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Evolution for everyone – and everything4 min read

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In An Idiot’s Guide to Evolution, First Things author Stephen Webb discusses David Sloan Wilson’s new book Evolution for Everyone (2007).

The dirty Darwinian secret is now out of the closet: If evolution is true, then it must be true about everything.

Creationists have long argued that Darwinists use their scientific theory as a cosmology, or “worldview,” which they deny to the hilt, while all the time using it that way.  But I think that they do so just to distance themselves from social Darwinism.  But Wilson’s book ends the farce, and admits that evolution is a way of thinking about everything that matters.  Blech.

Here are some excerpts (my headings) from Webb’s review of the book:

1. Why limit Darwinism to biology?  By what logical/scientific rule?

Most Darwinians used to be very restrained about the relevance of their theory for cultural and moral issues, for obvious reasons. If evolution is true about everything, then randomness and competition are the foundations for the highest human ideals as well as the lowest organic life forms. Scientists have trouble enough restricting Darwinism to biology. What if that restriction is unscientific? What parents would want their children being taught that Darwinism explains not only speciation but also altruism?

2. Why Darwinian morality is a farce

The statement “The environment selects some beetles to eat their young” serves a function in biology similar to the function the statement “Nature is fallen” serves in theology. Both have explanatory power, but the biological statement tries to be descriptive, whereas the theological statement is clearly  normative. Christianity teaches that nature is not what it God intended it to be, and thus nature alone cannot be a guide to moral behavior.

Without that normative claim, however, Darwinian philosophers are left with an environment that selects any kind of behavior as long as it gives a species a competitive advantage. If we do not eat our young when resources are scarce, it is only because nature has selected other strategies for our survival. It follows that morality must be either a heroic but ultimately fruitless struggle against our nature or a rationalization and mystification of self-interested behavior.

3. Darwinian efforts at peace can only come by enforced pluralism – i.e. the destruction of pluralism’s dissenters.

“In principle, it is possible to completely eliminate violent conflict by eliminating its preferred ‘habitat,’ regardless of how rare or common it has been in the past.” He admits that a shared value system is a prerequisite for world harmony, but he thinks that “pluralism can be enshrined as a virtue and its suppression punished,” since “virtually any value system can be stabilized by rewards and punishments, as long as it is agreed upon by  consensus.” If this leaves the reader thinking that Wilson embraces fascism as a way of enforcing pluralism in order to ensure world peace, he corrects this impression by arguing for the power of art to take the place of religious values.

4. If Darwinism becomes ridiculous outside of biology, what makes us think that it is not ridiculous inside of biology?

Perhaps Wilson’s ambition, which lies at the heart of Darwinism, has inadvertently demonstrated how empty evolution is. If it is this trivial when applied outside biology, why would we  non-biologists imagine that it is deeper when it is restricted to biology? One cannot help but suspect that if evolutionary theory looks absurd, simplistic, and circular when applied to something as complex as religion, then it might look the same way when applied to biological organisms.

5. A syllogism on the vanity of the evolutionary perspective

If evolution is true about everything, then we are doomed to live in a world without truth, beauty, and goodness. If we are not doomed, then evolution is not true about everything. And if evolution is not true about everything, then there is good reason to think that it is not true about anything.