TAG | darwin
Here’s Ann Coulter:
Amid the hoots at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry for saying there were “gaps” in the theory of evolution, the strongest evidence for Darwinism presented by these soi-disant rationalists was a 9-year-old boy quoted in The New York Times. After his mother had pushed him in front of Perry on the campaign trail and made him ask if Perry believed in evolution, the trained seal beamed at his Wicked Witch of the West mother, saying, “Evolution, I think, is correct!”
That’s the most extended discussion of Darwin’s theory to appear in the mainstream media in a quarter-century. More people know the precepts of kabala than know the basic elements of Darwinism…
And that’s one of the least [insert appropriate adjective: there are many to choose from] sequences of this gimcrack screed, to which the only reply worth the time spent typing it is whatever.
I suppose one has to accept that its author, a smart and distinctive writer (and, I should add, certainly one with whom I frequently disagree), actually believes what she is writing, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the suspicion that amongst some, at least, on the right a quick bit of Darwin-bashing is seen as an easy way of boosting their conservative credentials still further. The equivalent of so much resonant and confused leftist rhetoric, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t do anything and (hopefully) it won’t change anything, but it sounds good on stump, page and screen. It cheers the faithful. It rallies the crowd. It sells the books.
Larry Arnhart is surely the best proponent of Darwinian Conservatism, and not just because he has a blog with the same name. In his view, an evolutionary biological account of nature properly captures our intellectual and moral capacities, the emergence of consciousness itself, and grounds a political and cultural conservatism by demonstrating our natural limits as political and social beings. Does this count as a species of postmodern conservatism? It might fail as appropriately conservative since nature is made all too dynamic–if our current human condition is nothing other than the latest stage in a train of evolutionary developments then on what basis can we privilage this one as the final one? Does Darwinian conservatism require an End of History, some kind of final eschatology? Also, does evolutionary biology do justice to the real human person as we experience ourselves or is there something about our characteristic resistance to nature and eros for transcendence that eludes Darwinian categories of explanation? If the heart of postmodern conservatism is an experiential realism that rescues the real human person from modern abstraction, Darwinian conservatism might fail by identifying human nature too closely with our bodily selves, with nature as such. So is Darwinian Conservatism insufficiently postmodern and insufficiently conservative?
Nature is dynamic, but very fast evolution works on the order of tens of generations. I perceive political orders as the possibilities of the present. What is conservative in one age varies from what is conservative in another age. Why demand of Darwinian Conservatism what one does not demand of conservatism writ large? Darwinian Conservatism does not do justice to the human individual, but it is much more serviceable in addressing human populations, what we might term societies. The true interlocutor which Ivan is looking for is “Psychological” or “Cognitive” Conservatism, which might focus on individuals as natural phenomenon which develop over a lifetime.