Darwin and Politics

There’s an interesting dialog going on at Cato Unbound (a great site, even if you aren’t a libertarian) concerning Darwin’s position as a classical liberal and whether or not evolution by natural selection supports libertarian principles.

So far, those weighing in have been Larry Arnhart, Lionel Tiger, and (surprisingly) PZ Myers.

I must admit, as much as he tends to bash libertarianism on his own blog, I happen to agree most with PZ on this issue. It’s a big mistake to try to interpret a scientific law as “supporting” or “favoring” one political ideology over another. Science only describes the way things are, not how they should be, and so it’s foolish to claim a scientific justification for one’s political leanings.

Yes, Darwin may indeed have been a classical liberal. But whether he was libertarian, communist, anarchist, populist, or whatever… it is irrelevant to the science.

Even if you were to use the knowledge gained by science to try to reach a particular desirable outcome, it would have to begin with an assumption of what exactly that outcome is.  And there’s really no scientific way to justify that initial assumption.

So, sorry guys, but on this one I’m siding with the liberal.

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