Evolution Away from Threats, Versus Toward Desires

Bradley Watson’s essay, “Darwin’s Constitution,” is worth reading in its entirety (subscription required), but this paragraph points toward the problem with the notion that society is evolving in a progressive direction:

Dewey’s elucidation of the new modes of social inquiry drew upon the thought of a number of Social Darwinist and pragmatist thinkers, including William Graham Sumner, Lester Frank Ward, William James, and W. E. B. Du Bois. These thinkers provided the intellectual categories of their age, and today those categories continue to exert a powerful influence over political — and jurisprudential — discourse. Collectively, they point to a view of society as an organism that is constantly in the throes of change and must adapt or die. Like the Social Darwinists, the pragmatists used naturalistic concepts and emphasized change, while rejecting what James called the “rationalist temper” that ossifies rather than adapts. For the Social Darwinists and pragmatists, looking backward — as Lincoln had done — to founding principles, or to any other fixed standard of political practice, inevitably hinders the process of adaptation.

As one observes in other contexts, what progressives are doing, in this regard, is smuggling in their brand of faith as if it were a biological imperative. The adaptation that they laud is not toward survival, not even really toward ease and comfort, but mainly to their concept of what society should be.
In Darwin, a species doesn’t grow or lose a limb because it finds itself thus inclined. Rather, it develops inclinations (and limbs) in response to natural stimuli — sometimes, no doubt, in contravention of other inclinations.
In the context of social Darwinism, the urgings of both nature and God become subsidiary to planners’ observation that they can leverage people’s desires to advance their own political and ideological goals.

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Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

It boggles the mind to have conservatives even speak the name “Darwin”, since many of them think the world was created 6,000 to 10,000 years ago – in a week – by the hand of some Man in space!
“Opposition to evolution is a basic dogma of America’s Christian Right”
Heck, if you don’t accept the original theory – and therefore that scripture and all fundamentalist beliefs are BS, then you are hardly qualified to speak on the evolution of anything…including thought.
Oh, and evolution as well as many other progressive values (empathy, etc.) are not “faith”, they are science….both biological and social.

michael
michael
11 years ago

What boggles my mind is how a person who considers himself progressive thinks a conservative incapable of thought process that includes Darwinism in conjunction with creationism in some way that we are either incapable of or tantalizingly close enough but never able to fully grasp, thus ending the fun of the mystery of life.
Or something like that.
So, Stuart, in my humble opinion, you are progressive in name only, because your thought process prohibits you from being what you profess to be.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Austrian school economist Nassim Taleb gave a good interview with Russ Roberts on the Econ Talk program a few weeks ago. He talked about how a healthy economy is one that is constantly evolving through creation and destruction. I particularly liked his point that, like the dinosaurs, big institutions are inherently more efficient but also more prone to catastrophic failure, and that this is a natural and necessary process in the evolution of an economy that should not be interfered with by government.
Podcast downloadable at:
http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2010/05/taleb_on_black_1.html

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

The basic premise of Progressivism is that there is some meta-being called “society” that is more intrinsically valuable and important than any individual human.
This is a lie, cooked up by power-mad, self-appointed “elites” who use it as an excuse to rationalize every kind of human rights violation including theft, virtual slavery, personal corruption and murder, often on a mass scale. Progressives want to set up a monarchy with themselves at the top, at the expense of the people. The Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany were the ultimate expressions of the Progressive program in action.
This is not the American idea of “equality”, nor of “rights”.
Couching their agenda in hypocritical slogans like “equality”, “fairness”, and “compassion” is propaganda of the worst kind. And yet they have duped millions over the past century by taking control of the public education system – John Dewey’s contribution to the destruction of civilization.
We are at a turning point in American history. Either we will restore the principles of individual liberty and equal rights for all people, or we will continue on the road to fascism that is the Progressive agenda. The audacious mendacity of the Obama regime and its unprecedented overreaching of government power and corruption of our democratic systems are only the beginning.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

This site is getting to be TNR Review, eh? Forgive me for not reading more of the strawman argument that only conservatives look backward “to founding principles, or to any other fixed standard of political practice.” Total nonsense considering that the Founders considered change important enough to ensure that even the Constitution itself could be changed and adapt.
“The ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, and we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to
persuade men to do even what is for their own good.”
–Thomas Jefferson to Charles Clay, 1790.
But since you have this new found belief in the views of the Founders, perhaps you would like to comment on the aggressive militarism advocated by most of the conservatives in this country or how about the idea of immortal corporate people with Constitutional rights? Most progressives are deeply “conservative” in this area versus what passes for conservatism on the fringe-right these days (again with apologies to the actual libertarians out there — I don’t mean to lump you folks in with these faux-Constitutionalists).

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

>again with apologies to the actual libertarians out there
There aren’t any that I aware of! Dan, who works for the government, considers himself a Libertarian. Rand Paul, the newest libertarian darling, is for everything from “faith based government in biblical law” to repeal of many constitutional rights.
Basically, what these babies are saying is that they want things THEIR way, whichever way that may be in the moment. But don’t worry – if some highly financed (with corporation money) think tank tells them to think something new tomorrow, they will add that to their talking points. A bunch of parrots, really…
These folks would not know “conservative” if it hit them smack in the face. They do know “selfish” and “bigoted” and “political” well though, so they are experts at something.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

When I complain about the way government operates, Stuart says that I should get involved to change things. When I get involved to change things, Stuart calls me a hypocrite for participating in the system. It seems as if I can’t win. I should just go kill myself.

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