Saturday, May 5, 2007

Darwin and the Conservatives

The topic of evolution leads us right to the most basic split in the Republican Party. We're talking basic metaphysics of ideology: do you think that the universe is organized from the bottom up, or from the top down? Christians and Marxists (close cousins whose grandfather is named Plato) aim for a society where everything is organized according to a transcendent, master plan. Augustine's City of God and Marx's Communist Manifesto are examples of the genre. Darwin was reading a different economist, however: Adam Smith, who argued in his Wealth of Nations (1776) that micro events at the level of autonomous, self-interested individuals eventually added up to efficient macro economies, governed by market forces (another example of this genre is John Stuart Mill, see On Liberty). This is the liberal (small "l") tradition of empiricism, the granddaddy of which is David Hume. Darwin simply applied this logic to biology, where the phenomenon of speciation had been observed for some time (gradual change noticed first by the geologists), but no mechanism had been observed to explain the emergence of organization.
If you're a conservative Republican reading this (not that any probably are), the question is absolutely basic: are you a free-market, small-government voter, or are you a Christian voter? Because it's one or the other, folks.
While I'm at it, what about that argument for intelligent design? Here's the problem: You said that a formally-organized thing (in this case, the world) must have a designer. So you concluded that the designing God exists. Where does the formally-organized God come from? It was you yourself who insisted that a formally-organized entity needed an explanation. You've explained nothing. That's an argument from David Hume (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion). Check him out! He'll make a better conservative out of you.

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