Darwinism,” he continued. “Why conservatives should toady to these storm troopers is beyond me.”

But even Gilder’s opponents in this battle, arguing that evolution and its bastard cousin evolutionary psychology support policies like traditional sex roles, are missing the entire point. Natural selection, or “survival of the fittest” is precisely not an evolution towards any particular goal, there is no teleological element to it at all. It can’t support anything. Evolution is not in favor of wings for birds, or appendixes for people — they’re simply there because they’ve worked under a specific set of environmental circumstances. If they stop working, like dinosaurs, because the environmental conditions changed, well, so be it. Luck of the environmental draw.
Nor does that mean that one particular adaptation is somehow the “right” or at any particular moment the “best” one — only that it worked. Birds got wings, monkeys got thumbs and progressively bigger brains. Both were successful adaptations. There’s zero moral content to this. There is zero prescriptive content to this.

Women staying home to raise kids was the product of a particular socio-economic environment, with a decidedly patriarchal bent. Times have changed. Gay marriage was outlawed, and sodomy viewed as unnatural, because there was deep and abiding prejudice, religious and otherwise. Times have changed (a little), and will continue to change.

Poor Darwin is probably the most misused intellectual around, except for that socialist Jesus fellah .

One Comment

  1. That’s one of the most interesting points when having arguments about any God-related subject: The general presumption on the God side is that the universe’s very existence is inherently good. They believe that it’s good for something, or rather, toward some “good” end. The idea that the universe exists for no purpose, is morally neutral vessel in which we live, and has no interest in our lives at all is, to these people, unthinkable. The whole foundation you’re getting at is laid in order to do one thing: have meaning in life created for them [by god/yahweh/allah/doners] instead of creating it for themselves. It screws everything up, including, but not limited to, evolution, morality, gender roles, and professional athlete’s post-game quotes.

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