Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Darwin, God, and politics: I see that the HBD-ers and social conservatives are currently duking it out. Since I consider myself to be both, I suppose I should punch myself in the face.

It seems to me that what is essential for a viable political movement is that it tells a persuasive, coherent story to a large segment of the population. I say coherent, but I didn't say something that was so internally tight, it must have been developed by Aristotle. Conservatism, I don't think, has ever claimed such internal consistency. It's more like a stance.

We can't all be Burkes. Someone needs to do the market research: I volunteer. This time around, let's look at the two Men who people seem to be siding with: God or Darwin. A movement needs to either: 1) favor a thing; 2) oppose it; or 3) shut up about it. The data indicate that in America, on the question of Darwin and God, it's probably best to shut up about both of them, but if we need someone to rally around, just make sure he's not Nietzsche.

In 2000, 1,023 Americans (GSS) were asked: 1) their confidence in the existence of God; and 2) how true is the statement that humans evolved from animals. Here are the top ten most common combinations of answers:

Percent of all respondents

1. Knows God exists--Evolution definitely not true 33.0
2. Knows God exists--Evolution probably true 14.7
3. Knows God exists--Evolution probably not true 11.5
4. Believes but doubts--Evolution probably true 7.7
5. Knows God exists--Evolution definitely true 5.8
6. Believes but doubts--Evolution probably not true 4.1
7. Some higher power--Evolution probably true 3.7
8. Believes but doubts--Evolution definitely true 2.9
9. Some higher power--Evolution definitely true 2.5
10. No way to know--Evolution definitely true 2.0
10. Doesn't believe in God--Evolution definitely true 2.0

Any American who likes to push atheism or likes to criticize believers must enjoy having no political voice whatsoever.

People are divided, on the other hand, when it comes to evolution. It's not popular with most people--my students think the whole thing stinks, as much as I push it--and it's especially unpopular among folks on the Right. On the other hand, it's intellectually satisfying to smart people.

So what's the solution? It looks to me like the only realistic way to go is for conservative elites to inform their worldview by sneaking peaks at HBD stuff when no one is looking, but they will have to fashion their ideas in a way that appeals to the common man. Does that sound like lying? Of course it does because that's what politics is, or haven't you noticed?


  1. HBD does not require evolution, in the sense of having an evolutionary worldview in order to function or be useful. That there are inherited differences between individuals is self-evident, and even alluded to in the book of Genesis. Natural and artificial selection driving the trait distributions within populations is all that is required for HBD. A serious Creationist can easily accept that natural selection is a powerful enough instrument to drive distributions of IQ, hair and skin color, disease resistances, etc without buying the argument that those same forces are effective enough to drive meaningful evolution in a macro sense in higher animals. Nothing in the Bible would lead one to believe that there is any sort of equality in this world in anything beyond the spiritual sense---witness the parable of the Talents.
    Creationists should be no more surprised to see analogous structures in various types of very different creatures than would code analysts to see code reuse in a lead programmer's portfolio.
    Nearly all Christians say 60-100 years or more took something effectively like HBD for granted. It is only because it has become somewhat memetically entangled with an naturalist materialist worldview that there is any serious conflict from that quarter presently.

  2. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Have we found a transitional ape-to-proto-human fossil-set that is a complete enough skeleton to quash dissenters? Lucy (Ive seen her in person) aint' gonna cut it.

    I mean, here is our dilemma: We have dinosaur bones out the wazoo. We have wooly mamooth, megalodon, large rodents the size of bears, big fossils of trees, snakes, insects, and larger apes than now exist..................but we seem to have not found a satisfactory "middle-of-evolving" proto-human-from-ape skelton yet. Neanderthals aren't going to cut it either.

    Until a real "winner" is found (and preferably 2 or 3 of them), people will remain skeptical about HUMAN evolution, and will believe God posited us here for a special purpose or whatever.

    Many Christians have no problem whatsoever with animal evolution, but cling to thinking human kind is made "in God's image" and is seperate and special, etc. One would have to be willfully blind not to see that polar bears and black bears and panda bears came from the same proto-bear at some point, and just adapted to their unique environments. One would think that Christians would see this "ability" as further evidence that God is extremely smart, and allowed for this and was precient enough to design DNA in such a way for it to be able to mutate.

    You are a good man Ron, Im glad you are a professor.

  3. Aristotle's arguments were not really that tight.

  4. Yeah. I've always had the opinion that God doesn't exist but if you tell everyone that they'll have another reason to misbehave. So I'm a pro-religion atheist. Who says hypocrisy is always a bad thing? ;)

  5. I don't think people should lie, but I do see wisdom in the realization by Inductivist and commenter David that if you want to influence people, you don't take positions that attack their deepest beliefs. Especially when such positions are not necessary to your main objective.

    On race, I agree with David and have said the same: you don't need Darwinian evolution in order to show racial differences. Racial differences are a fact. It's not necessary to reconstruct the pre-history of humanity going back 100,000 years or four million years to demonstrate this fact. The evidence is right in front of us. The empirical data, as well as the commonsense human experience, is overwhelming. So if your main concern is to persuade people of the reality of racial differences, then you can amd should do that without adding on to it the unnecessary, highly speculative, Darwinian "story" which most Americans are going to reject anyway.

    Finally, leaving aside these serious matters, I note that Inductivist writes:

    "Since I consider myself to be both [an HBD'ers and a social conservative], I suppose I should punch myself in the face."

    Does Inductivist know he is quoting Bob Dylan's 1967 song, "Million Dollar Bash"?

    I looked at my watch
    I looked at my wrist
    I punched myself in the face with my fist.
    I took my potatoes
    Down to be mashed
    And then I made it over
    To that million dollar bash.

  6. I agree with Mr. Auster. There are merits to HBD. No question about it. But the HBD advocates (or at least a growing number of them) are pushing HBD as "THE TRUTH" to which all other Truths must bow down. That's factually incorrect. And as you point out, Ron, it's also politically unviable.

  7. Commodore2:30 PM

    Bravo! I think fusionism has been a wonderful thing insofar as wedding libertarian values with socially conservative values (nationalism/militarism being the main fault line). Likewise, why not move to fuse the HBD boosters? I'm pretty firmly Calvinist, so there's nothing too strange to me about genetic determinism.

    Of course, to maintain this, a strong libertarian impluse must be maintained, as it's the only way to diffuse the uglier education and social conflicts. Teaching Creationism in schools? Sure, that's fine...in private, non-tax funded schools. Gee, why again are any of our schools public? And so on...


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