Saturday, May 05, 2007

Conservatives split over Darwin

Often times conservatives are portrayed as being anti evolution. But an article in today's NY Times, notes a growing split among conservatives. Some conservatives take the intelligent design/ creationist approach, that evolution negates God and thus undermines the fundamental rationale for human rights and morality.

Other conservatives argue that evolutionary thinking is consistent with conservative thought. For instance conservatives and evolutionary biologists, according to this argument, both believe that humans are imperfect. Social systems have evolved and such systems evolved from the ground up "have more wisdom than rationally planned reforms". This argument reminds me of the free market idea that individuals making their own decisions make for more efficient markets then centrally planned systems.

From my way of thinking there are flaws in both approaches. The intelligent design/creationist argument is flawed because they present no scientifically credible alternative to evolution. Unless of course you consider the Creation Science Museum credible. The flaw in the second approach is Hume's Guillotine. Hume argued that you cannot argue what ought to be from what is. This means for instance, that just because other animals behave in a certain way that means we can behave the same way. Or just because a certain institution has operated the same way for hundreds of years doesn't mean that it is relevant today.

David Hume (Scottish National Portrait Gallery)

My approach is a bit more pragmatic. First I believe that the bottom up approach that evolution takes suggests that markets ought to generally be free. This also applies to most other sorts of freedom of choice issues. Yet we also know that evolution is blind and that there are issues that need a rational look ahead approach to certain key problems facing us as a civilization and species.

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